In Western societies, it is increasingly common to contract debt, either to start professional projects, to pay for a high-value liability such as a home to live in, or even to pay off other debts. This is such a common phenomenon that there are social circles in which even not having any debt to pay comes to be seen as an opportunity cost; that is, a sign that we are not taking advantage of all the resources at our disposal to capitalize by investing money.
However, research in the field of mental health and behavioral sciences carried out over the years has shown that these debts can have a significant psychological impact on the people who incur them and that in the long run, they can become true debts. health problems if the situation is not well managed.
What psychological alterations can arise when facing debts?
Although each person deals with their problems in a specific way, there are a series of common problems that tend to arise when living with excessive debt. This does not mean that borrowing is in itself something that triggers mental problems, but it does mean that there are a series of risks that go beyond the purely economic and that we must be aware of.
Below we will see in summary the main ways in which debts can affect us psychologically. They do not have to appear all at the same time in the same person, and their particularities depend on each individual.
1. Feeling of guilt
The feeling of guilt is very common, especially in those people who got into debt without thinking well about the consequences that said debt would have in the long term, phenomena that are not valued enough, such as high-interest payments.
Betting on short-termism instead of carefully assessing the pros and cons of borrowing ends up generating a feeling of guilt and intense discomfort that can develop other psychological problems such as anxiety or stress.
Feelings of guilt are also common in people who have certain types of addiction that facilitate indebtedness, such as pathological gambling (gambling), or addictions to all types of illegally sold drugs.
2. Feeling of vital stagnation
High debts can be perceived as something that chains us to a certain lifestyle and limits our freedom to make any type of financial decision.
This inability to do what we want with our money at any time often generates a feeling of life stagnation, in which the person may experience symptoms of stress or anxiety when they see that they cannot use their money as they would like.
Many people who contract high debts tend to feel that their money does not belong to them, which generates a feeling of being permanently tied to debt and not being able to enjoy buying goods or services with their own money.
3. Low self-esteem
Another of the psychological effects of financial debts can be found in the drastic decrease in self-esteem in the people who have contracted them and in a feeling of inferiority that can gradually increase.
Self-esteem is an essential component of our personality with which we daily analyze our performance or our value as people at all levels and almost always the fact of incurring certain debts has a very notable effect on its levels.
This low self-esteem often happens when the person compares himself to those who do not have to carry a lot of money in debt and also when he remembers that he cannot fully enjoy his money, which poses a pessimistic scenario.
Another of the feelings that people in debt usually experience is a feeling of exacerbated humiliation, especially in those more conservative societies or those that place more value on the moral rectitude defined by society.
It is common to feel humiliation and shame for having dishonored the family or acquaintances, and this is also experienced when comparing oneself with other people in one’s own environment.
The symptoms and disorders related to anxiety usually occur in people with debts of all kinds, due to the pressure they feel at all times to pay the amount owed once and for all.
The need to save to prevent debt payments from becoming higher and the constant and recurring thoughts about the debt itself also generates great discomfort in the person and are the cause of anxiety symptoms.
Although the effect of debt depends on the particular characteristics of each person and their ability to cope with adversity, scientific research has shown that depressive symptoms or disorders often develop in the person who contracts debt.
The constant frustration of those who get into debt, the embarrassment that can be felt, the general malaise, the anguish, and the sadness of being in such an unpleasant situation can end up generating cases of depression that can occur together with other alterations such as anxiety, stress or addictions.
Debts also have a great effect on people’s sleeping habits, generating cases of insomnia and all kinds of problems falling asleep or having long and restful dreams.
The constant worry about contracted debts is related in the long run to mental and physical fatigue that sometimes makes the person unable to sleep properly or rest properly at night.
7. Changes in character
All these psychological problems can occur separately or interrelate with each other, which in turn can change the person’s mood or daily character.
This phenomenon manifests itself in mood swings, irritability or verbal aggressiveness towards other people in our environment, and difficulties in relating satisfactorily on a social level.