What Is a Money Disorder? (Find out if You’re at Risk)

What Is a Money Disorder? (Find out if You’re at Risk)

Money is integral to our lives, influencing our decisions, relationships, and overall well-being. While most people experience occasional financial stress, some individuals develop persistent, unhealthy patterns of behavior and thought related to finances.

These patterns, known as money disorders, can significantly impact a person’s financial stability and quality of life.

In this article, we’ll explore money disorders, how to recognize them, and steps you can take if you think you might be at risk.

Understanding Money Disorders: Definition and Types

A money disorder refers to a persistent, self-destructive financial behavior that causes significant distress and impairment in critical areas of life. These disorders often stem from deep-rooted psychological issues related to money and can manifest in various ways.

Money disorders generally fall into three main categories: money avoidance disorders, money worshipping disorders, and relational money disorders. Examples of these include financial denial, compulsive buying, and financial enabling, respectively.

10 Types of Money Disorders

Here are the most common money disorders:

  1. Compulsive Spending: Uncontrolled shopping and spending beyond one’s means, often to cope with emotions.
  2. Financial Hoarding: Excessive saving and extreme frugality, driven by anxiety about future financial security.
  3. Financial Denial: Ignoring or refusing to confront money issues can lead to mounting debts and missed opportunities.
  4. Financial Enabling: Consistently giving money to others, often to one’s detriment, out of a sense of obligation or guilt.
  5. Workaholism: Overworking to avoid financial anxiety or to achieve a sense of self-worth through earnings.
  6. Gambling Addiction: Compulsive gambling that leads to financial problems.
  7. Financial Infidelity: Hiding financial information or decisions from a partner.
  8. Underspending: Extreme reluctance to spend money, even on necessities, due to anxiety or fear.
  9. Financial Dependence: Relying excessively on others for financial support.
  10. Money Avoidance: Extreme anxiety or aversion to dealing with money matters, leading to neglect of financial responsibilities.

These disorders can overlap and manifest in various ways depending on the individual’s circumstances and psychological factors.

Common Signs of Money Disorders

Recognizing the signs of a money disorder is crucial for addressing and improving your financial health. One common sign is persistent financial stress or anxiety, regardless of your actual financial situation.

Difficulty controlling spending or saving habits, such as impulse buying or extreme frugality, can also indicate a potential disorder.

Secretive behavior around finances, like hiding purchases or debts from loved ones, is another red flag. Some individuals may exhibit extreme risk-taking or risk aversion to money, while others might use money to control relationships.

Assessing Your Risk: Self-Reflection and Professional Help

Self-awareness plays a vital role in identifying potential money disorders. One way to assess your risk is by taking validated self-assessment quizzes, such as the Klontz Money Behavior Inventory. These tools can help you identify money behavior disorders and provide insights into your financial habits.

Another critical step is to reflect on your money scripts – your underlying beliefs about money. For example, do you believe that “money is the root of all evil” or that “there will never be enough”? These beliefs can contribute to money behavior disorders.

Types of Money Disorders Explained

Compulsive spending is characterized by uncontrolled shopping and spending beyond one’s means, often to cope with emotions or boost self-esteem. Conversely, hoarding involves excessive saving and extreme frugality, driven by anxiety about future financial security.

Financial denial manifests as ignoring or refusing to confront money issues, leading to mounting debts and missed opportunities. Financial enabling occurs when an individual consistently gives money to others, often to their detriment, out of a sense of obligation or guilt.

Workaholism, while not strictly a financial behavior, can be considered a money disorder when it stems from financial anxiety or a need to achieve self-worth through earnings.

The Impact of Money Disorders on Financial Health and Well-being

Money disorders can have far-reaching consequences on various aspects of life. Personal relationships may suffer due to conflicts over spending habits or financial secrecy.

Career decisions might be influenced by disordered thinking about money, leading to job dissatisfaction or burnout.

Long-term economic stability can be severely compromised, resulting in debt, inadequate savings, or missed investment opportunities.

Perhaps most significantly, money disorders can take a toll on mental and emotional health, leading to chronic stress, anxiety, and depression.

Risk Factors for Developing Money Disorders

Several factors can increase an individual’s likelihood of developing a money disorder. A family history of financial problems can shape one’s attitudes and behaviors around money from an early age.

Traumatic financial experiences, such as growing up in poverty or experiencing a significant economic loss, can leave lasting psychological scars.

Mental health issues like depression or anxiety can also contribute to the development of unhealthy financial behaviors. Significant life changes or stressors, such as job loss, divorce, or sudden wealth, can trigger or exacerbate money disorders.

How to Identify if You’re at Risk

To determine if you might be at risk for a money disorder, start by conducting a personal financial health check. Review your bank statements, credit card bills, and overall spending patterns. Look for any recurring issues or concerning trends.

Next, analyze your emotional triggers around money. Do you feel anxious when checking your bank balance? Do you experience a rush of excitement when making unnecessary purchases? These emotional responses can provide valuable insights into your relationship with money.

It’s also essential to evaluate how money affects your relationships with others. Do financial discussions with your partner always end in arguments? Do you find yourself repeatedly bailing out friends or family members financially? Be honest with yourself during this self-assessment process.

Seeking Help: Resources for Managing Money Disorders

If you recognize signs of a money disorder in your behavior, seeking help is essential. Financial therapists and counselors specialize in addressing the psychological aspects of money management and can provide valuable guidance in overcoming disordered behaviors.

Support groups, both in-person and online, offer a space to share experiences and learn from others facing similar challenges. Educational materials and workshops on personal finance can help you develop healthier money habits and improve your financial literacy.

When seeking professional help, look for reputable sources and credentials, such as certified financial therapists or counselors with experience treating money disorders.

The Importance of Healthy Financial Habits

Developing and maintaining healthy financial habits is crucial for preventing and managing money disorders. Start by creating and sticking to a budget that tracks your income and expenses.

Set realistic financial goals, both short-term and long-term, to give your money management purpose and direction. Building an emergency savings fund can provide a monetary cushion and reduce anxiety about unexpected expenses.

Continuously educating yourself about personal finance through books, reputable websites, or courses can empower you to make informed financial decisions. By cultivating these healthy habits, you can strengthen your financial foundation and reduce the risk of developing or perpetuating money disorders.


Money disorders are complex issues that can significantly impact your financial and overall well-being. You can work towards a healthier relationship with money by understanding the signs, assessing your risk, and taking proactive steps toward financial health.

Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you recognize any of these signs in your behavior, don’t hesitate to contact a financial professional or therapist who can provide the support and guidance you need to overcome these challenges and build a more secure financial future.