Money and mental health – warning signs to watch for
One of the positive developments of recent years is the growing emphasis and awareness of mental wellbeing. Looking after our mental health is essential, especially as one in four of us could experience a mental health problem in any given year. 
Money problems and mental health issues are sometimes linked, with one causing or influencing the other. Almost one in five – people (18%) with mental health problems are in debt- that’s 3.5 times the rate among people without mental health problems (5%). What’s more, nearly half (46%) of those in problem debt have a mental health problem. 
It’s difficult to know whether mental illness can create debt, or vice versa. Our mental health is complex and we don’t always recognise the signs of stress and pressure. Sometimes we need to take a look at our behaviour to understand what’s happening in our minds. How we behave with our money can often tell a story.
Here, we look at five tell-tale signs to look out for. If you or someone close to you shows one or more of these behaviours, it could be time to seek help.
1. Overspending. An occasional shopping spree is not usually something to worry about, but if you’re increasingly spending more than you should, this can be a negative sign. Many of us get a ‘buzz’ from shopping – both on the high street and online – so when we’re feeling down or anxious it can be tempting to buy more than we need.
2. Large scale impulse buying. Another warning sign is suddenly spending a large sum of money, especially when it goes against previous plans. An example might be buying a brand new car when you were planning to buy second hand or were going to leave it a year or two.
3. Unusual hours. Have you started online shopping in the middle of the night, or being disrupted at work by urges to shop? This can suggest that something is subconsciously bothering you, and you’re spending as a distraction.
4. Feeling generous. Generosity is usually seen as a positive trait, but it can rapidly cause overspending. Buying impulse presents for people, taking friends out for meals or donating money to strangers or charities can also be a warning sign if this isn’t something you normally do.
5. Excessive worrying. The previous examples focus on reckless spending, but at the other end of the scale is being overcautious with money. Are you unduly worried about money, bills, your pension, what would happen if you lost your job? Feeling anxious (especially when you are financially quite comfortable) can also indicate that something isn’t right.
If you recognise any of these signs, please do take them seriously and seek help. It’s possible that the situation will worsen and may land you in significant debt.
Talk to a friend or a trusted family member about what’s happening – often a chat like this will help you make sense of your behaviour and what’s the root cause of it. If you’re struggling with challenges like those above, and you are worried about your mental health we encourage you to visit your GP, or contact a healthcare professional who can help or seek support through the NHS.
If you are an HSBC Life customer and have HSBC Critical Illness Plus or HSBC Life and Critical Illness Plus cover with us, then you can access Mental Health Support through our Online Health Services app. Here you can benefit from up to 8 psychotherapy sessions a year, via video consultations – with mental health experts such as counsellors, therapists who specialise in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and psychologists; all from the comfort of your own home. You can also find lots of useful information and resources online, via websites such as Mind.org.uk, anxietyuk.org.uk, mentalhealth.org.uk, sane.org.uk/support, samaritans.org/ and the NHS website.