Student debt anxiety is hurting my mental health

In the past 10 years alone, the number of people like me who owe at least $ 100,000 in student loans has quadrupled. But here is how we can cope.


At the beginning of May, I checked my total student loan balance and saw something incredibly frustrating. I had been making payments for about seven years, and instead of decreasing the total, it had increased by $ 6,000. What started at around $ 85,000 in undergraduate and graduate student loans has now grown into something completely unmanageable: $ 119,300. It’s more than what I owe on my mortgage.

I’m worried. I think about money all the time and obsessively check my bank account. I’m just waiting for an emergency to happen that will force me to file for bankruptcy. It’s like a constant shroud of anxiety hanging over me, leading to frequent panic attacks and inevitable depression. And I am not alone. In the past 10 years alone, the number of people who owed at least $ 100,000 in student loans has increased. quadruple.

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There are over 42 million federal student loan borrowers carrying approximately $ 1.4 trillion in student loan debt, according to the US Department of Education. NerdWallet felt 45 percent of graduates in the class of 2018 will leave the school in debt.

Emily Farris from Missouri is one of them. She owes about $ 75,000 for her undergraduate degree from a private school in New York City. Debt is something that she and her husband struggle to deal with.

“I make a lot of money in my daily job, but with so much debt I have to take on multiple jobs, and my husband and I keep delaying having a second child,” says Farris. “Unfortunately, I now feel like it’s futile to even try to get out of debt financially. Because of our student loans, that will just never happen. I have a very negative outlook on money and I make bad decisions because of it.

Farris’ situation is quite common. Florida-based freelance writer Nicole Graham has the same struggle, owing to $ 65,000 in student loans she racked up while earning her BA in Creative Writing. Her payments almost total her monthly mortgage payment. Kristin Diversi of Colorado, who owes about $ 170,000 from a master’s program in nutrition and food science, can’t save for the future, nor plan for the kids. And Jacqui Ryan from Los Angeles has racked up $ 125,000 in college debt and says she’s overcome with anxiety.

“I’ve been paying this debt for almost eight years now, and somehow I owe more than when I graduated,” Ryan says. “I don’t know how to describe it any other way except it’s a feeling of hopelessness.”

“Student loan debt is not something you can get rid of. “

The common thread is that none of us see the principal balance going down. Almost all payments are made in interest and the amount owed keeps increasing. It’s stifling.

Those of us with massive student debt don’t have to suffer in silence. We can take small steps to improve our situation, which is especially important when you don’t have enough income to cover all of your bills. Financially, that means doing what you can to avoid incurring additional debt, living as cheaply as possible, and avoiding credit cards. Get rid of the cable and spend your evenings reading or watching TV shows or movies instead. Find roommates or try to find a second job.

Anne Malec, founder and financial therapist of Chicago-based Symmetry Counseling, says the best thing to do is to educate yourself completely about your situation. “A lot of anxiety comes from the unknown,” she says. “I encourage people to fully educate themselves on how much they owe, what their options are for paying it off, and to work with their lenders on payment plans. Our anxiety will decrease if we feel that we have some level of control over this problem and that we can take action. “

Katie Ross, education and development manager at American Consumer Credit Counseling, agrees and suggests trying to pay off smaller loans first. it’s called snowball method– you pay off the small loans first, and once they are repaid, you add that amount to your other loan payments. You will knock them over one by one that way. It takes a lot of budget, but it can be done.

Unfortunately, this is one of the only ways to deal with this type of debt. “Student loan debt is not something you can get rid of,” says Bruce McClary, vice president of communications at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “You can’t include it in bankruptcy. You can’t just drop it and let it go or hide from it. It’s with you until you pay it back. What really sets it apart from any other type of debt. It’s probably not the most heartwarming thing to say. But it is a question of progressing in small steps.

In the meantime, focus on improving yourself by taking care of yourself.

In the meantime, focus on improving yourself by taking care of yourself. Jacqui Ryan goes to therapy, exercises, and yoga to help ease her anxiety. Kristin Diversi suggests channeling stress into advocating for student loans and universal free education so that more people don’t find themselves in the same situation. And Emily Farris notes that one of the easiest ways to take some of the pressure off is to set up a recurring automatic withdrawal to make payments, avoiding the hassle associated with logging in and seeing how much you owe. massive every time you want to pay your bill.

There are also inexpensive app-based options. Givling, for example, is a crowdfunding app that uses a trivia game to raise money to put into a fund that can pay off a person’s student loan up to $ 50,000. Who gets their loan paid off is based on a points system based on how long and how often a person has played the game. Another app, ChangEd, costs $ 1 per month to log into your bank account. It rounds each purchase to the next dollar and diverts the excess to an FDIC insured bank account. Once this account reaches $ 100, ChangEd makes a payment on your loans.

If therapy is part of your anxiety relief strategy, save money by going online. With TalkSpace, you can see a therapist on a digital platform for as little as $ 49 a week, and you don’t even have to step out of your pajamas if you don’t want to. Applications like iPrevail and 7 Cups will also allow you to sympathize with a qualified auditor for free.

As for me, I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I’ll be paying off my loans for the rest of my life, unless I become a millionaire somehow. I’m in therapy, and I play Givling with the distant hope that one day I’ll have played enough to get my loan funded. But until then, I’ll just try to make ends meet while avoiding the fault.

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