Credit problems stemming from overwhelming debt can manifest themselves into larger issues -- causing distraction at work, tearing families apart and wrecking marriages, said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC, the Washington, D.C.-based national nonprofit financial counseling organization.
"Debt is like a dark cloud that follows a person 24 hours per day," she said. "They wake up with it, take it to work with them and as the NFCC poll confirmed, they take it back to bed with them."
Personal finance issues play a large part in the psyche of the American consumer with 71%, or 179 million, who admitted to having concerns about a lack of savings, their jobs, debt and credit.
The positive news that can be gleaned from the poll is that respondents were able to identify the source of their distress, Cunningham said. Consumers also went to a reliable resource like www.DebtAdvice.org for help.
"Consumers who are in financial distress or those who see the handwriting on the wall should take action and the sooner the better," she said. "I have never seen a financial issue that resolved itself. Their next step should be to reach out to an NFCC member agency for personalized and solution-oriented assistance."
Financial stress affects people not only mentally, but also physically, said Alisa Ruby Bash, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Beverly Hills, Calif. A debt stress index developed by researchers in 2009 at Ohio State University showed that individuals had 27% more digestive tract disorders when experiencing debt stress and 29% suffered severe anxiety, she said. This was compared to people without debt stress and whose complaints were at 4%.