FINANCIAL PHOBIA: When Money Worries Take Over Your Life

FINANCIAL PHOBIA: When Money Worries Take Over Your Life


It’s fast approaching a decade now since the latest financial crisis struck with all its considerable force. In the years since, some people recovered their financial status, some are doing better than ever, and some are surviving financially but are still working their way back to the level of comfort they enjoyed before the crash.

For other less fortunate people, the crisis is still playing out and they’re facing an ongoing fight to keep their financial heads above water. After years of this struggle, it’s no surprise that plenty have succumbed to a real clinical illness many people may not have heard of: financial phobia.

Anyone who’s had money troubles will recognize that feeling of apprehension when opening a bill or of lying awake worrying how to get through to the next payday. However, for some people, these feelings run deeper and become the basis of a real disorder that can require medical treatment. It’s estimated up to 20 percent of people will suffer from full-blown financial phobia at some point, with nearly half the population experiencing the warning signs of it. However, it’s not necessarily the people with the worst financial problems that suffer the most.

For people with financial phobia, staying in control of day-to-day finances is extremely difficult, as even seemingly simple tasks like checking bank balances can spark off feelings of dread, anxiety, and even panic attacks. Opening mail becomes a problem, as the sufferer is often convinced that the envelope contains bad news. It’s not unusual for envelopes to remain unopened for days or weeks before being discarded altogether, the contents ignored.

What causes this behavior? Like any true phobia, the causes aren’t always rational but often are based on a bad experience that grips the subconscious, with its importance exaggerated. Any financial trauma can be the grain of sand around which the phobia forms, from something as small as having a credit card declined in a shop to something as large as facing legal action over unpaid bills.

Whatever the starting point, as the phobia progresses, less and less time is spent keeping on personal finance issues, and so they deteriorate. Of course, this feeds the sense that things are hopelessly out of control, and bolsters the illusion it’s better to ignore the problems than make a concerted effort to resolve them. It’s a downward spiral that can end in disaster if left unchecked.

Once matters reach this stage, it is no longer enough to treat this as merely a financial problem. Like all genuine phobias, the solution needs a broader base and may require counseling or further medical advice. Of course, anything that can be done to relieve ongoing financial pressures will certainly help, but it’s unlikely that the sufferer will be able to handle this successfully alone. It would be a sensible idea to seek the support and help of a good debt adviser who can offer level-headed assistance in getting problematic finances back under control while the underlying phobia is dealt with.