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Credit card debt can cause PTSD, psych researcher says

Over the decades we have come up with a lot of ways to identify and talk about the trauma soldiers may suffer from being in battle. There was "Soldier's heart" back in the Civil War. In World War I, it was shell shock. Battle fatigue is another moniker given for the same symptoms. Today we call it post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

The one thing that all of these conditions have in common is that they tend to be suffered by individuals who have gone through the tribulations of war. But a psychologist with a financial wellness company says it doesn't take bullets whizzing or living through an improvised explosive device to cause PTSD. It's possible to suffer PTSD from credit card debt.

This may be something that many in the Chicago area can identify with. The good news is that solutions can be found from many sources. Psychology offers treatment through therapy. Debt relief may be obtained through financial counseling and there are protections offered through bankruptcy.

What does credit card PTSD look like? According to Galen Buckwalter, Ph.D., it can manifest itself in feelings, thoughts and behaviors typically associated with PTSD. He calls it Acute Financial Stress. It's identified by four main symptoms:

Denial: About the depth of one's financial problems.

Avoidance: Behaviors that are irrational or not done by choice.

Fiscal stagnation: Represented by an inability to make plans for getting out of financial trouble.

Emotional distancing: Feelings of agitation and irritation to a point where they begin to negatively affect your relationships with loved ones.

Buckwalter conducted a study of clients to see how widespread AFS might be. He says his data suggests that 23 percent of Americans experience debilitating stress around finances. Among millennials, the rate rises to 36 percent.

So what can someone suffering these symptoms do? Buckwalter advises taking small "scalable" steps to deal with debt. Scheduling a free initial consultation that includes bankruptcy options couldn't hurt, either.

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