7 Ways Debt Can Make You Sick (Literally)

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debt can make you sickIt’s easy to think that physical health is only affected by the obvious things; fall over and you might break a bone or pull a muscle, forget to wash your hands and along comes an upset stomach – but the truth is your body is extremely complex, seemingly unrelated events can cause illnesses that you might not expect or foresee.

Living with debt can be a huge strain on a person’s mental well-being – but not everybody recognizes the links between money problems and physical ill-health. “I’ve had a stressful day” has likely come out of most people mouths at some point – but debt can pile that stress on every day – and when stress is present in a person’s life for any amount of time, it can have profound effects on that person’s health so it’s important that you seek debt help & advice as soon as possible.

There are a significant number of physical ailments and diseases that have direct links to stress.

7 Ways Debt Can Make You Sick (Literally)

The relationship between your head and stomach is truly significant. Deep inside your brain there’s a small area called the ‘amygdala’ – it’s the part that deals with the ‘fight or flight’ response to anything the brain decides is dangerous. If you’ve ever experienced ‘butterflies in your tummy’ – that’s because your amygdala has decided there’s something to be worried about – whether that’s a roller-coaster, a job interview or something more dangerous – and it’s telling your body it needs to release adrenaline and cortisol, two of the main hormones that help your body react to danger.

In the rare instances we need to protect ourselves by actually running from danger, these hormones are hugely important, meaning that – amongst other things – blood vessels are expanded to get the oxygen your muscles need to get you out of there FAST! They also shut down some immediately non-essential functions in your body too – ever noticed your appetite or sex-drive can be reduced when you’re stressed? That’s because they’re not going to help you fight or flight – so these hormones slow the functions down.

The problem is, worries like debt can make your brain think that there’s a constant reason to remain in this stressed state – so even if debt feels like something that’s not going to immediately hurt you, your body generally thinks otherwise.

1) Let’s start with the stomach

That unpleasant feeling you get in your stomach when you think about something worrying is directly linked to the excess cortisol in your system. Apart from directly causing you to vomit, it can also increase the production of stomach acid – causing heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It can also change the way your stomach handles food – leading to diarrhoea and constipation.

2) Additional body fat

The problem isn’t just inside the stomach either, studies have shown that constant exposure to stress hormones can lead to significant fat retention, especially around the waist – obesity is linked to almost all serious health conditions and weight gain can reduce a person’s self-esteem, adding to the stress even further.

3) Headaches and migraines

Doctors consider stress to be one of the single biggest contributing factors toward headaches and migraines. If you’re reaching for the paracetamol a lot, perhaps think for a moment if there’s a nagging worry that could be the root cause.

4) Poor heart health

The are countless studies that show links between stress and heart problems. Increased blood pressure affects the heart rate and blood flow – and the hormones stress releases can have negative effects on cholesterol levels in the heart. Beyond these immediate symptoms, some of the coping strategies that people turn to in times of stress can be damaging too – perhaps a cigarette or alcoholic drink appears to make you feel better in the short term – but your heart is unlikely to thank you for it.

5) Back problems

Issues with your back can be life changing – anyone who’s experienced back pain knows that it’s sometimes unbearable. When your muscles react to stress hormones they can have a knock-on effect on other parts of the body. Almost everyone ‘tenses up’ when stressed – even if you don’t realize it’s happening, and that causes tightness through your back. Your muscles keep the important structure of your back exactly as it should be – so any imbalance can result in muscle spasms, ‘slipped’ or hemorrhaged discs and severe pain.

6) Reduced immune response

In the short term your stress hormones are designed to fight off infection – in cases of immediate injury. However, the effect of long term cortisol production actually suppresses your immune system, reducing your body’s ability to react to harmful viruses that you might otherwise be able to fight off unnoticed. If you’re getting lots of colds or have had  the flu, it might be thanks to the amount of stress those nagging debts are causing.

7) Premature death

Without aiming to outright frighten you, stress has been linked to a reduced life span – and it’s not just as a result of the illnesses already mentioned. Doctors have found a 63% higher rate of premature death in people exposed to high levels of stress when compared to significantly less stressed people of the same age.

Stress can come at you from countless angles in life – family, relationships, work, bereavement, the ill health of others – and many other situations, but debt is frequently high on the list of things people worry about. While there are a lot of unforeseeable instances in life that can cause your happiness to fluctuate, debt doesn’t need to be one of those things. Seeking help can be done by discussing your situation with a doctor or other medical professional – they can often put you in touch with specialist counselors, charities or other people who can help – and it’s generally done with 100% confidentiality.

It’s important to act before illness gets the better of you – illness can reduce your ability to work – sometimes even removing it altogether. While the occasional sick-day is to be expected, if it becomes a recurring problem it can mean further struggling for money – and sometimes even job loss, making financial problems even worse. You’re not on your own with debt and money worries, you owe it to yourself to seek debt help if you’re feeling the pressure.  

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