Handling Debt Stress

by | May 15, 2022 | Debt Relief

Just How Stressful Can Debt Get?

How much of your stress comes from debt? Unfortunately, it’s probably more than you think. So just how stressful can debt get, and how can you overcome stress caused by debt?

At Sleepy Money, we’re all about helping you achieve financial freedom. Not just freedom from debt, but a way to build passive income, and make money work for you, so you have more time to do what you want with your life – be that raising your family and spending more time with your kids, traveling, or start a business you enjoy. 

In this article, I am going to talk about “debt-stress” because 8 in 10 Americans have debt. And, if you have debt, it can be difficult to envision that you can live the life you want, earning passive income while you let your money do the work. 

Having debts can be so stressful that a lot of common symptoms of stress, in general, have been linked to the stress people experience over having debts.

Difficulty sleeping, concentration problems, and even change in eating habits are just a few of the physical symptoms that can be experienced when you are under debt stress.

As of a few years ago, the average American household earned just over $60,000 a year, and carried an average of $137,000 in debt. With over 189 million Americans having an average of four credit cards, the total U.S. consumer debt is now at $13.86 trillion and rising.

Where is all this debt coming from?


  1. Mortgages
  2. Auto loans
  3. Credit cards
  4. Student loans.
  5. Poor spending habits
  6. Not earning enough

As you can see, America has a debt problem. And every day the debt problem increases.

Today, Americans are under more and more stress. Not just because. of debt but because society is moving at a very fast pace. But debts are. a major contributing factor. In fact, debt-stress has become so common that it’s now medically referred to as Debt Stress Syndrome.

A recent article written by a debt consolidation website gives a perfect example of how a woman under debt stress nearly caused an accident because she was so worried about her medical bills:

Debt stress syndrome is the name that doctors have given to a condition where concerns over debt lead to mental, emotional and even physical health problems. When you face problems with debt, it can consume your thoughts and distract you from everything else – your family, work, and – if you’re like Susie – even remembering to put your car in park on a hill.

Coming home from work one day, Susie pulled into the driveway of her South Georgia home. She got out and went to fetch some groceries out of the back seat, then leaned back in to grab the keys out of the ignition. One problem… She’s never actually put the car in park and it started to roll backwards down her driveway.

“I couldn’t believe what was happening. The driver’s side door caught my right leg and tore the muscles and ligaments. But thankfully I finally fell out and rolled down the driveway. I cut and bruised myself but it could have been much worse if I hadn’t gotten loose.”

Connect the dots and you’ll understand why medical research has documented that debt-stress, increasing your overall stress levels, can also lead to poor health and actual physical issues. 

Prolonged high stress levels have often been proven to cause or contribute to high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes, and obesity. High amounts of stress, even for a short period of time, can also lower your immune system, which makes you susceptible to illness and viruses.

Can Money Buy Happiness?

There is a very famous question that has been answered many ways by hundreds if not thousands of people: Can money buy happiness?

While fundamentally, money itself cannot buy ultimate happiness, we’ve also seen that a lack of money and an increase of debt can lead to a lot of unhappiness. Certainly, there is no joy in not having enough money to pay your bills or even for important necessities.

Having money – not credit – to pay for your families needs, plan for the future and also enjoy free time or the needed occasional vacation on the other hand may not buy happiness, but it certainly gives you the freedom to enjoy life without a constant stress over payments and debts. Borrowing money and creating debt to pay bills or buy important things only adds to the problem.

Look, if you’re reading this article it’s most likely because you have some kind of debt and are looking for ways to get out of it (which is the subject of our article, How To Get Out of Debt). We understand that life is not always a perfectly smooth ride, in fact it rarely is. “Stuff happens” and you find yourself in money problems. The sudden loss of a job, an unexpected accident, you or family getting sick, a drop in the stock or housing market and so on.

These sudden life problems create debt stress that can in turn trigger a series of emotional manifestations that make it harder for you to focus on getting out of debt and make enough money to supply for your and your family’s needs. A common one is denial.


Have you or have you ever seen someone spend compulsively, despite knowing they have a debt situation? Such people are in fact ignoring a worsening situation – their debt – and are in actual denial of it as a problem, a problem that they will continue to dramatize until they are stopped, such as running out of credit or legal action, debt collection phone calls and so on.

Some common symptoms of debt denial include underestimating how much you owe, not confronting your credit card statements for months, avoiding phone calls from creditors or debt collectors, opening new loans or credit cards when you are already unable to make payments on the ones you maxed out, making your situation feel normal by telling yourself everyone else is in the same situation.

Debt denial may seem like an easy way out but the feeling is only temporary as it will lead up to piles of debts, high interest rates and serious debt stress in the future.


On the plus side, there is an enormous relief that can be felt when you pay off your debts and are debt free! Now we know that’s easier said than done, but it can be done by following a few simple steps; starting with the decision to get out of debt.

In fact, it’s been proven that even starting actions towards becoming debt free can immediately make you feel more happy and less stressed, as you make positive steps towards your debt free future.

There are also many agencies available that can help, debt management agencies, credit counselors, debt consolidators, and financial management companies that help you work out and stick to budgets while systematically paying your debts.

All leading to real happiness, the happiness of being debt free.