The market turmoil that has plagued the beginning of 2016 is wreaking havoc on the stock prices of public companies -- and if they can't get their balance sheets in check, troubled companies could be headed for a gloomy year.

These companies may initially look like bargains as they trade in the single digits. But investors who focus solely on low stock prices, without taking debt into account, do so at their own peril.

To help investors sort out which companies could be in real trouble, Real Money, TheStreet's sister site, has unveiled its "Stressed Out" index of 20 troubled stocks that you should be watching in 2016.

"Many of the smaller dollar amount stocks didn't get there because management wanted you to start buying them by the boatload," said TheStreet's Jim Cramer. "No CEO wants their stock to trade in the single digits. They trade there because the equity is compromised by the debt side of the equation."

The companies listed in the index carry unsustainable debt loads and have a history of burning cash and resources in the absence of steady cash flow. They range across sectors, including retail, oil and gas, basic materials and telecoms. The Real Money team will be providing deep-dive analysis of the debt and equity problems sending shares to record low levels and will continue to monitor the companies. Real Money will also add newcomers to the index as needed and remove existing targets as management prove successful in executing turnarounds.

Here are 20 distressed companies that investors should watch.