Finding yourself in trouble with credit card debt is a secret many suffer with in silence. And in that silence, people are often embarrassed to ask for help. Seeking the right solution to a bad situation is not a sign of weakness. Not asking for help and ignorantly picking the wrong solution is.
Let me be brutally honest as someone who once struggled with credit card debt myself, the moment you are honest with yourself you are in trouble with credit card debt it’s easy to become paralyzed with fear. I’ll never forget my sleepless nights of uncertainty, not knowing what to believe or who to trust, and fighting to just not mentally shut down.
Factors That Lead to Credit Card Debt
An initial knee jerk reaction is for people to lay all the blame for credit card debt on their own shoulders. But that’s not the whole picture and not fair.
Clearly, you had a role in generating the debt. You submitted an application for credit, accepted the credit card, and the terms for its use, and you used the card. I think we can agree on that.
But what you might not understand is there are a lot of people pushing you to the edge of the cliff and encouraging you to take the credit. It is almost as if the consumer is being pushed and cajoled to open lines of credit and then called a fool for doing so. “I can’t believe you fell for our hype,” is what is seems creditors secretly say.
So let’s look at some of the things that push us towards that credit. These aren’t excuses, but facts you need to know.
There are all sorts of underlying psychological issues that form our opinions about money and how we view credit. Those opinions and impressions can be manipulated by marketers and creditors to subconsciously lead you to be attracted to the credit offer at hand. For past articles on this, click here.
Think about this, when was the last time you saw an advertisement from a credit card company that featured people struggling to make ends meet, unemployed, sick, making only minimum payments, or celebrating paying high-interest rates?
The advertising is designed by highly educated and trained experts to draw you in with images of attractive people living lush or happy moments without a care in the world for repaying the debt.
Credit cards are sold by presenting you with an impression of how great your life can be by using the card, not a reality of what will actually happen.
One of the people that was a leader in the field of identifying why we make decisions driven by forces outside of our control was Thorstein Veblen. In his best-known book, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), Veblen coined the concept of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure.
Here are some core issues that even have their own names:
- Bandwagon Effect – You are more likely to buy and spend like your group of friends or people that you identify with. this can unconsciously drive our spending on what brands we buy, where we live, what we do for fun, etc.
- Hyperbolic Discounting – People make bad decisions when the reward is closer or immediate. They will ignore the best decision for themselves if they have to wait for achieving it. More here.
- And there are a lot, lot, more.
In my interview below, Dan Ariely and I talk about some of these issues.
Mental Health Issues
Mental health plays a very important role in determining how you are going to get into credit card debt or get out.
For example, bipolar disorder leads to a period of time when people feel very low and depressed and very high and overly confident. The overconfidence drives people to make choices they feel are logical. For example, there is this reader question.
So the spending is created in the manic phase and the debt is hard, if not impossible to deal during the depression phase.
Speaking of depression, the number of people in debt that suffer from depression is very high. Depression leads people to not take action, not develop a plan, not research ways to deal with the problem, and give up. The result is you just swirl around and around but never get out. See Survey Finds Debt Equals Depression For Many: Women at risk to suffer with financial depression.
Stress and Anxiety
Too much credit card debt can flow to causing stress and anxiety. That can lead to health issues and back to the very same depression that leads to not taking action. And guess what, when you are feeling down you are very attracted to those sexy and fun credit card debt advertisements.
People with addictive behaviors like gambling, compulsive shopping, alcoholism, drug use, etc. are drawn towards credit card debt to fuel their addictions. As one woman told me, “My credit card is my heroin.”
Medications can lead to credit card debt. For example, Mirapex.
“Mirapex is a medication approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disease caused by a lack of dopamine that can ultimately lead to paralysis. One of the side effects of Mirapex has been the development of compulsive gambling in people who have not had a problem with gambling before taking the drug.”
But medical conditions can lead to even more credit card debt.
It’s not uncommon these days to visit a health provider and find offers for credit for medical care. So if your choice is between getting the medical care you need or taking on more debt and open lines of credit, what do you think people do? You guessed it, and that debt offered in medical offices is a lot like credit card debt.
As you can see there are a number of issues that can drive us to wake up with credit card debt and while you have previously felt it was all the fault of the consumer taking on the debt, clearly there are other factors involved in the process.
One of the important underlying factors is our individual money personality. We each have a different approach to dealing with credit card debt.
Don’t be surprised to discover you are someone with a saving personality that is in a relationship with a spender. Opposites do truly attract. But it can also unconsciously control how much credit card debt we get into if our desire to please our partner is more important than sound mathematical logic.
The advertisements you see on websites are unique to you. Even here on the Get Out of Debt website, the ads you see are determined by others based on the sites you’ve seen before. I have no control over what you see.
Your very own history on social media sites, shopping websites, or even searches you’ve done online help to select what advertisements you see. And if your recent searches or sites visited have been about banking, mortgages, some brand, loans, credit, credit cards, vacations, and the like then you might find a credit card advertisement following you around the web encouraging you to accept the offer.
My Experience in Dealing With Credit Card Debt
From my experience in dealing with my debt, I went on to help others facing the same issue. From my years of observation, I discovered the biggest mistake people universally make with problem credit card debt is picking the solution before understanding the pros and cons or figuring out if the solution they favor will actually be the best tool to use. Every situation is different and so no one solution is right for everyone. In fact, bankruptcy is a great solution even though people carry all sorts of urban myths and irrational fears about filing bankruptcy. Then there are options like credit counseling and debt settlement. But which should you select?
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The Best Credit Card Debt Advice
When it comes to dealing with your credit card debt, the best advice is to remember that unless you are a consumer debt expert, you are the least qualified person to make good choices about dealing with your debt unless you research all your options. Once you know the facts, then you have a much better chance of making good choices for a better future.