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How to Manage Anger Resulting From Financial Stress

Discover how to better cope with anger caused by debt and other money problems.

Key points

  • A new study in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues links debt to low well-being, marital stress, alcohol abuse, and anger.
  • Financial stress can trigger anger that can be directed at yourself or others.
  • Learn techniques to better manage anger related to financial stress.
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A new study in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues links debt to low well-being, marital stress, alcohol abuse, and anger. Poorly managed anger can wreak havoc in relationships at home and at work.

Consider my client Maria, who is drowning in credit card debt due to a shopping addiction. She wakes up each morning feeling the weight of the debt. Not only is it causing internal strife, but it’s creating conflict in her relationships. She finds herself lashing out at her partner, co-workers, friends, parents, and even strangers.

Unfortunately, none of these people know why she is so angry as she has a lot of shame about her financial situation and hides it from them. Maria is dealing with a lot of emotions inside, but anger is what the people around her see. Do you recognize yourself or a loved one in Maria?

To learn how to better help Maria and the countless other clients having challenges dealing with anger and negative emotions around money, I interviewed anger management expert Aaron Karmin, LCPC, author of Instant Anger Management: Quick and Simple CBT Strategies to Defuse Anger on the Spot, to get his perspective. Here are my questions and his responses:

Why is money such a hot-button topic?

Money is about emotion and is one of the most powerful emotional triggers in our lives. Money is close to the heart, and for some, it is a trigger to their anger because it takes a lot of time and effort to get it. Maybe you’re angry with yourself for going on a shopping binge or not saving enough money. Perhaps you get mad at yourself for being irresponsible. Or maybe you get mad at your parents for passing down their money beliefs or not teaching you about money. You may even get mad at the world about your situation.

What happens when we get angry?

Prolonged or intense experiences of anger contribute to physical conditions such as insomnia, loss of appetite, chronic fatigue, headaches, stomach aches, tightness in the throat, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, digestive problems, and heart disease. In addition, people who endure frustration from financial difficulties are prone to yelling, cursing, threatening others, pushing, shoving, hitting, hostility, resentment, rage, anxiety, numbness, depression, crying spells, low self-esteem, or abuse of alcohol or drugs.

What do you say to those who believe emotions are outside of their control?

It is correct to say that emotions are an automatic, physiological response. In that sense, they are outside of our immediate control, like our eyes blinking. But we can become aware of our blinking, and similarly, we can become mindful of what triggers our emotional reactions. Thus, if we can take control over our automatic reactions, like blinking, breathing, and memory, it is also possible to take control of our emotional reactions.

How do you reframe anger?

Learning to deal with feelings of anger rather than running away from them will enhance your sense of empowerment. It may help to reframe or reevaluate the situation(s). To begin, start by looking at your choices and what you do have control over. You cannot control other people, but you can control your behavior and reactions to events.

Relaxation skills like deep breathing can also offer a natural way to calm a racing pulse and mind. Keeping a money journal where you write about your anger (or other emotions) about money can help you understand what triggers your anger and help you see your behavioral patterns.

Why is self-awareness so critical when dealing with emotions like anger?

Becoming aware of your financial behavior when you’re angry will help you manage your impulses. When you’re self-aware, you can pause in the middle of whatever activity you’re engaged in and let your anger pass before taking action. Anger management counseling can be valuable for people of all ages. Like the ancient Chinese proverb says, “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.”

What is the role of responsibility?

In my therapeutic practice, I’ve had many clients like Maria. They direct their anger at a less threatening person than the one they are actually mad at, which is often themselves. Displacement can tax our most important relationships and impair financial consciousness. It is important for each of us to take responsibility for our actions and become more self-aware of emotions like anger. By doing so, we can empower ourselves to make better financial decisions.

Key takeaways

There is a powerful interconnection between mental health and financial health. In order to have holistic success, we need to take responsibility for managing our mental health by seeking counseling or therapy and learning how to better manage stress and anger in our relationships. We also need to promote our financial literacy and access support from debt consolidators and financial advisors to cultivate financial health and wellness.


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