Dr. Galen Buckwalter

How to Beat Financial Stress in Trying Times

There’s a new stress in town called Acute Financial Stress (AFS). We’ve explored in previous coverage what we’ve come to understand about how people are traumatized by the money in their lives and the ways it affects everything from sleep and relationships to physical health and well-being.

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History Repeats Itself: Why Acute Financial Stress Is an All-American Story

Distorted thoughts, emotional distress, and the body under constant siege by toxic stress hormones. These symptoms are just a handful that might be attributed to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Remarkably, we have found that another type of trauma, Acute Financial Stress (AFS), results in the same cluster of symptoms as PTSD. It may seem hard to understand the impact of financial stress and why it impacts the brain so intensely, but in fact, AFS is not a new phenomenon in America.

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We Have to Face the Major Problem of Acute Financial Stress

Editor's Note: Long before the shocking election of Donald Trump, Galen Buckwalter and his colleagues were doing research and thinking hard about the emotional consequences of inequality, credit card debt and the range of financial stress points in people's lives. What they found seems so obvious, yet brilliant at the same time. Tens of millions of people have no savings and live paycheck to paycheck. How can we, as a society, pretend they are not physically and psychologically affected by this constant anxiety and vulnerability? This ends up costing our society hundreds of billions in health care and lost productivity and leads to higher addiction and suicide rates as well as increased domestic violence. 

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The Payoff Financial Stress Index

Though the American economy has moved on from the Great Recession of 2007-2009, the same cannot be said about the psychological, emotional and physical health effects it had on millions of Americans. While discussions of lessons learned, unemployment returning to pre-recession numbers and increased regulation to protect consumers from predatory financial services can be seen nearly daily, little is found that examines the psychology of debt, stagnant incomes, decreasing savings, the impact of having no money available for emergencies and the constant stress facing millions of people, as average Americans struggle to stay afloat financially. In essence: aspects of the financial lives of many Americans are destructive to health and current levels of consumer debt appear to be in part to blame. As part of protecting people from rapacious financial institutions, the Financial Stress Index begins a discourse about the health outcomes of stress related to debt and being unable to make ends meet. This study creates the framework for this discourse.

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