The Emotional Strain of Debt

Whether it’s “good debt” or “bad debt,” the truth is that any debt can have significant emotional consequences.Many of us already know this, but studies indicate that debt is about much more than money.Being in debt can cause a variety of emotional and psychological problems.

According to, the average American has $15,950 in credit card debt, and 39% of Americans carry credit card debt month to month.Meanwhile, the average college graduate will owe $40,000 in student debt, with those who sought graduate or higher degrees, changed majors, or returned to school owing substantially more.According to a Federal Reserve Board poll, one out of every five borrowers owes $50,000 or more in student loans (and 5.6 percent owe more than $100,000).

When you add in car loans, mortgages, medical debt, personal loans, and other debts, it’s safe to say that the majority of Americans are in debt.

Different people are affected by debt in different ways.There is no universal debt tolerance.While one person may be anxious about a $1,000 credit card debt, another may not have given it a second thought until his student loan and credit card balances reached $200,000.

Here are some of the most prevalent psychological and emotional concerns related with debt, regardless of the type or quantity of debt.

Anxiety and Depression

Dr. John Gathergood of the University of Nottingham looked into the link between debt and sadness and anxiety that can accompany it. Gathergood discovered in that study that those who struggle to pay off debts and loans are more than twice as likely to suffer from a variety of mental health issues, such as depression and severe anxiety.

Anxiety can be triggered by a variety of factors, including persistent financial worries, overwhelming feelings of helplessness with no end in sight, and hopelessness. According to the survey, 29% of those with high debt stress also suffer from severe anxiety.

Meanwhile, a study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine looked into household financial debt and its effects on mental and physical health. There are no surprises here: the study also discovered that having a lot of debt is linked to having a lot of stress and despair.

Similarly, the Royal College of Psychiatrists studied the data of more than 50 study publications across time and discovered that men and women who engaged in high-risk credit behavior were more likely to have depression symptoms.


Debt is difficult for anyone, but it’s more difficult when it affects your marriage, partnership, or family.As a technique of coping with debt, a spouse or partner may resent the other. It’s natural to blame your partner for bringing additional debt into the relationship, losing a job, not producing enough money, or having debt-causing spending habits.

According to Sonya Britt, assistant professor of family studies at Kansas State University, financial disagreements are the leading predictor of divorce. The Royal College of Psychiatrists also found that significant levels of debt had a negative impact on a family’s mental health.

Our significant others aren’t the only ones who become targets of resentment. You may also dislike your boss for underpaying you or failing to give you a raise. You may resent family or friends who are financially reliant on you or who are otherwise damaging your financial well-being.If you’re a recent college graduate, you may begin to blame counselors and parents for failing to adequately communicate the consequences of student debt.

In truth, many people choose to resent themselves and the decisions that lead to their debt.
It’s not uncommon to look back on a decision with regret, whether it was excessive spending, skipping health insurance, making a terrible career choice, or anything else.


While some people experience debt as an albatross over their necks, others strive to blot it out altogether.Despite the many reminders and late letters you may receive, it’s very common to be in denial about your debt. Unfortunately, even if you are able to fully disregard your debt, it will only provide temporary comfort, if any, and will almost always result in more debt building up.

Not opening bills and bank statements that arrive in the mail, stuffing invoices and late notifications in a drawer and forgetting about them, not answering the phone when you believe it’s a creditor, or just refusing to deal with the debt are all examples of denial.

Staying in denial about your debt might grow your debt in a number of ways.
Late fees and possibly interest rate rises can result from not paying or dealing with bills, and if you’re only making minimum payments on debts with interest, your balance may still grow greater as interest accrues.

Worse, denial might help you get further into debt by allowing you to spend more.
Debt-forming habits are hard to break, whether you’re in denial about how bad your debt is or looking the other way to justify expenditures you can’t afford.


Debt and stress are inextricably linked. It’s reasonable to be concerned about how you’ll cope with your debt and whether you’ll ever be able to get out from under it when you have a pile of money owed to you.

Having a lot of debt can make you more stressed at work, because losing your job would be much more disastrous for your finances. And any time you have to spend money, even on small things like meals or petrol to travel to work, it might add to your stress level.

According to a research by the American Psychological Association, a stunning 64 percent of graduate students indicated their continual worry about debt interferes with their ideal functioning.According to an Associated Press/AOL survey, those who are in debt are more likely to report health problems, many of which are caused by stress, worry, and despair. It should therefore come as no surprise that studies show that the larger your debt-to-asset ratio, the more likely you are to suffer from stress and despair.

Debt-related stress has an impact on more than simply how we work and go about our daily lives.Stress can sometimes detract from the pleasant aspects of occurrences that would otherwise be beneficial.According to Ryan Howell, an associate professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, debt-related stress can obliterate all satisfaction gained from spending money.So, instead of increasing your levels of happiness, spending on a new pair of shoes, an electronic item, or a supper with friends — which would normally improve your levels of happiness – your debt causes you to experience greater stress.

Anger and Dissatisfaction

Debt is difficult to accept, regardless of our own personal experience with it.
However, when something is out of your control, it can be very unpleasant and infuriating.

It’s one thing to have to deal with student loans as a condition of attending college and receiving a degree.You may be in debt as a result of credit card expenditures that brought you delight, such as vacations, shopping trips, and out-of-town dinners.

Dealing with debt resulting from unforeseen circumstances such as a job loss, divorce, identity theft, a family death, large home or car repairs, or unexpected medical expenditures may be very frustrating. According to a report by NerdWallet Health, 56 million persons are struggling to pay medical expenses, and medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States.

Furthermore, the debt can act as a persistent and unpleasant reminder of the negative events that led to it in the first place.


Without a question, looking at a stack of bills and seeing the entire debt amount can lead to remorse.You may come to regret your purchases, your failure to save enough money, and other poor financial decisions.

Students who are burdened by student loan debt may look back and regret not looking for scholarships, applying for financial aid, or not fully comprehending the loans they took out when they first started school.According to studies, pupils with more debt have lower mental health scores than those who do not have as much debt.

Shame and embarrassment are two words that come to mind while thinking about shame and embarrassment

Money and material belongings are frequently connected with success in our society, whether we like it or not.It’s understandable if you feel embarrassed or ashamed about your debt.You may be embarrassed that you aren’t generating enough money, that you haven’t properly managed your finances, or that your precarious financial situation is stopping you from living the life you desire.

According to the American Psychological Association, many graduate students feel alienated because of the guilt of having enormous student loan debt.

Debt is a taboo subject for many people, and they don’t want their family and friends to know they’re in debt.In fact, according to a poll, 85 percent of respondents were unwilling to discuss their credit card debt.As a result of this mentality, we may continue to strive to project a debt-free image, which may lead to greater debt.We’ll continue to say yes to pricey nights out, buy gifts for friends and family that we can’t afford, and try to keep up with others’ spending patterns.


You may develop a fear of the consequences that can come with debt. If you’re having trouble making payments on your debt, you could be worried about eviction or foreclosure on your house, bankruptcy, losing your utilities, or having your bills collected.

You may also be concerned about losing your job or that some other unforeseen event, such as your car breaking down, will financially ruin you.

Other worries associated with debt include the worry of what will happen next, the fear of never being able to pay off your debt, and the fear of how it will effect your relationships. According to a post-doctoral study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, high debt levels contributed to lower marriage rates among young adults.

Relief, Independence, and Achievement

What do you mean?
These are only a handful of the advantages.

Debt’s emotional repercussions – once you’ve paid it off, that is.

Burying that financial weight can also help to alleviate the negative consequences of it, such as stress and low self-esteem. “Debt freedom isn’t just freedom from debt,” says Trent, the founder of The Simple Dollar.
It’s worry-free living.”

It can also help you feel better about yourself, both mentally and physically.

“When people pay off their debt, they’ll say, ‘My stomach feels better, my heart feels better,'” Carole Stovall, a Washington-based psychologist, told Fox Business.