Financial problems can affect almost anyone—even people who make a lot of money and have a stable career may experience the occasional bit of anxiety about their finances.
While worrying about money isn’t the worst thing in the world (a little worry helps keep you focused on money management), you shouldn’t have to feel paralyzed by financial stress. Especially not to the point of it becoming a full-blown financial anxiety disorder.
So, let’s take some time to talk about financial anxiety to explain what money anxiety disorder is, how it affects people, and what you can do about it.
What Is Money Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety about money doesn’t typically get classified as a disorder—it’s a normal concern for literally billions of people all around the world. However, sources like the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada have noted that 48% of Canadians claim to have lost sleep over financial worries—and 44% have stated that they’d have difficulty meeting their financial obligations if they received their pay late.
The question is, what are some financial anxiety symptoms that you can use to determine if you’re just experiencing normal money worries or if you’re suffering from an anxiety disorder?
How Can I Tell If I'm Suffering Money Anxiety Disorder?
Money anxiety disorder, also known as financial anxiety disorder, is more than just the occasional worrying about having funds. It’s a type of long-lasting, chronic, and obsessive worry or fear related to money—and may be categorized under general anxiety disorders. Ipsos noted that in 2018, 4 in 10 Canadians agreed that debt was “negatively impacting their mental health.”
What separates temporary anxiety over money from full-blown financial anxiety symptoms? It’s in the pervasiveness of the fear. If you find yourself constantly worrying about money and can’t get it off of your mind for days at a time, you might be suffering from financial anxiety.
If you’re worried about finances only once in a while, such as when important billing due dates come up when you’re short on funds, then you might be feeling some anxiety over money without it being a full-on disorder.
How Can Money Anxiety Disorder Affect Me?
The effects of an anxiety disorder can vary from one person to the next. Some of the effects of anxiety disorders include issues like:
- Extreme Fatigue. Constant worry about a problem can cause restlessness and extreme stress which, in turn, can lead to a loss of sleep and extreme persistent fatigue.
- Increased Blood Pressure. Stress caused by anxiety triggers can cause an increase in blood pressure—which can have additional negative effects on someone’s health.
- Irritability and Mood Swings. Anxiety can lead to mood swings or an increase in feelings of irritation. Sufferers may snap at loved ones for what would normally be considered minor irritations.
- Depression and Negativity about the Future. Pervasive worries about money can lead to crippling depression and create a strong sense of futility—leading to thoughts like “I’ll never get out of debt” or “trying to keep up is pointless.”
- Headaches. Increases in blood pressure can cause headaches/migraines.
These are just a few potential effects of anxiety on a person. There is no guarantee that you will feel all of these effects if you suffer from anxiety over money (or that these will be the only effects you feel).
How to Cope with Money Anxiety Disorder
If you’re feeling excessive anxiety over money, it can be very difficult to cope. While a lot of people hope for that magic solution to their financial woes, the odds of hitting a lotto jackpot or coming into some other major money windfall sufficient to eliminate all debts is slim. Plus, just getting a large lump sum of money all at once isn’t a guarantee that money problems will stay solved.
One of the best ways to cope with financial anxiety is to address the source of your anxiety about money in a sustainable way. This means having a strategy for getting rid of debt or covering all your bills that can either be repeated when necessary or is, by design, able to keep you from getting into debt again.
So, if you’re worrying about money a lot and need a way to eliminate your anxiety, here are a few tips you can follow:
1. Find a Financial Coach
Who said you had to try to get over your anxiety over money on your own? Well, you don’t. You can look for a financial coaching service to help you learn how to cope with money problems and the stress they bring.
While financial coaching services may vary from one organisation/provider to the next, they should provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to overcome financial anxiety. Some of the services that they offer may include:
- One-on-one coaching sessions to improve your money management skills
- Debt assessments to see where you are financially
- Creation of a financial plan with goals to help keep you motivated
- Advice for dealing with various forms of debt you might be holding
Of course, financial coaching isn’t the only form of support you might seek to help with your anxiety over money. You could also seek the advice of a financial planner, a tax attorney, or a debt relief service.
2. Create Some Financial Goals
When you’re experiencing extreme anxiety about money or debt, it’s all too easy to become paralyzed with indecision about what to do next. Before taking action, it can help to create financial goals to work toward.
Setting goals helps give you something to work on so you can stay motivated and track your progress. However, it’s important to set goals in the right way to avoid problems. Some tips for setting financial goals include:
Using a Goal Setting Framework.
Using a well-defined goal-setting framework (like SMART) helps you create specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely goals that you can hold yourself to. Pre-existing goal frameworks can be useful because they’ve been proven effective for many other people in the past.
Define Both Short and Long Term Goals.
A long-term goal like “pay off all of my debt in two years” sounds great. However, what are the short-term steps that will get you to that goal? Setting a big goal to shoot for is important, but it’s easy to become demoralized if you don’t see yourself achieving smaller, easier-to-manage goals that help you get there. So, having some short-term goals that lead up to the big long-term goal can be incredibly important for staying motivated and keeping on the path to getting out of debt.
Remember to Sort Needs from Wants.
When setting goals, it’s often necessary to take a look at the goals you’re making and determine which ones are “must-haves” and which ones are simply “nice” to have. For example, things like paying for food, shelter, and other basic necessities should take priority over saving for a new car (unless said car is needed to make the money to pay for other necessities). Being able to separate needs from wants so you can prioritize your goals accordingly is a major life skill—and one that’s necessary for getting over money anxiety.
3. Establish a Budget
Now that you’ve set your financial goals, what does your budget for meeting those goals look like? Setting a budget can be tough, but it is doable with basic resources to help you track your income and expenses.
Basically, you should take a look at your monthly income and see how that stacks up against your monthly expenses. Are you making more than you spend? You could put the excess towards paying your debts or saving up for the future.
Is your spending exceeding your monthly income? Take a look at your expenses to see where you could make some cuts without getting rid of monthly necessities.
For example, are you paying for a bunch of different online streaming services? Consider cutting the ones you don’t watch as often to save a few dollars each month. Do you go out to eat a lot at fast food places or more expensive restaurants? Consider cutting back on food trips to eat some more meals at home—or pack meals if you’re eating out a lot while at work.
4. Consider Your Debt Relief Options
If you’re drowning in debt and don’t know what to do, consider looking for some debt help options to eliminate your debt. This can include things like credit counselling services (such as debt consolidation loans and debt consolidation plans) or Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT) services (like consumer proposals and bankruptcy proceedings).
These services can help you get out of debt so you can stop worrying about money and focus on your other life goals—like saving up for your wedding, buying a home, or putting your kids through college (among other things).
However, not all debt relief options are created equally. Some might be better for your needs than others. So, it’s important to carefully research and compare the different insolvency and debt consolidation options at your disposal to determine which is right for you.
If you need help or advice on how to stop worrying about money or about dealing with debt, Credit Canada is here to help! Our certified Credit Counsellors have helped thousands of people get out of debt over the years—and we want to help you with your money anxiety too! You don’t have to stay worried about finances forever! So get help now!