»Mental problems and money problems too often go hand in hand. For one, debt is an increasingly common stressor that can trigger depression.
Debt can make you feel helpless, hopeless, and low on self-esteem — and these are all symptoms and risk factors for depression, says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. Credit card debt, mortgage foreclosure, student loan debt, and job loss can create the type of extreme anxiety that often contributes to depression.
At the same time, symptoms of depression can lead some people to accommodate growing piles of debt. "It can also happen the other way," says Kaslow. "Someone with depression may exhibit behaviors that can lead them into a debt crisis."
But help is available. "If a person is feeling trapped, desperate, and hopeless, they may need help for depression and help getting out of debt," says Kaslow.
When Depression Leads to Debt
It’s easy to understand how the stress of debt can trigger or worsen depression, but you may not realize that depression can also lead to debt problems.
"Some people may try to relieve feelings of depression by compulsive shopping. Depression can cause destructive and addictive behaviors that can result in overwhelming debt. This type of debt can lead to extreme despair and even to suicide," warns Kaslow.
Some symptoms of depression that can lead to debt include:
Abusing alcohol or drugs, and gambling — examples of addictive behaviors
Loss of sleep and fatigue that can interfere with the ability to work or go to school
Loss of interest in school, work, and other responsibilities
Difficulty concentrating and making important decisions
How to Find Debt and Depression Help
If you find you are dealing with debt and depression, it is important to treat both, Kaslow says. Depression is a very treatable disorder. The first step is to recognize the problem and ask your doctor for depression help. Once depression is diagnosed, it can be treated with talk therapy. In some cases, medications may also be used.
Since debt affects the entire family, individual and family therapy may be important parts of depression help. For someone with addictive spending, Debtors Anonymous (DA) is an organization that can be very helpful," suggests Kaslow. DA has meetings all over the country where people share their experiences with compulsive debt and debt management. There are also online meetings.
Try these strategies for debt management:
Develop a budget
Contact your creditors instead of avoiding them
Know your rights when dealing with debt collectors
Use a credit counseling or debt management agency
Seek protection through bankruptcy laws
Loneliness: How to Give It the Old Heave-Ho
By Jill Provost Published 2/10/2012
When it comes to happiness, feeling supported and loved ranks high among our needs. Despite our need to connect, one in five people suffer from loneliness — and it affects more than the widows and wallflowers of the world. It’s not only our happiness that’s at stake; loneliness is also a health threat. “If you isolate any social species, they die earlier. The same thing goes for humans,” says Mladen Golubić, MD, PhD, medical director of the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. The good news: It’s a health threat that we can conquer. Here, how to spot loneliness, why you should care, and what you can do to fix it.
What is loneliness? Loneliness is not the same thing as being alone. After all, feelings of isolation can strike when you’re in a roomful of people or among your closest friends. Rather, it’s the painful experience of feeling alone. It occurs when there’s a discrepancy between what we want out of our relationships and what we’re actually getting. Sometimes, this is due to life circumstances, like losing a partner or moving to a new town. Other times, it reflects a person’s interior state. Studies have shown that lonely people often have incorrect assumptions about how other people perceive them. As a result, they have difficulty forming meaningful connections.
How to spot it What does loneliness look like? Believe it or not, you could have 500 friends on Facebook, a social invitation every night of the week, and still feel disconnected. According to Scott Bea, PsyD, clinical psychologist at Cleveland Clinic, people are usually aware that they’re unhappy with their relationships. You may feel like you have no one who understands; no one you can confide in, trust or take on the challenges of the world with. Even if you have a wonderful spouse or kids, you may still feel like you don’t have enough support, says Bea.
Loneliness and chronic disease “Having social support is critical for good health,” says Golubic. In fact, according to University of Chicago professor John Cacioppo, PhD, who has spent over 20 years researching the topic, chronic loneliness should be considered a significant risk factor in achieving good health, along with things like smoking, obesity and lack of exercise. Lonely people are at a much higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome — a cluster of health conditions including high blood pressure, abdominal obesity and insulin resistance that increase the risk for heart disease, stroke and type 2 Diabetes, explains Golubic. Research suggests they’re also twice as likely to develop an Alzheimer's-related dementia.
Sleepless, sad and stressed out Being disconnected can make everything seem harder. “When we feel alone, it activates the autonomic nervous system — the fight-or-flight stress response,” explains Bea. We register social isolation as stress, because, from an evolutionary standpoint, relationships were key to our survival. Lonely people react more negatively to stressful situations, because the nervous system is already fired up. Rather than viewing life’s hassles as a challenge, they see them as a threat. This fearful approach can more easily push a person into panic mode. Like all chronic stress, loneliness increases the risk of insomnia and depression, says Golubic.
Change your perception People who are chronically lonely tend to have negative beliefs about themselves and about how others view them. This can make socializing feel unsafe and unfulfilling. These kinds of attitudes are tough to change on your own, says Bea. If you recognize this pattern in yourself, he recommends working with a cognitive-behavioral therapist, who can help you identify these so-called “cognitive distortions.” Since your actions are largely based on your beliefs, your fears may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think nobody likes you, you may withdraw and not make friends. As a result, you end up alone. CBT can help correct these self-destructive assumptions and behaviors.
Help others to help yourself It may sound counterintuitive, but the best thing you can do for yourself when feeling lonely is to do something for someone else, says Bea. “When we do charitable things, the reward centers in our brain get activated longer than when something nice is done for us,” he says. Volunteering creates a social obligation, where you have to show up. It often gives you a specific role that helps guide the social interaction, which can put socially awkward people at ease. “And if it’s a particularly giving action, people are going to be grateful for your help,” says Bea. Plus, research shows that people who provide support to others have a much lower mortality rate than those who receive it, says Golubic. In other words, it really is better to give than to receive.
Take (some) comfort in your pets There’s a reason why some solitary people adopt a gazillion pets. Research shows that when we lack a sense of connection with others, we’re more likely to see our pets as human. A bond with your pet may even provide some of the health benefits that come from relationships with people. “I don’t think it hurts to be attached to animals at all,” says Bea. “There will be some people who find that satisfactory. But if we really want to beat loneliness, we have to take risks to move beyond that.”
Put yourself out there No matter the roadblock, take a no-excuses approach to socializing. Depressed? Stressed? Wiped out? All the more reason to carve out time for friends. Leaning on others when you’re not feeling your best helps forge bonds, which can help you feel connected — and reduce stress. “People who are lonely may have a hard time asking for assistance, but you have to be willing to ask for some help,” says Bea. Put together a list of people you can call when you’re lonely or feeling down, and force yourself to use it. It might be frightening, but the payoff will be worth it.
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