Living comes with stress and anxiety which is not news to anyone. Financial anxiety is a feeling of persistent worry about your finances. These feelings can range from a mild case to a near obsession about financial lack. Financial stress varies from financial anxiety in the sense that financial stress is usually related to an external trigger or event, such as losing your job. Financial anxiety though is more persistent, it’s chronic and internal not necessarily based on any single event, and has no relation to the person’s wealth. While it’s not currently an official diagnosis, mental health professionals consider financial anxiety a condition.
Signs and symptoms of financial anxiety
Like with other forms of anxiety, financial anxiety is marked with excessive fear and anxiety.
- Constant rumination about your financial situation regardless of your ability to cover your bills
- Avoiding all thoughts of money altogether
- Fear that your financial situation could change for the worse
- Feeling sick or frozen at the thought of checking your bank account
- A feeling of dread when you receive a bill combined with avoiding opening the bills
- Avoiding checking your bank account or repeatedly checking your account
- Taking comfort from hoarding, overspending or being extremely frugal
Potential causes of financial anxiety
Your perception of money is rooted in so many things past and present. Your childhood and the way your parents dealt with money will have an impact on how you deal with money. Other circumstantial things can also contribute to anxieties regarding your finances. Here are some potential factors that can cause financial anxiety.
- Growing up in poverty where money was always scarce or you were financially precarious
- Low or unstable income such as living pay cheque to pay cheque or unstable working hours
- Sudden job loss or sudden unexpected payments
- Financial abuse where someone controls the money or ridicules your ability to manage money
- Economic instability such as inflation, recession and the cost of living crisis
- Negative financial experiences like bankruptcy, retrenchment, divorce or failed business.
- Increased financial responsibility such as caring for ageing parents, becoming a single parent or retiring.
The impact of financial anxiety
- Insomnia and disrupted sleep due to worrying about money
- Avoidance behaviours like ignoring bills leading to additional charges and penalties
- Getting into debt and related legal issues
- Gambling issues
- Substance abuse issues
- Family conflicts such as arguments over money or spending habits that affect the wider household
- Hoarding behaviours
- Social withdrawal because of the cost of socializing or shame and embarrassment over your circumstances
- Cutting expenditure on things like food or overeating in response to anxiety
How to handle financial anxiety
Financial anxiety has the potential to be a debilitating condition. Stress is short-term and can even help you focus and accomplish whatever tasks you are under pressure to complete. Financial anxiety though is chronic and can have significant impacts on your emotional and physical health.
Figure out your triggers
Different people have different triggers, you need to find out what yours are and develop ways to manage it. Take note of what activities set you over the edge. For example, if you find that receiving notifications about your pending bills is triggering, then you can brace yourself as the end of the month nears then when you get it, you’re less likely to be as triggered as you would have been if it had come as a shock. Research even finds that naming your feelings makes them less intense.
Take time to learn about money
Building your financial management skills can help decrease your anxiety, for example through tools like budgeting that can give you a sense of control. Taking time to learn about money and the way the economy works can help with your financial anxiety. If, for example, you take time to read about inflation, price gouging, the high cost of living and more about how the economy works, it can help manage your fear. Plus, it can show you that it’s not necessarily a you problem. It could be a systemic problem affecting many people.
James Baldwin famously said, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
Try calming techniques
In the moment, when you’re feeling anxious, consider trying breathing exercises to calm yourself. You can also incorporate habits like meditation, yoga and even exercise, depending on your preference.
It’s okay to seek help
Remember it’s okay to seek help. There’s no shame in it. If you have a close friend, family or partner, confide in them and find ways to manage it together. You can also seek professional help if you feel you need it.
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