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Dr. Cassidy Blair, Psy.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist | PSY 22022

Dr. Cassidy Blair, Psy.D.

Man with hands on head - Money Stress Vs. Financial Anxiety
Money Stress Vs. Financial Anxiety

Money is a universal stressor on people from all walks of life. When you look at it more closely, it makes perfect sense; money represents food, shelter, and the ability to care for one’s family. In Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs, the foundational and most significant layer to build upon the pyramid is made up of these basic needs, and in today’s society, requires cash to be accessed. 

So it is unsurprising that money consistently earns the top spot among two-thirds of respondents when asked what causes them the most stress. There is a key distinction between everyday money stress and a consistent pattern of anxiety around finances. The latter can cripple your mental wellness, damage your relationships, and, ironically, put you into debt. Worst of all, because of taboos surrounding financial conversations with friends and even therapists, it can be difficult to get the help you need when perennial financial anxiety is disruptive in your life.

In this blog, we are going to talk through a few common signs and symptoms on financial anxiety, and tips for management and healing if these descriptions resonate with you.

What is Financial Anxiety?

The psychological definition of financial anxiety is “an uneasy and unhealthy attitude toward engaging with and administering personal finances in an effective way.” This can take many forms, but one of the most common is hoarding money—overworking and underspending.

Types of Financial Anxiety

The Underspender

Saving for a rainy day is an important part of managing finances, but when taken to extremes it can be toxic on a number of levels. Money exists to be spent on life’s needs and desires—if you have objectively enough money to take care of basic needs like good food and health care, but experience discomfort with those expenses, it is likely that your underspending habits deserve a close look. 

Our attitudes toward money are often learned from our family of origin, so underspending can be a symptom of coming from a family with money stress and vowing to do better. Perhaps the source of your anxiety is a financial shock you once experienced in life that left you with a “never too much savings” mindset. Regardless of the origin, once these behaviors are observed and addressed, they can be unlearned. Everyone is capable of a happy, healthy relationship to their debit card.

The Overspender and “The Pressure”

On the other side of the coin, spending beyond one’s means can be pathological. One common source of overspending is the need to hit certain material benchmarks to feel confident and accomplished. This pressure can also be internalized from your family of origin, or could be coming from a materially-minded circle of friends. But its most consistent feature is that it never goes away. Regardless of pay raises, new cars, and other financial achievements, racking up credit card debt to maintain the outward presentation of financial well-being is a short-term plan while the long-term effects on both your bank account and your happiness can be devastating. Disentangling self-worth with finances and finding comfort within your current economic situation can be a powerful move toward mental wellness.

Financial Anxiety and Relationships

It’s worth noting that both underspending and overspending can be extremely difficult in relationships, especially when finances are formally intertwined. Of course, the age-old story of using a joint credit card for a shopping spree or a trip to Vegas is going to pose serious problems, but subtler forms of misaligned financial attitudes can also be surprisingly toxic. 

If you find yourself tempted to lie to your partner about an expense that brings you shame, or if your partner is going into debt covering shared costs because you are unwilling to compromise on your savings, it might be time to reflect on these patterns. Our financial choices reflect our beliefs about work, self-worth, and pleasure, and it is essential to keep an open channel of honest communication with anybody directly involved in your finances.

We’re Here For You

Here at Blair Wellness Group, we’re devoted to your work in managing your attitudes toward money. Taking time out of the day to be mindful of your financial behaviors can have ripple effects on your mental health, productivity, and relationships, and can help you learn more about your own patterns, strengths, and pitfalls. 

If you feel ready to make important changes in your life and seek psychological services, we are here to support and guide you through every step. Remember that you can’t plant a seed and expect a garden in the morning. The practice of self-care and emotional discovery requires patience, open-mindedness, and dedication. Like any practice, you will see progress and change over time, and the garden of a rewarding, fulfilling, beautiful life is achievable for everyone. If now is the time for you to take steps along that journey, give us a call or email us today and begin the process of getting treatment. 

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