Do You Suffer From Acute Financial Stress?

This is a great time of the year for most of us: getting together with our family and friends and enjoying the holidays that we have looked forward to all year long. Who doesn’t love the holiday season with the food, parties and spiritual joy we all can share? And look to the beginning of a new year when we can plan for improvements just up ahead! But I say most of us enjoy it because there are some who don’t quite see it that way.

The holidays are prime time to be worried about money, but if you suffer from Acute Financial Stress, you may need some help in dealing with your troubles.

Acute Financial Stress

According to a study done by Payoff, about 23% of all Americans and an even higher percentage of millennials suffer from what is known as AFS, Acute Financial Stress. This “disease” is caused by one’s reaction to financial stress which of course the holidays’ emphasis on spending and shopping can trigger. This and so many other financial issues can turn someone’s life completely upside down and even lead to a physical and/or mental debilitation resulting in things like heart disease and mental health problems. It has been compared with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as to its reach and severity among Americans today.

People who suffer from AFS may have the kind of personality traits that make them unable to handle the serious stress of money and financial issues that are a big part of our lives. The results of things such as job loss, credit issues, and for so many, the huge debts that they rack up in funding college educations have a drastic impact on them. Many people suffer from this kind of stress and it can actually affect their physical health as it has been linked to CAD, Coronary Artery Disease in some studies that have been done. Sometimes, the only resolution is professional counselling and a complete change in the way someone copes with this kind of stress.

We probably all have had our own experiences with financial problems from time to time. Many personal finance bloggers relay their very personal experiences about accumulating huge debt and their battle to recover from it and regain control of their personal finances. Improving their lives, mental states and physical health is a bonus from debt payoff. Of course not everyone’s finances are the cause of their mental and physical ailments, but there is strong evidence that many of the symptoms are caused by it along with the “type A” personality that enables it to grow into a really dangerous condition.

I have worried about money issues all my life. As far as I know I haven’t had an obvious health issue from those worries (although I do had CAD). But I do feel the stress on occasion when I spend hours reviewing my current and future financial obligations for myself and my wife, and for my kids. That kind of reaction is fairly normal, the worrying on occasion, but when “on occasion” becomes an obsession, you are in a deeper hole and that is where the problems begin.

Symptoms

First of all, it can affect your sleep patterns. I know I have suffered from that and let me tell you if you aren’t getting the proper rest that we all need it can and will affect your judgment and ultimately your health. That will then led to a lack of energy levels and bring on high anxiety that will compound your problems.

Any of these ramifications will do nothing in helping you make the choices and decisions that can improve you financial condition and frankly it may lead to additional expense from doctors and medications.  If you or anyone you know has ever been in this kind of situation, you also know the toll it may take on personal relationships of family, friends and spouses. It has a numbing effect on your emotions and interactions with others and may be the reason why you isolate yourself from them and thus it becomes self-fulfilling in that way. You feel isolated because you isolate yourself.

There is also a common response that what is happening to you isn’t really happening at all. You appear in total denial of any problem to those around you. But, deep down, you know where you stand and being in denial is a sure way not to come to terms with these problems and enable you to make a plan to recover from them.

If you’re wondering if you may have AFS, there’s a brief questionnaire to measure your stress.

Getting Help

I don’t want anyone who suffers from AFS to feel as if they are bad people. That’s not the case in almost every situation. The causes are an unfortunate combination of personality, pressures, and some really poor decision making that ultimately puts a person in this situation. The worst part of any of this is when the results cause physical damage like CAD, it may not be able to be repaired no matter what the financial situation becomes down the road.

If you suffer from serious stress about your personal finances, and I mean the kind of problems I have touched on here, you will need help. Solving your money problems is possible. Right here on this blog you can find helpful articles about what you can do to reverse potential financial disaster. It’s time to just take a first step, perhaps tracking your expenses. How many times will you need to hear about budgeting, looking for ways to save on shopping, preventive measures that can save your home, your health and your possessions before you get the message?

If your health has been affected by AFS, you will need to talk to a doctor or even a therapist to get help. There is evidence that some of us just cannot control ourselves when it comes to spending and that it takes counselling to change habits that can ruin our lives even when we convince ourselves we can do it alone.


At this time of the year, we should all be able to enjoy and to think about the festive events of the season. If you’re not doing that, it’s a sure sign that something is wrong in your life and that something may be stress related like financial issues surrounding you.

Are you feeling the pain of AFS? Are the holidays an especially stressful time because of financial pressures? What have you done to handle the financial stress in your life and what do you suggest others can do to feel better?

17 Comments

  1. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe

    AFS sounds like a recipe for a really bad feedback loop. With poor health, it’s a lot harder to do the things that can get you out of financial difficulties (not to mention extra healthcare costs. I hope folks going through it reach out to others and get some help, even though that may seem a very difficult thing to do.

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever suffered from AFS, but I have stressed about money over the years. When we didn’t have a plan, and had our head in the sand any little unexpected money thing that popped up would cause us to panic.

    A care breaking down, an appliance dying, etc all caused us stress because we had no savings, no plan for our money each day, week, month.

    Once we gained control and built a budget we found that the stress was reduced and worrying stopped.

  3. Even if they don’t struggle from AFS, there is a lot of research out there that shows many – and in a similar way, a higher percentage of millennials – suffer from financial stress. It even impedes on work performance (again, per research). I think this is the big “health” issue that is NOT addressed by employers or other organizations to a great degree. It needs to be!

  4. My wife deals from SAD, seasonal affective disorder, so while not AFS, there is definitely some stress in our household around this time of the year.

    Having worked with numerous families over the years I have come across AFS a lot with finances but to some people it is just so overwhelming to think about that it causes a near breakdown.

    Thanks for sharing such a difficult topic.

    1. So sorry to hear about your wife’s condition. There are a great number of people who suffer from these kind of problems and it takes a lot of understanding and help, not just for the person themselves, but for their entire family as well. I hope that things will improve for you and your family. Thanks for your comments.

  5. What Savvy mentioned is key, having control. If things feel out of control putting a plan in place helps. I realize though if someone loses hope, it’s hard to do that. We’re not too stressed right now let’s see how we feel in six months.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *