Depression and Debt – A Dangerous Combination

despairDoes debt have you feeling down? The negative financial consequences of having too much debt has been well documented. Before the recession, debt had become such an ingrained part of our society that many people accepted it as part of life. Unfortunately this sense of normalcy left many people unprepared for the devastating reality of living with debt once their credit limit hit the ceiling.

Without savings to fall back on or access to easy credit many families now face the daunting task of repaying those debts at a time when money is a concern for everyone. Sadly there are some people who find themselves unable to handle the stress caused by financial concerns. The combination of depression and debt can have a devastating effect on individuals, families and society as a whole.

Understanding Depression

Before we can help ourselves or those dealing with depression, it is important to first understand the condition with which we are dealing. The first issue that has to be addressed is recognizing the difference between feeling depressed and depression. At some point in life, we will all face times when we feel depressed. This is a normal and completely natural emotion felt when we deal with death, divorce, loss of employment or illness. Feeling sadness or sorrow during emotionally painful situations is not only expected but also a necessary part of the healing process required to move forward.

People who suffer from depression on the other hand, are dealing with an entirely different animal. Now recognized as an actual illness, depression is not something a person can simply shake off. Unable to escape their constant feelings of sadness, people suffering from this illness often give up trying to lead a normal life and withdrawal within themselves.

Debt and Depression

It comes as no surprise the debt can trigger feelings of depression. A person who is able to work through these emotions may feel stress, irritation, anger and frustration when faced with a severe financial hardship. Most people are able to work through these emotions and focus on taking action to resolve the problem. Apply the same circumstances to a person suffering from depression and the results may be very different. Already feeling as if life cannot get any worse, this person may sink deeper in depression making it impossible to face, let alone correct the situation.

Who Is Affected?

As a society we have come a long way in how we deal with depression and people who suffer from this illness. The more we learn about depression the better equipped we are to help those who are unable to help themselves. Unfortunately there are still those who think people with depression are just feeling sorry for themselves or lack the motivation to pull themselves out of a bad place. Unable to envision happiness or success in their future many people suffering from depression find ways to escape their feelings through alcohol, drugs or suicide.

The Impact On Society

As a society we often lack the strong communal ties that bind people together when facing adversity. That is not to say we don’t help others in need, however the tendency to not get involved is more prevalent in today’s society. The single mom down the street that is struggling to keep her kids from going hungry could use your help. The grocery store clerk that lost their only source of income, might be worried about being a burden on society. The day care worker who’s house is in foreclosure might find it difficult focus on her charges. Would you help these people if you could? Can you see the impact depression could have on everyone in the community?

The number of people facing financial hardship has not yet reached a peak. People already struggling with depression might just find dealing with debt or other money problems the proverbial straw the broke the camel’s back. So the next time you notice something is “off” with a friend, family member or neighbor don’t just pretend nothing is different. Taking a moment from your day to simply ask how they are doing or extend a helping hand might be the positive experience they need to push through another day.

What do you think? Has debt ever contributed to depression for you or a friend? I know for me personally, it was definitely a factor when I was experiencing some mild depression last year.

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  • Craig

    The two go hand in hand and one can lead to the other. Dealing with depression and becoming motivated will not only help your self esteem, but will help you become motivated to work harder, and to save more.

  • Jessica W

    I completely agree that debt and depression could be linked. I’ve struggled with depression for many years, and while I’m fairly certian it wasn’t a result of debt, I remember specifically, in college that debt was very, very stressful to me, and that additional stress made me more prone to more destructive depressive episodes. One similiarity that people should be especially sensetive to is that depression doesn’t always manifest as sadness. I ignored my depression symptoms for 10 years because they were more like lack of interest, lethargy or frustration, so I presumed I was just irritable–but I certianly didn’t feel sad, so was sure I was not depressed. I could see this kind of a misunderstanding being especially damaging to individuals with financial-related depression. Thanks for spreading the word!

  • Dawn

    I also agree that debt and depression are linked, however, I have found a small silver lining in the current economy. Because the economy has effected nearly everyone, even those who haven’t had job or income losses, I am finding that people are talking much more honestly and openly now about debt. Whereas before debt was normal (as you say) it was also swept more into the closet and not talked about. What I have found is that all my friends are far more willing to talk about their struggles as well as the steps they are taking to fight it. One of the key aspects of depression is feeling you are all alone. Now people aren’t quite as alone – and there is a lot less shame in admitting you are broke and in debt. My girlfriends and I get together and talk about budgets and finance in a way we never did before. I hope others who are struggling have a little solace in that they are aren’t alone, and at the same time, see the rays of hope in that there is ton of information out there on how to combat it.

  • The Real Deal Debt Guide

    This guide touched angles of this subject that are not often described or even understood. Very well written.

  • bluish-green

    Hmmm. For me, depression led to debt. I have a low tolerance for stress, and while I’ve always worked, I’ve been underemployed for the majority of my life. Higher wages and higher stress seem to go together, and I’ve had a few work related breakdowns in my life. As a result, I’ve had times where my income has had a serious retrenchment, and this has led to debt. I deal with things as I can, and I’ve stopped debting, but I don’t really expect things to get much better. I’ll just learn to live with them.

  • [email protected] Check

    People having financial hardship are very vulnerable for stress. His family and friends must understand and give him support instead of blaming him of being into his current situation. Don’t put someone down, when he’s already down. Help him up gain his confidence and he’ll be able to get back to his feet again.

  • Richard W

    I was diagnosed with depression about a year ago. While I am still trying to deal with it effectively, the more I learn about it the more I realize I’ve had it longer than I thought. I found myself overspending in an attempt to buy my way out of depression. I still spend to much and have now found myself in a situation where after paying the minimum balances on my credit cards, I then have to use the cards to finish the month just for groceries. This creates a circle of depression creating debt, feeding depression. I have yet to find a way out. With my wife’s recent job loss I am facing bankruptcy. So absolutely, debt and depression can and often do go hand-in-hand.

  • David

    I have crushing student loan debt. It is now just over 200k and is growing each day. I am unemployed current and have been searching very hard to find full time work. The one thing that helps me is that I am not alone in this problem. There are others out there that are in similar circumstances. In some cases worse than I am. Another thing that really helps is to keep current with the bank you owe money to. A lot of people just give up and default on their loans, thinking that they can get rid of their debt in bankruptcy or wait it out. But in the case of my debt, student loans, you cannot discharge the debt in court and it is with you until it is paid or you die. So talking about it with others helps a lot. You feel less of a pariah when you share your story. I really believe that most people who borrow have every intention of paying back the debt, and never expect it to get out of control. But having said that, you must then face reality. If it means living a life without a lot of debt then sacrificing vacations, new cars, and big houses is more than reasonable. The other thing is there are lots of people out there with information about organizations that will work with you to repay it and still keep a roof over your head. For example: there are government programs that allow people working for non-for-profit that will help you set up very reasonable payment plans and after a period between 10-25 years discharge the remaining debt. The point is that it is not hopeless, and if you fill you want to kill yourself go straight to a friend or a hospital or just phone someone up. Look on the internet and research your kind of debt. Sometimes you can work with creditors and sometimes you have to use 3rd parties. If you get dragged into court, which is serious, then go and honestly tell the judge that you can’t pay. If you have no job, or your job is just paying your current bills then most judges will dismiss you and you will be better off for have going. The point of all of this is to face it and arm yourself with the knowledge of your rights, and you will find a way out of your debt eventually I hope this helps anyone else reading it. Best of luck to everyone out there now. We are all going to need it.

  • teresa82

    I could not finish college because hard times started to come to my family since 2007, my credit suffer and my college loan was denied, now I have a $40.000+ from students loans and no carrier. I have been working hard in low paying jobs $6-7-8 per hour. My husband has a degree and he is trying to find a job but I think he only does so because we really short on money and his own company has not giving enough to survive, I mean helps but not a lot but he wants or thinks this company will generated money in the future. I am tired of living like this, I totally depressed we have problem to pay our car and sometimes we had the repo trying to take it, we have to ask for money from family thing I hate to do, we don’t eat well I only buy good food for our children, he goes to eat with his parents and I eat coffe with milk in the morning, afternoon a really simple lunch and them dinner will be cereal, every day. I only have wic for my youngest and I am grateful but totally hate to use it, I wish i did not need it. I have seen people with the stamps or the card they buy a lot of food (junk too) but i do not want to apply is like falling even deeper into accepting I am a total failure…. in work I have been offered to move up, they always telling me how smart I am and quick learner as well, I don’t believed anymore, I admit i am my worst enemy, I would not tell the things I tell myself to other people…. i am not asking to have private jets or expensive cars I only want a decent job that can pay me enough money to have a decent comfortable life, where I can pay for nice healthy food and p[ay my bills and sleep good at night without worry if we are going to have money next week. Have money to have a regular Christmas i don’t need to buy the store just one or two toys and have a nice family dinner like I used to with my parents, have money to have health insurance, hey even once in a while go to the movies or do something fun with family. I want personal fulfillment where I am happy with my self and I am successful in life, I want to be an example for my children but right now I am a mess. people say after the rain comes the sun but how much more I have to fight for it? I am wrong if I think my husband is being selfish? I think he really does not want to find the good paying job and just want to work in his project to make his project successful even if means I have to stay in these dam retails jobs that sucks out the life and the intelligence out of you? I can’t pursued anything else without his support I can’t make suffer my kids because of my desire to be something more… if so i should not have had kids right…. but I love them so much that is my 1 priority. I think he should be more eager to find and keep the job, he can still work aside in his project but why not put his family first? let’s be stable again (there was a time we where in good economical situation) pay back everything and start again. I am depressed very very depressed