Financial Stress: How Bad Can It Get?

Experts say no matter how hard the fall, who you are may determine your stress.

ByABC News
September 23, 2008, 6:22 PM

Sept. 24, 2008 — -- After the disastrous few weeks in the economy -- banks failing, corporate bailouts and wild rides on the stock market -- stress experts expect some people will be pulling out their hair, but others will just shrug their shoulders.

The difference, psychologists say, does not always depend on the amount in someone's bank account. In fact, financial distress can go from a minor headache to a full-blown phobia depending on the person.

"You can experience the same [financial] loss as another person but it's how you perceive that loss, how you've been able to cope with loss in your past, and the accompanying anxiety, that will dictate how much stress you experience," said Kathleen Gurney, CEO of Financial Psychology Corporation.

Gurney has researched people's feelings about money for two decades. In that time she's found what she calls "money personalities": the High Roller, the Hunter, the Achiever, the Perfectionist and others.

When financial loss and troubles hit, Gurney said, "…the Hunters, Achievers and Perfectionists, for example, experience distress, which is more dangerous as it lasts longer, causing more physical side effects and ailments.'

"The High Rollers actually enjoy the thrill of highs and lows in the market -- so the ride is as important as reaching the destination or achieving the goal," said Gurney, author of "Your Money Personality: What It Is and How You Can Profit From It."

Yet while the High Rollers at investment firms usually take the ups and downs better than the person who is a perfectionist with money, a complete obliteration of jobs and goals can change the playing field. A lost job might be different than a loss in a day.

"With things like a relationship or a chronic medical condition there's going to be a course of things," said Katherine L. Muller, director of the cognitive behavior therapy program at the Montefiore Medical Center, in Bronx, N.Y.