Wait a minute (or fifty), don’t people see a psychologist for issues like anxiety and anorexia? Depression and difficulty sleeping? Relational problems and recovery from addiction? Sleep disturbance and stress?
What does money have to do with mental health? As it turns out—a lot. Money is emotional currency. It serves as a canvas on which personality, emotion, and behavior are splashed. Thinking about money can crowd out sleep. It can serve as a rope for relational tug-of-war. Tragically for some, the stress of their financial lives becomes a dangerous noose around their neck.
Erratic, expensive behaviors can be a direct or indirect symptom of some psychological diagnoses.
Financial stress itself can serve to activate and amplify certain psychological symptoms. The concept of “financial anxiety” has been trending recently. While not a formal diagnosis, the focus in the current zeitgeist on the panicked psychology of money and mind speaks to something significant: we are living in a financially worried world.
It is not brand new information that financial fear can reach and rip deep into one’s psyche. Rumination about former money regrets. Fear about how to stay financially alive and afloat in the present. Uncertainty about economic or employment future. These are real, weighty money concerns that mentally bury many.
When our brains perceive threat – real or imagined – they set into motion a system of responses designed to keep us alive and kicking. Sometimes the level of financial anxiety someone holds is amplified by a cognitive thinking pattern coined “catastrophizing” – imagining, fearing, and bracing for “The Worst.” There are other cases where the anxiety response is, in a sense, grounded in one’s economic reality. It can be unsafe to have a foundation for the meeting of basic needs – food, shelter, clothing, -threatened by job loss or economic downturn. Regardless of how reality-based a perceived threat may be, a state of financial panic can trigger fight, flight, or freeze reactions that do not serve a bottom line or overall sense of well-being.
What does money have to do with mental health? As it turns out, everything. Understanding the complex interplay between currency and clinical concerns can help provide valuable insight for mental health and financial services professionals alike. Recognizing how psychological concerns commonly play out in a person’s pocketbook can help shed valuable light on a client’s current circumstances. In psychology and finance, there is shared language of calculating risk. Unchecked mental health concerns must be accounted for in this equation.