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How to Ask Someone If They Are Struggling with Debt

Debt is not only a financial burden; it can be a deeply personal and painful affliction. Unfortunately, it is also a common occurrence in today’s world. As you interact with workmates, friends, and relatives, you may not know who is struggling with debt and who is not. Be assured, though, that at least some of them are — and they may require an intervention to get the professional help they need.

The following information will discuss 5 common signs that indicate someone may be struggling with debt and 5 tips on how to broach the subject with them in a kind and respectful way.

Sign #1: Withdrawal

It’s no secret that people who are deep in debt don’t typically spend money as freely as those who are debt-free. Of course, many social activities require that participants spend some money. As a result, you may find that one of your friends tends to withdraw from group outings or keeps begging off from joining in festive occasions. This may not mean that your friendship is cooling off; rather, this is often a classic sign of heavy debt.

Sign #2: Weight Loss/Gain

Heavy debt can be extremely stressful, and extreme stress can lead to various health problems. One of the more common symptoms of stress is fluctuation in weight.

When we are under stress, we usually engage in different behavior than when we are not stressed — and most of the time, those behavior are not healthy at all. For instance, we may scarf down our meals in order to rush to the next task, neglect to eat properly or stop exercising. All of this could lead to significant weight gain.

On the other hand, when the body’s “acute stress response” is triggered again and again, then adrenaline is released, the metabolism speeds up, and the normal desire to eat is repressed. This results in weight loss.

The bottom line is: if you notice that your friend is losing or gaining weight, then it may be a reaction to debt-related stress.

Sign #3: A Short Fuse

Struggling with debt can be one of the most frustrating experiences in life, and where frustration exists, anger isn’t far behind. If your friend has become irritable of late or seems to get angry at even the smallest inconveniences, then one possible reason for his/her behavior may be a heavy load of debt.

In fact, debt and relationship problems are closely related. One study found that financial problems (including debt) are the primary factor in some 68% of Canadian divorces. The point is, fits of anger and other relationship-damaging outbursts may be (at least in part) a result of the frustration associated with crushing debt.

Sign #4: Tiredness

Is your friend always sleepy, or does he have trouble staying alert throughout the day? Research has shown that almost half of all Canadians have lost sleep due to financial anxieties — and that number has undoubtedly increased due to the major financial pressures we’ve all faced this year. If your friend is always tired, it’s very possible that he is dealing with a lack of sleep and the burden of unrelenting stress — all because of heavy debt.

Sign #5: Depression

Long-term debt can also be a major factor in depression. Study after study has shown that there is a correlation between debt and mental/emotional issues like anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression. If you notice that your friend seems to have lost joy in living, it is possible that hidden debt issues may be a major contributor to the problem.

How You Can Ask Someone If They Are Struggling with Debt

It is not always easy to bring up a serious issue with a friend, especially if it involves something as personal and painful as heavy debt. Nevertheless, your friend may very well need your support and advice during this difficult time. Here are 5 tips that can help you start the conversation and contribute to a positive outcome:

  • Be observant. The first step to talking to someone about debt is realizing that there is a problem. Without prying, you must be observant and detect changes in your friend’s mood, speech, habits, and behaviors. 
  • Show that you care. Once you realize that something is troubling your friend, it may be best not to broach the subject immediately. Instead, take some time to show that you care. Spend time with your friend. Give me a ring, or reach out via Zoom or FaceTime. When you demonstrate that you truly care, it will make it that much easier for your friend to open up to you.
  • Be kind but direct. If your friend still is not volunteering information, then it may be time to take the direct approach. Make sure that you have this conversation in a private area, away from distractions and possible eavesdroppers. Kindly tell your friend that you’ve noticed something that seems to be troubling them. Tell them that you want to help, but first, need to understand what’s happening. Be patient, and wait for your friend to express themselves.
  • Comfort and reassurance. Once your friend opens up about their debt issue, you should take some time to console them. If you’ve had your own struggles with debt in the past, share your experiences with them. Reassure them that their debt does not define who they are as a person. Remind them that things will get better.
  • Encourage the enlistment of professional help. Perhaps the most practical thing you can do for your friend is to urge them to seek professional assistance for their debt problems. In many cases, an individual can only climb out of deep debt with the help of an experienced debt restructuring/relief specialist.

At GetMeDebtFree, we have a system in place to refer Canadians to who we believe to be some of the best, most ethical companies in Canada at helping people get out of debt. We do this with over a decade of industry experience and by having worked directly with thousands of past clients.

If you have a friend or loved one that is struggling with debt, talk with them. Reassure them. Support them. Have them contact us today, and we will be sure to introduce them to a professional who will care for their needs and who will not treat them like a file or simply be looking to make a buck off them. Today is the day to become debt free.

two people ages 45-60 talking about debt

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