These days, it seems everyone is talking about money. How much or how little there is, world events from the economy, and the acquiring of material possessions are just a few examples. Is this simply the modern world we live in? Or is there be a deeper issue at play? And how is that affecting our attitudes towards money on an individual level? While our society has become very money-obsessed, there is a condition called money dysmorphia that you may be experiencing. In this article, we’ll explore what money dysmorphia is, common symptoms, and strategies to overcome it. If the oversight of finances causes daily distress in your life, keep reading to learn more about how to manage it!

money dysmorphia

It’s important to note that money dysmorphia is not officially recognized as a psychological condition in the DSM-5. In addition, this article was not written by a trained psychology professional, but rather, a team of wealth management professionals who understand that emotions and finances are often interlinked.

What is money dysmorphia?

Money dysmorphia is a type of psychological dissonance. More specifically, it means that a person’s perception of how they manage finances and wealth does not align with the reality of their monetary situation. It can come about in many different ways, but the key is that one’s perception of money does not align with their actual financial circumstances. Often, the development of money dysmorphia is a reaction to a deeper emotional or psychological issue. In other words, the individual is using money as a tool to cope with psychological pain, like retail therapy, rigid budgets, workaholism, financial dependence or even gambling addiction.

Sometimes money dysmorphia is broadly called money disorders, money dysphoria, or disordered money behaviors. Let’s take a look at a few examples of money dysmorphia to better understand.

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Examples of Money Dysmorphia

Say there’s someone who’s acquired a great deal of wealth throughout their life. They may still live extremely frugally because they grew up with little money. The reality of the situation is this person learned how to acquire and maintain wealth through budgeting, saving, and living below their means. However, their internal perception may be that they can’t enjoy or splurge their money because they still feel their resources are limited as they once were. This has led to the person being unwilling to spend on even basic necessities in response to an intense fear they will lose everything. Or perhaps believe they don’t have as much resources as they think.

On the contrary, money dysmorphia may appear in another extreme. Let’s say someone was born into wealth, but suddenly, their family businesses are struggling due to a recession. This person may not be able to face the fact that their income and wealth is being depleted due to economic circumstances out of their control, and they continue to spend as they once did. As a result, they begin hoarding material possessions, acquiring immense debt, and engaging in compulsive, irresponsible spending to cope. 

Ultimately, many people have an emotional connection to finances in some way, especially in our modern world that is highly driven by money. This can result in disordered behavior in relation to finances which can cause distress in other areas of life, such as at work or in relationships. Often, money dysphoria arises from feelings of inadequacy and anxiety, and overall causes distress in the person experiencing it. Furthermore, money dysmorphia is more commonly seen in younger generations, but can impact anyone at any age.

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Why am I thinking about money all the time?

If you constantly obsess over money, it may be an indicator that you have an issue with money dysmorphia. Unfortunately, our society has become quite money obsessed and we are all a by product of our environments. With rising costs of living, unaffordable housing and other economic constraints, it can be hard not to think about money all the time. However, that doesn’t mean you aren’t distressed or experiencing money dysmorphia.

Below are some common symptoms of money dysmorphia for reference:

  • Always feeling at ‘rock bottom’. Do you constantly feel you’re on the verge of financial ruin regardless of how much money you have in the bank? This is a common sign that you’re experiencing money dysmorphia. It can also be in relation to debt or income. Despite paying off debt or earning more money, you still feel as though you’re about to go broke.
  • Hoarding money. Do you feel like you can never have enough money? This one speaks to people who are actually quite wealthy, but still feel like they don’t have enough and hoard their wealth as a result.
  • Overspending or not spending enough. Sometimes money dysmorphia comes out in impulsive spending to ease emotions. This could be through gambling, retail therapy, shopping addiction, or lifestyle creep. On the other end of the spectrum, some people may not spend at all, not even on basic necessities due to fear of depleting financial resources. Either extreme can indicate issues with money dysmorphia. 
  • Strain on relationships. Are people around you highlighting your problematic relationship with money? Perhaps a partner is complaining that you never go out on dates because of your fear of spending. Or maybe a loved one is pointing out that you online shop too much. If your relationship with money is affecting your interpersonal relationships, it might be a sign you have money dysmorphia.

Does this sound like something you struggle with? Keep reading to learn some strategies on how to manage money dysmorphia. 

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How do you get over money dysphoria?

As mentioned, money dysphoria or dysmorphia can cause a lot of distress and seep into other areas of your life. So, how do you cope and manage it? Let’s take a look at some strategies:

  • Recognize you have a problem. The first step is acceptance. Acknowledging you have an issue with money dysmorphia will allow you to identify problematic habits and begin figuring out ways to address them.
  • Identify the underlying issue. Money dysmorphia is usually a response to a deeper emotional issue. Identifying what this issue is and addressing it can help eliminate symptoms of money dysphoria. For instance, if you are online shopping in response to dissatisfaction at your job, finding a new job that brings you more joy may stop the urge to online shop.
  • Ask for support from friends and family. In line with the above, it can help to talk with loved ones to help navigate the issue. Reach out for support from those you trust and be honest about the issue you’re experiencing.
  • Seek professional help. Friends and family can be great for support, but sometimes you might need to consult a professional. Further, it’s best not to strain your personal relationships if you’re struggling with a serious mental health issue. Sometimes, seeking the help of the professional is best and can help you navigate relationships better. Many find cognitive behavioral therapy useful when treating money dysmorphia.
  • Increase your financial literacy. Sometimes managing money dysmorphia can be as simple as increasing your financial literacy and gaining a deeper understanding of your financial circumstances. You may find that your internal perceptions are inaccurate and get them closer to reality! 
  • Limit triggers. During your journey, you may identify common triggers to your money dysmorphia. For example, you may frequently check your bank balance or credit score to motivate restrictive spending. Or, scrolling on social media may be a trigger for you to impulsively purchase something. Once identified, limit your triggers to encourage positive behavior with respect to your finances. 

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How do I overcome my fear of finances?

At the end of the day, money dysmorphia is commonly fueled by fear. Once you figure out what the underlying fear is in relation to money dysmorphia, you can begin to work towards overcoming it. We’ve given some strategies above to overcome your fear of finances, but it takes time and effort to completely move forward. Often, this is not a linear route – you may experience setbacks on your road to recovery. During this time, be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up over setbacks. 

Ultimately, you’re working towards greater balance in your life. This means spending a healthy amount, not motivating yourself financially with extreme fear, and getting your perceptions of your finances closer to reality. Many people with money dysmorphia have a great imbalance in life – too much focus on money and not enough focus elsewhere. For most, the goal is to have better balance in all areas of life, not an exclusive focus on finances. 

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Overcoming Money Dysmorphia

Money dysmorphia can cause a lot of distress in your life as well as those around you. Overcoming it is not always an easy path, but addressing your issue can bring you greater joy in life. Besides, you deserve to enjoy your wealth – both financially and emotionally! Taking the time to overcome it can greatly improve many aspects of your life.

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