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PTSD and Personal Finances

Updated: Jan 31, 2023


There is hardly any research done on the specifics of taking care of personal responsibilities such as Budgeting and Personal Finances. When doing research on this subject, it was found that there is a condition referred to as Financial Trauma and Financial PTSD whereby the issues of finances caused sufficient stress to create PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). When speaking with Psychologists it is apparent that people with PTSD or Operational Stress Injury, tend to avoid the stress of personal finances. As a result, they have challenges with budgeting and financial planning of any kind and can be easily influenced into making poor decisions with the goal of getting out of stressful situations as quickly as possible.

According to the symptoms of PTSD as described by Psychiatry.org, those dealing with PTSD tend to have symptoms of what could be described as alterations in arousal and reactivity. Essentially this is a tendency to get very emotionally reactive with fear or anger at things that are even slightly stressful which results in responses like avoidance which in the case of finances, would be not doing a budget or even discussing a budget with those who can help.

However, there is hope that one can rebuild their life and their finances with therapy and time. A useful resource is an excel spreadsheet that helps to calculate budgets: https://www.mymoneycoach.ca/budgeting/budgeting-calculators-tools/budgeting-spreadsheet

Chantel Chapman, co-founder of the Trauma of Money Method and founder of What The Finances, takes a trauma-informed approach to financial education and says it's crucial to look at financial trauma on both an individual and collective level (https://www.realsimple.com/work-life/money/signs-of-financial-trauma). According to the article there are four signs of financial trauma:

  • Financial Avoidance - ranges from not opening bills to not taking calls from creditors or people who could help.

  • Overspending - or compulsive spending which could include eating out constantly or making major purchases with money that goes against budget (like spending money meant for a mortgage or rent).

  • Underspending - this is a lack of trust in spending money and avoids spending as much as possible.

  • Lack of Boundaries - this lack of boundaries is that people will not negotiate for their own worth and effort or will not have clear boundaries of whose role is responsible for those same efforts.

These signs could describe almost anyone with financial troubles but, they are especially problematic when someone with an Operational Stress Injury like PTSD is trying to heal and rebuild their life. Put these signs together with the symptoms of PTSD and you can end up with extreme cases of those same signs. The symptoms of PTSD include:

  1. Intrusion: Intrusive thoughts such as repeated, involuntary memories; distressing dreams; or flashbacks of the traumatic event. Flashbacks may be so vivid that people feel they are reliving the traumatic experience or seeing it before their eyes.

  2. Avoidance: Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event may include avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that may trigger distressing memories. People may try to avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event. They may resist talking about what happened or how they feel about it.

  3. Alterations in cognition and mood: Inability to remember important aspects of the traumatic event, negative thoughts and feelings leading to ongoing and distorted beliefs about oneself or others (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted”); distorted thoughts about the cause or consequences of the event leading to wrongly blaming self or other; ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame; much less interest in activities previously enjoyed; feeling detached or estranged from others; or being unable to experience positive emotions (a void of happiness or satisfaction).

  4. Alterations in arousal and reactivity: Arousal and reactive symptoms may include being irritable and having angry outbursts; behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way; being overly watchful of one's surroundings in a suspecting way; being easily startled; or having problems concentrating or sleeping. (https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd)

OSI-CAN is a named project of the Canadian Mental Health Association SK Division. OSI-CAN is a free confidential, community based peer support initiative for currently serving and former military members, first responders, public safety personnel and their families. For more information, visit osicansk.ca

You can also contact us at 306-552-3801 or toll free 888-495-6068


We at OSI-CAN do not see PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a Disorder, we see it as an Injury you can recover from. If you are suffering from the symptoms of an Occupational or Operational Stress Injury, then a PTSD or PTSI diagnosis is not required to get our help!

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