Debt does more than play havoc with your finances and pocket money, it can have adverse effects on mental health and relationships, too. In fact, money arguments early in marriage are one of the key predictors of divorce, with the anxiety generated by money troubles or differences of opinion driving couples to estrangement. These arguments are longer lasting, with harsher language, and take longer to recover from than arguments about any other issue. Before you say things that you will both regret, here are ten things to do before you do something you’ll regret.
What Does Being Overwhelmed by Debt Anxiety Look Like?
Oddly, being overwhelmed by debt anxiety looks a lot like the stages of grief in the Kubler-Ross Cycle – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
- Denial: You pretend that your debt does not exist, or if it does there’s certainly no problem with it. You’re fine, terrific, great! You spend the way you always have, numbing yourself to the persistent and growing dread as your card max out one by one.
- Anger: Yes, many people enter into debt because they believe it will help them to lead a better life. Student loans, mortgages, car notes, and all the trappings of a successful life come on credit, but that credit also comes with interest. It’s easy to be angry at the people and institutions that opened the credit for you, who might not have made it clear that interest is paid before principal. It’s easy to be angry at yourself, your family, and even your friends who all seemed to have a ride at your expense.
- Bargaining: You might say, “I can give up spending money to eat lunch out and save $200 per month to pay down debt!” Or, “I will be in really good shape once that refund gets here – and I will use every dime toward my debt.” These are good ideas, but not a strategy. You may even make promises to God if He will just get you out of this mess.
- Depression: Reality kicks in and you’re alternating between not wanting to get out of bed and having “HowcanIpaythishowcanIpaythis-“ running in circles through your thoughts. You might cry, feel a shortness of breath, or even think you are having a heart attack when you think about your financial situation.
- Acceptance: You face your financial situation and accept it as a reality, one that you can’t erase, but you are able to change the way that you respond to it. You see the problem, how you arrived here, and that your debt has to be remediated in order for you to be healthy again.
Symptoms of Debt Anxiety
Everyone reacts differently to stress. Some people may experience depression, others may feel panic when they are overwhelmed by debt anxiety. Other symptoms can include fear – including fear of eviction, foreclosure, repossession, or collections actions. You may feel shame and embarrassment, and not be able to honestly discuss your financial situation with those closest to you. Regret over past purchases can also feed into shame and embarrassment with you asking yourself, “Why did I buy that? What was I thinking? I didn’t need it and couldn’t afford it, so why did I do it?” Stress and frustration also enter the picture, robbing you of sleep, pleasurable experiences, and even causing damage to your relationships.
Steps to Take When It’s Too Much
- Start with snowflakes. The snowflakes add up to snowballs, then snowballs can roll into an avalanche. Even little victories can make you feel better.
- Focus on the positive. Find something positive and good in your life and focus on that. It could be doing well at work, the love of your dog, or anything that is supportive and beneficial.
- Rework your budget. You might want to go to that great burger place for lunch, but for the twenty bucks, you could have some very tasty brown-bag lunches. Figure out ways to trim your spending and roll the savings into paying down your debts.
- Banish shame. Be honest about your problems, not ashamed. There is help out there, but shame often keeps people from getting the help they need for their problems.
- See a fiduciary advisor. A fiduciary advisor is not a broker but is instead a financial advisor obligated to act in your best interests.
- Get real and go offline. The online world has a way of exaggerating. Those “influencers” may be showing you a luxe lifestyle, but you don’t know if it’s really theirs or something rented just for the camera.
- Get to the root of your anxieties. What is the worst-case scenario lurking in the back of your mind? Fear has a way of paralyzing us when we need to act. Face that fear and then think of means and methods to counter it.
- Learn. Financial literacy is some of the best prevention there is for getting out of debt and to avoid falling into it again.
- Communicate. Talk to your partner and friends honestly about your situation. You might not be able to go out as much or pick up the bar tab, and need to get your finances in order. You might be surprised to find a few of them in the same circumstances.
- Talk to a lawyer. You may not be able to explore all your options without legal advice and an attorney may be able to tell you that your situation is not as hopeless as you believe.
We Can Help!
At Van Horn Law Group, we specialize in debt. As you can see by our Avvo.com page, we have handled thousands of cases of Chapter 7, 11, and 13 bankruptcies as well as IRS debt, student loans, credit card debt, and medical debt. We want to help you and keep our Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach offices open six days a week to make it convenient for you to come and see us with your problem. We will even open up on Sundays if you make an appointment. Even better, your first consultation with us is absolutely free. We will offer legal advice that is in your best interest and help you to stop being overwhelmed by debt anxiety.
Chad T. Van Horn, Esq. is a South Florida business leader and founding partner attorney of Van Horn Law Group, P.A. Through a combination of dedicated philanthropy, spirited entrepreneurship and legal expertise, he applies his resources and network to helping people. Learn more about Chad Van Horn