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Debt stress can lead to health problems

January 6, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A new year means a new start -- a chance for a clean slate, right? It's not always easy since your bills from 2009 follow you into 2010. And that debt can create stress, which can show up as insomnia, depression and high blood pressure.Brett Rudolph left his job to pursue a master's degree and now he's having a hard time getting work that pays more than a low hourly wage. He was banking on bigger things, but is looking at a pile of debt.

"Emotionally, you know there are days I just don't want to deal with it," said Rudolph.

Half of those asked in a recent poll say they are suffering from debt related stress. Twenty-two percent are feeling it greatly.

In her recent book, credit expert Gerri Detweiler says it's easy to feel low when your debt is high.

"When someone comes to me and they're dealing with debt, one of the first questions I ask them is, 'How are you feeling?'" said Detweiler. "A lot of times until you get a handle on those physical or psychological symptoms it's tough to dig your way out of debt."

Brett Rudolph says he finds it hard to function some days.

"There are days I just want to go home and you know, not worry about it, not get out of bed, not talk to people at work, not do my job, not smile," said Rudolph.

One-third of all Americans are losing sleep over the economy and personal financial concerns.

A recent study finds job concerns have been directly linked to depression. Detweiler is a financial counselor, not a psychological counselor, but she sees the signs.

"You may find yourself fighting with your spouse. You may find yourself not sleeping or wanting to sleep all the time. You may have headaches or may feel irritable or even have back aches or muscle aches," said Detweiler, "Those can all be symptoms of depression that can be treated."

Detweiler says there are many resources available and that it's critical not to isolate yourself.

"Most people wait far too long to get help," said Detweiler. "So you can get help with both the financial problems you're dealing with often at no cost or very little cost, as well as the psychological or physical problems you may be experiencing."

Detweiler says it's also important to give yourself some perspective.

"It's very tough when you're going through financial problems but at the same time, it's those tough times that usually make us stronger and more resilient," said Detweiler. "So if you can get through it you probably will emerge a stronger person."

Stress also affects our appetites. In a survey, almost half of those asked said they overate or ate unhealthy foods to manage stress and almost 1 in 4 skipped a meal in the previous month because of stress. Almost 1 in 5 said they drink alcohol to manage the stress.