Anxiety - Anxiety and debt

Anxiety and debt

Your guide to support for anxiety and debt

Mental health and debt – two taboo subjects that often unfortunately go hand in hand. Often debt can cause mental health problems such as anxiety and depression; conversely debt can be a result of a mental health problem. Often, due to the very secretive nature of both debt and mental illness people will suffer in silence.  

We can feel isolated and alone; when in reality these are common issues.

In a recent poll carried out by of 6,700 people - 44% of those have had mental health problems (or have partners who do) and had severe or crisis debt. This is five times as many as everyone else. It seems for those with mental health problems, big debts are much more likely than that of the general population.

Anxiety and debt - Statistics

  • One in four British adults experiences at least one mental health problem in any year, e.g. clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder (source: ONS Psychiatric Morbidity report 2001).
  • 44% of those seeking debt help have been prescribed medication to help them cope. (Christians Against Poverty (CAP) 2010 survey).
  • 38% of those seeking debt help had considered or attempted suicide as a way out (CAP survey 2010).
  • 77% of those seeking debt help who are in a couple said debts affected their relationship. (CAP survey 2010).

As highlighted in the statistics above anxiety is a common side effect of debt. Anxiety is a disproportionate fear that causes a sufferer distress. Please click here to read more about Anxiety - What Is Anxiety.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

There are different anxiety disorders, and their symptoms will be different and vary in intensity from person to person. Please see our Anxiety Disorders page for more information on this.

Anxiety itself can cause psychological and behavioural symptoms such as:

  • Intense fear
  • Fear you are ‘going mad’
  • Restlessness, fidgeting, inability to concentrate
  • Sense of impending danger
  • Nervousness feeling ‘on edge’
  • Impatience
  • Irritability
  • Being easily distracted
  • Sleep difficulties – Insomnia
  • Detachment from surroundings

Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms including:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Shallow breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach discomfort/pain/nausea
  • Diarrhoea/ increased bowel movements
  • Drowsiness and tiredness
  • Hypersensitivity (sights/sounds appear different perhaps louder/intensified)
  • Pins and needles
  • Tense aching muscles especially in the shoulders/chest and/or abdomen
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating (which may have a different smell)
  • Headache
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urinating
  • Irregular periods (painful/missed)
  • Insomnia – sleep difficulties
  • Shaking
  • Difficulty Swallowing

These symptoms could indicate an anxiety disorder or another medical condition; these should always be discussed with your GP.

Long-term symptoms

Anxiety can cause longer-term symptoms and changes in behaviour, these can include withdrawing from social activities, avoiding social events, friends and family, even work. It is not uncommon for anxiety sufferers to take up smoking, drinking or taking drugs. Anxiety sufferers can find that in order to try and gain perceived control over their lives they increasingly avoid situations that make them anxious, this can lead to increased isolation and anxiety.

For more information please see our page on Anxiety Symptoms.

If it is debt that is causing your anxiety, the best way to get rid of the anxiety is to deal with the debt. It sounds obvious, however it can be daunting and when faced with the situation it can be tempting to burry our head in the sand. The only way to deal with debt is to face it. Below we have Martin Lewis, money saving expert’s top tips for dealing with debt.

Top tips with dealing with debt

Thanks to money expert Martin Lewis:

  • There's no such thing as an unsolvable debt.'s creator Martin Lewis, says: "For as long as I've been doing my job, I've never once seen a debt case that isn'tsolvable. It may not be easy, it may not be quick, but it's always doable." If you start to sort it out, it does get better.
  • If in crisis, get free debt help. If you've not got enough to pay the bills, visit a non-profit free debt counsellor, whose job is to help you, not to make money out of you. Try Christians Against Poverty, which specialises in helping those in debt who are emotionally struggling, or agencies such as the Consumer Credit Counselling Service and Citizens Advice.
  • Stop borrowing.It sounds obvious, but sorting out existing debts is harder if you keep adding to them. If you feel up to tackling your finances, the easy start point is to do a budget and work out where the money's going (free planner at
  • Consider informing your bank. Once a lender is aware that a customer has a mental health condition, it has to make adjustments. The Lending Code says banks should consider keeping a debt in-house rather than passing it to debt collectors and make court action the last resort. Though telling your bank is a decision to discuss carefully with a case worker or debt counsellor.
  • Check if you qualify for DLA.In some cases, mental health issues can qualify you for disabilityliving allowance (DLA) of between £19 and £121 per week (though this is currently under government review). Do's quick DLA test see if you qualify.
  • Consider adding a note on your file. If you overspend when you are unwell, you can volunteer to add information on mental health problems to credit files in what is called a notice of correction, which alerts potential lenders so they don't lend further credit. This can be added or removed whenever you want. There is full help to evaluate this decision in the guide.
  • Cut your interest rates. The lower your interest rate, the more of your repayment goes towards clearing the actual debt, rather than just servicing the interest. For example, if you have credit cards, see if it's possible to do a balance transfer that pays off the debts on old cards for you, so you owe the new card the money at a cheaper interest rate.
  • Repay highest rates first. Try listing your rates, then focusing all spare cash on clearing the highest interest debts first; just pay the minimum on everything else. Once the highest is clear, you can shift to the second costliest.

Useful literature

Useful contacts

  • Consumer Credit Counselling Service

0800 138 1111

  • National Debtline

0808 808 4000


SANEline is open every day of the year from 6pm to 11pm

0845 767 8000

Anxiety, further help

We hope you have found this information useful, please also see

What Is Anxiety
Fight or Flight
Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety Disorders
Coping with Anxiety
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Panic Attacks
No More Panic
Anxiety Treatment
Anxiety Management
Managing Stress
Anxiety and Debt
Social Anxiety
Anxiety as a Result of Domestic Abuse
Work Related Stress
Anxiety and Substance Abuse

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