Financial Stress and Mental Health Side Effects

Masthead Image
Author Name: Mia Barnes
Date: Wednesday December 11, 2019

Body + Mind is reader-supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through some of the links on our site. 

Financial stress keeps countless people up at night with fears of the future. Whether it happens incidentally or through generational poverty, it causes many to struggle with supporting themselves and their families. Being unable to make ends meet damages more than your credit report. Your mental and physical health also takes a hit.

Sleeping problems, appetite changes and loss of motivation — sound familiar? These are common symptoms of depression, but they can also manifest as a result of prolonged financial insecurity. Financial stress and mental health are intertwined, and anyone who’s been through the trials and tribulations can tell you so. If you’re battling it yourself, you know how stressful the journey is.

However, there are ways to break out of the gloom. The first thing you should do is pinpoint the various areas of your life financial stress affects. Are you continually anxious or fatigued? Do you have trouble with essential functions? From there, you can begin brainstorming ideas on how to alleviate it.

Low Self-Esteem

Lacking money to pay bills — or not having a job at all — can damage your self-esteem. You may feel you don’t have control over your life. Past unsuccessful efforts to earn money can make you believe future attempts won’t work, which decreases your motivation.

Financially insecure people often skip hanging out with friends or engaging in recreational activities due to humiliation. This isolation then drives them further into depression, which can thwart their efforts to seek out financial opportunities.

Spending and earning big bucks are major components of any consumerist society, and you may feel depressed about not meeting those standards. It’s hard to not compare yourself to peers or social media influencers who seem to have it all. According to one study, 48 percent of millennials fall into overspending habits while trying to catch up with peers.

Remember, most of what you see is a facade. Most people don’t display their low moments on social media, and you can’t know the details of anyone’s life from half the facts. You may be surprised to find out others struggle with similar issues.


Stress takes a toll on the body in multiple ways, including your sleep patterns and immune responses. Not knowing if your next paycheck will be enough — or if your lights will be shut off — can leave you in a constant state of hyperarousal. This anxious state makes sleeping difficult, and can even disrupt your digestive functioning.

Even though the DSM-5 doesn’t officially list financial stress as a traumatic life event, evidence suggests that financial worries still make up one of the most common causes of stress in America. In fact, over seventy percent of Americans say money is a major cause of stress, and a full sixty percent of workers suffer from anxious and depressive symptoms related to money.

Anxiety manifests differently across genders, so knowing the symptoms will help you address them before they spiral. Women are more likely to develop generalized anxiety or PTSD than men, and they experience panic attacks twice as often.

When you compare this information to anxious workers, it’s clear women make up a sizable portion of financially stressed employees. A recent survey revealed that five percent of women experience intense worry over money compared to 41% of men.

Maternity leave is a necessity for new mothers, but taking advantage of it has left 53% of women in debt. Considering the U.S. is one of few countries without paid maternity leave, many women feel anxious about having children under such conditions. This fear of financial instability leads some women to avoid having kids even when they desire motherhood.


Symptoms of depression include a disinterest in activities, guilt, fatigue and a sense of hopelessness. Studies show that 17.3 million American adults suffered at least one depressive episode in 2017, with more women facing depression than men. Any trauma or disaster can trigger it, but money issues are a consistent contributor. Financial stress and mental health connect even when you don’t realize it.

Depression can strike when you put in the effort but don’t make tangible progress. Women especially suffer from these hopeless feelings, as many receive less pay than men for doing the same work. Though the pay gap is a systemic failing, women find themselves wondering if their talents aren’t adequate.

Dealing with these emotions on top of child-rearing, caring for elderly parents or supporting a household makes an unsavory recipe for depression. Bread-winning women have to juggle employment with household chores, and they’re often not acknowledged for their struggles. One study showed that in households where women earn 80% of the income, only 38% of couples considered the wife the breadwinner.

Answers for Financial Stress

Financial stress and mental health issues can become a repetitive cycle. Being financially insecure causes anxiety and depression, and these two conditions can encourage you to spend money or ignore bills. Harmful coping methods can lead you further into debt, repeating the cycle. Prolonged stress eats away your health, leading to more doctor’s visits and higher medical bills. Some choose to self-medicate with alcohol or painkillers, which can become an expensive addiction.

Finding a way out of the fog takes time, but you can achieve it through continual motivation. Try affordable options, such as online therapy. Reach out to local support groups created by organizations or churches. Link up with groups who know safe and legal avenues for earning money.

Create a strict budget to avoid overspending and maintain your bank accounts. Allocate money each month to paying off debts, even if it’s only a little. Chipping away at loans and credit card debt is better than collecting interest.

Solve Your Financial Stress and Mental Health Issues

The light at the end of the tunnel is there if you search for it. Have faith in your ability to tackle any issue. Dealing with mental health conditions and financial issues requires patience — you’ll reach your goals by persevering and kicking stress to the curb.

Previous Article9 Foods That Weaken Immune System Function Next Article7 Benefits of Joining a Gym
Subscribe CTA Image

Subscribers get even more tailored tips & deets delivered directly to their inboxes!