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Here’s What Credit Cards Have in Common with Drugs and Alcohol


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When our mental health takes a beating – and it happens to everyone – we all cope differently. The healthiest among us will exercise, meditate, or dive into a hobby. Sadly, some of us will turn to drinking, drugs, or… credit cards?

That’s one conclusion from a new Debt.com survey conducted during May’s Mental Health Awareness Month. Nearly three-fourths of respondents (74 percent) said credit cards “can negatively impact mental health.”

Here’s how it impacted their own mental health…

  • 19 percent felt “guilty” after using their credit cards, while 6 percent felt “sad.”
  • 46 percent have missed a credit card payment because they couldn’t bring themselves to look at the balance.
  • Nearly two-thirds have used their card impulsively, then regretted it. Nearly 2 in 10 do that monthly, while another 1 in 10 do it weekly.

Of course, I’m in no way comparing the physical and emotional devastation of alcohol and drug addiction to that of credit cards. However, I do believe – and the survey concludes – that credit cards harm mental health. Just because drugs and alcohol cause more harm is no reason to ignore the lesser effects of credit cards – especially when some of the pathology is similar.

Availability and acceptability

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 70 percent of American adults had a drink in the past year. Meanwhile, according to Debt.com, 79 percent have at least one credit card.

In both instances, it’s harder to recognize you might have a problem when it’s cloaked in a socially acceptable practice that most people engage in. “Shopping therapy” is often the polite way of saying something that can be dangerous to your physical and mental health, akin to saying, “I need a drink!” It’s easy to go from whimsical to harmful without really noticing it.

Functional and deniable

You often hear that many addicts need to “hit bottom” before they will get serious about seeking help. Drugs and alcohol can inflict serious physical damage before that happens since so many addicts are functional at work and at home before their lives (and the lives of those around them) start falling apart.

Again, credit cards represent a lesser problem, but the arc is similar. I’ve counseled Americans on their finances for nearly three decades, and it’s stunning how completely they can hide their debts – until it all comes crashing down. Like other addicts who cleverly keep others from knowing their secret, credit card addicts will open multiple cards, transfer balances, forgo needed expenses, cash in investments, and even steal from loved ones. It can take a while for others to notice what’s happening. When they do, everyone’s mental health is shattered – friends and family included.

Solutions and freedom

Just as you consult a therapist to bolster your mental health, you can consult a credit counselor to bolster your financial health. Debt.com can introduce you to an expert who will give you an in-depth debt analysis over the phone. From there, you’ll get a list of options – for both getting out of debt and educating yourself on healthier ways to manage your finances. Best of all, that debt analysis is free.

Mental health and financial health are as closely related as your heart is to your lungs – you need both to breathe. If your credit cards are making it hard for you to breathe, call Debt.com at .

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