A Dangerous Combination — Debt and Depression

HOUSTON (Aug. 9, 2011) – Whether it’s due to overspending or unemployment, debt can take over a person’s life, especially in a culture where the size of income and one’s credit score are key measures of self-esteem and standing in society. Debt can lead to depression — feelings of low self-esteem and worthlessness — even suicide.
“There is a high correlation between debt, financial problems and depression,” said Dr. Britta Ostermeyer, chief of psychiatry, Ben Taub General Hospital, part of the Harris County Hospital District. “Nearly half of all persons with debt are experiencing some depression.”

While serious debt and financial problems place all of us at risk for depression, some people are better equipped to handle their situation and implement a budget, while others have a biological predisposition to depression and are more at risk early on.

“People get enormously worried and stressed out,” said Ostermeyer. “Those who have responsibility toward others, like a spouse and children, may experience more guilt about their bleak financial situation.”

Those who are depressed are less capable to conquer their debt and financial problems.

But Ostermeyer stresses, while climbing out of debt, no matter how small or large, it’s important to:

• Maintain hope
• Focus on task-specific interventions to improve the situation
• Set priorities
• Do not give into feelings of despair
• Develop and implement a budget
• Develop an action plan – how to cut spending
• Develop a plan B of what to do if plan A fails
• Seek support from family, friends and community
• Work with creditors, avoiding them usually does not help
• Seek advice from banks, lawyers

“While downsizing, selling a home, cutting spending or looking for another job is hard now, know that you are working toward a better future,” Ostermeyer said.

If you or someone you know is in debt and thinking about suicide, call the national suicide crisis hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

© Harris Health | 713-634-1000