People in debt and struggling to pay the bills experience high levels of stress — trouble sleeping, nagging anxiety, and loss of focus are just some of the symptoms. We may know this intuitively, but recent research shows that it may be a lot worse than you think.

When you’re constantly worried about bills, creditors, and having enough money to pay the rent, self-esteem and cognitive functioning plummets, leading to shortsighted decision-making, which can cause even more financial problems. It’s a vicious cycle that can seriously mess with your physical and mental health.

Debt Stress and Your Health

Your body’s stress response system is highly effective for survival. When you are in an acute physical crisis, you want your adrenaline and heart rate to increase so you can flee faster or fight stronger. But when the stress is social or psychological, the same physiological processes get activated even though your survival is not at risk.

Sometimes, we activate the stress response for no reason at all, such as thinking back to the time you peed your pants in fourth grade. Other times, we get anxiety or paranoia about things we have no control over, such as the latest breaking news.

One of the biggest stressors in our lives, however, is debt. Whether it’s student loans, credit card debt, or medical bills, those with unmet loan payments experience a range of negative health consequences.

A 2012 study by Dr. John Gathergood of the University of Nottingham found that individuals struggling to pay their debt obligations are more than twice as likely to experience a range of psychological health problems. Although debt and mental health are a two-way street, Gathergood established a causality from mortgage debt to worse psychological health.

Other studies have shown that simply thinking about debt triggers a range of negative effects, including decreased self-control and impaired decision-making. One of the most depressing things about the health effects of debt stress is that it impairs your cognitive functioning, which you need to solve problems and get yourself out of debt.

To make matters worse, the constant stress of being poor and in debt significantly increases your chances of getting sick.

Here are some of the negative health effects associated with chronic stress:

  • Elevated blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Strokes and heart attacks
  • Heart disease
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Diabetes
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Decreased sexual drive
  • Altered appetites (both overeating and undereating)
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Weakened immune system
  • Accelerated aging and shortened lifespan

How Debt Relief Specialists Can Help

Debt is bad enough without it making you sick. Luckily, there’s hope. You can reduce stress by exercising, increasing predictability, meditating, and finding social support. But if debt is your main stressor, the best thing to do is to reduce your debt.

Of course, reducing your debt is easier said than done. But you can start by calling DebtBlue for your free debt relief consultation. The simple step of recognizing the problem and then acting on it means you’ve already turned a corner.

A new study by the Social Service Research Centre at the National University of Singapore found that indebted individuals “experienced less anxiety and improved cognitive functioning, and they could make better financial decisions three months after receiving debt relief.”

Unlike purely psychological stressors, you can’t simply ignore your finances. Denial of a debt problem simply leads to more debt and higher interest rates. Luckily, there are some concrete steps you can take to feel better and reduce your debt.

According to a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, those who participated in a debt relief program and were able to pay off more debt accounts “experienced greater improvements in cognitive functioning, reported less anxiety, and became less present-biased.”

Don’t let your debt take your money and your mind. Start feeling better with predictable payments and a team of debt experts working on your behalf.

If debt is stressing you out, don’t craze over making the perfect decision. Call DebtBlue today for a free conversation about reducing your debt… and your anxiety.