Maintain mental health during tax season

April 5, 2010

As the April 15 deadline for filing your federal income tax return approaches, financial stressors may be rearing their ugly little heads – in your head. Financial stress, especially exacerbated at tax time, can cause a host of mental health concerns that include anxiety and depression.

Mentally speaking, finances are a hot-button issue because they affect everyone. Add to that a seemingly mysterious, arbitrary, uncompromising, even threatening tax system, and people can feel powerless and without control.

“Financial worry affects all people at a very basic level,” says David M. Dranetz, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. “Not having enough money can threaten the ability to obtain basic essentials for life such as food, clothing, shelter and heat.”

When those essentials are threatened, the mind can cause the body some serious mental heartburn. For instance, Dr. Dranetz explains that financial stress has been linked not only to mental health concerns like depression but also to physical ailments including insomnia and unhealthy coping behaviors like drinking, smoking and overeating.

And, financial stress affects everyone, Dr. Dranetz says, regardless of gender or if living single or with a family.

“The best way to deal with financial stress and maintain mental health is through adequate preparation,” Dr. Dranetz says. “Prepare by learning as much as you can about the tax process as early as you can to have a better idea of what to expect. Having a general idea of how much you may owe and having money saved away early to cover the unexpected can also help reduce the worry and maximize mental health.”

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