Do you ever feel like you’re drowning in debt, even though your bank account tells a different story? Are you constantly chasing the next promotion or a sense of financial security? If so, you might be struggling with money dysmorphia. Just as body dysmorphia warps our perception of our physical appearance, money dysmorphia can create a skewed view of your financial reality.

You may get jealous when you see someone posting on Instagram about their vacation or new car. LinkedIn exists to give you the impression that your career potential is much greater. This lesser-known condition isn’t about how much money you have but rather a distorted perception of your financial reality that can lead to stress, anxiety, and unhealthy financial behaviors. Let’s delve into the world of money dysmorphia, exploring its symptoms, root causes, and, most importantly, how to break free from its grip and cultivate a healthy relationship with your finances.

What Is Money Dysmorphia?

Money dysmorphia or money disorder is the feeling of uncertainty about one’s financial status, even in solid financial circumstances.

According to a recent study by Credit Karma, a large number of Millennials and younger members of Generation Z are suffering from money dysmorphia. Younger generations are more affected by this issue, with 43% of Millennials and Gen Z reporting that they suffer from money dysmorphia.

More than half of millennials consider retirement a “time of more independence in their lives,” therefore they believe that “financial independence”—rather than age 65— should define retirement.

“Having a scarcity mindset is a legitimate perspective on the world. A childhood of financial hardship will influence a person’s attitudes toward and interactions with money for the rest of their life,” according to Erin Lowry in Bloomberg. “The problem concerning money dysmorphia is the way it may cloud the mindset of someone whose reality is not one of shortage but of stability.”

Although it may seem like just another type of worry brought on by TikTok, money dysmorphia is a serious condition that can lead people to make bad or ignorant judgments.

How Does Money Dysmorphia Affect Your Finances?

Many people suffer from an unhealthy obsession with money in our image-obsessed world, where having money is often seen as a sign of one’s value. This goes beyond simply wanting a larger home or a fancy car. In the US, financial fear is nothing new. Americans of the World War II era experienced the scarcity mentality of the Great Depression. The US has continued to see high rates of inflation, and job losses are still making news. Money dysmorphia, though not a clinically recognized condition, can wreak havoc on your financial well-being. Here’s how:

False Reality

Even if your finances are stable, you may have a persistent feeling of being broke or that you are about to run out of money. Your judgment may be impaired by this worry, which could result in bad financial judgments.

Fear Of Spending

You may become fixated on hoarding every dime and refrain from making any purchases, not even essential ones. This may lower your quality of life and make it more difficult for you to make plans for the future.

Money dysmorphia prevents people from making estate plans or investments. Individuals who don’t think they have adequate funds to invest or who are concerned about leaving something for their future children may wait till they are “wealthy.”

Unrealistic Comparisons

You may compare yourself to others and feel inadequate as a result of social media and cultural pressures. This can exacerbate money dysmorphia since you may find yourself chasing an illusory ideal of financial achievement all the time.

Obsessive Behaviors

To manage your financial anxiety, you may watch all of your expenses, worry excessively about money, or turn to unhealthy coping techniques.

What Are The Symptoms Of Money Dysmorphia?

Most people who experience this misalignment between reality and what they think may find it difficult to move forward with their financial objectives. Although there is no formal diagnosis for money dysmorphia, it can present several symptoms that affect how you relate to money. The following are typical indicators to be aware of:

Constant Feeling Of Lack

Regardless of your actual financial status, you may feel continuously broke or worried about running out of money. This may result in ongoing anxiety and a never-ending sense of inadequacy.

Excessive Spending Or Frugality

There are two ways that money dysmorphia might show up. Some people use excessive shopping, overspending, or debt accumulation as coping mechanisms for their anxiety.

On the other hand, some people may severely limit their spending, even for essentials, and experience severe guilt or humiliation each time they make a financial transaction.

Financial Obsession

You may find yourself worrying about money all the time, keeping a close eye on every expense, or becoming fixated on market and financial news. This obsession may take up all of your mental energy and distract you from other vital facets of life.

Exaggerated Comparisons

By projecting an exaggerated image of prosperity, social media and cultural influences can exacerbate money dysmorphia. You can feel inadequate because of how others view your financial achievements and compare yourself to them all the time.

Negative Emotions Associated With Money

Money dysmorphia is frequently accompanied by feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, or dread. Your judgment may be impaired by these feelings, making it challenging to make wise financial decisions.

If you can relate to more than one symptom stated above, you may be experiencing the effects of money dysmorphia. Recall that you’re not by yourself and that you may improve your connection with money.

What Is The Impact Of Money Dysmorphia On Mental Health?

The effects of money dysmorphia extend far beyond your wallet and can seriously harm your mental health. Mental health suffers when one feels that one is “rich enough” right now. It may put people under excessive stress all the time.

Even if baseless, a persistent fear of running out of money can develop into a chronic concern that ruins sleep and increases feelings of inadequacy. This can set one on a dark path of low self-esteem and even despair.

Shame and guilt can spiral into depression, leaving you feeling hopeless about your situation. Social isolation may follow as you avoid friends and family due to financial anxieties, further worsening your mental state.

In some cases, money dysmorphia can manifest in obsessive-compulsive behaviors like meticulous expense tracking or compulsive bank account checking, which take up more of your time, further amplifying anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle where anxiety about money affects mental health and mental illness makes it more difficult to manage money wisely.

How Do You Stop Ruminating About Money?

Though it can be very draining, there are ways to stop the cycle of worrying about money. Here are some tactics you can use: Make realistic financial goals after taking an objective look at your finances to help you shift your perspective.

Next, devise a strategy for accomplishing the stated objectives and progressively work toward them without comparing them to others.

When money worries creep in, ask yourself: Is my perception based on reality or distorted by anxiety? Challenging your negative thoughts can help you regain control and power.

Getting financial counseling or employing a financial advisor can also be beneficial.

And lastly, avoiding social media can be beneficial. Never is the full picture of someone’s life presented to us. Nothing is as it seems. Consequently, comparing oneself to a celebrity is “unrealistic” and “unattainable” for the average person, even though it can serve as motivation or inspiration.

You Can Overcome Money Dysmorphia

Both your mental and financial well-being can suffer greatly from money dysmorphia. You can start dealing with this problem by identifying the symptoms and comprehending the underlying causes. By creating a budget, learning how to control your anxiety, and getting professional help when necessary, you can take charge of your financial situation and lead a more satisfying life.