If you are feeling up to your neck in debt, then you know just how stressful trying to keep up with bills and payments can be. That stress, however, is not simply in your head. If it gets bad enough, it could start affecting your overall health in some very serious ways. In fact, debt has a big impact on health and overall well-being. While stress and anxiety are obvious risks of debt, you may be surprised to learn that debt can lead to other health problems, from weight gain to heart problems. In other words, taking care of your health means that you should be taking care of your finances. Below we will look at a few ways debt can negatively impact your health.

Debt and Stress

Stress, anxiety and depression are the most common health problems associated with debt. In fact, a person who is in debt is three times more likely to have a mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression, than somebody who is not in debt. That’s a startling figure and if you are struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression because of your debt then you should talk to a counselor or mental health professional immediately. Even worse, debt can lead to a vicious cycle whereby the more debt you have, the more stressed you become and, in turn, the more stressed you become the harder it is for you to develop a strategy to get out of debt, which further leads to more stress. What is even more disturbing is that one survey found that a quarter of all Americans are suffering from symptoms similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because of financial stress.

Stress is Physical

Many people don’t take their mental health seriously enough because they view it as something that is just “in their head.” Some others refrain from getting help because they think they should “toughen up.” For many, unfortunately, mental health problems do not get treated and are left to fester. This is unfortunate, especially since mental health issues do have physical side effects. Depression, for example, often leads to changes in appetite and trouble sleeping. This can further affect your health, causing sudden weight changes, fatigue, and it may even lead to problems maintaining relationships. Being stressed constantly can leave you feeling tired and may impel you to make poor or risky decisions. If you are suffering from stress or depression you need to get help as soon as possible.

What Are the Physical Symptoms?

Financial stress, if left unchecked, will eventually lead to some very serious physical problems. Stress causes chemical changes in your body and behavioral changes as well, both of which can eventually result in a number of physical problems. Heart disease and cardiac arrest are serious risks for anybody who is frequently depressed or anxious and is also one of the leading killers in America today. You may also end up experiencing gastrointestinal problems, eating disorders, and rapid weight gain or loss. In turn, those problems could lead to you developing diabetes. Sleeping problems are also common among those suffering from financial stress. Other risks include cancer, high blood pressure, and psoriasis. Many people who suffer from stress and depression resort to narcotics and alcohol, which can lead to substance abuse problems and even more health issues.

Getting better

If your mental and physical well-being is suffering because of financial hardship then you need to talk to a health professional immediately. Getting back to sound financial ground will also be the key to reducing your anxiety and getting better. Taking on more loans is not usually the answer to your problems. You should talk to a certified credit counselor for help. Identify what your expenses and income are and create a budget that keeps you within your limit. Getting out of debt is not easy, but by taking small steps towards that goal today you will be doing yourself and your health a huge favor.

Financial stress is a serious health issue that millions of Americans face every day. If you feel like you are drowning in debt, then it is time to take proactive steps towards getting better. Dealing with the financial problems that are holding you back will ultimately allow you to regain control of your life and help you improve your overall well-being.

Editor’s note: Tom Hanson is a personal finance consultant who contributes to lifestyle, news and finance blogs all over the web whether he’s sharing some tips on how to invest, or simply how to save for a rainy day.

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