Chrometophobia is the extreme fear of money. Also known as chrematophobia, it encompasses everything from the fear of spending money and the fear of thinking about money, to even the fear of touching money.
It combines the Greek word chermato, which means “money,” and the Greek word phobos, which means “fear.”
Most of us have struggled with financial stress at some point in our lives. A quarter of Americans say they worry about money all or most of the time. That makes sense given that four out of five Americans are in debt and around 15 percent of households have a negative net worth. Let’s face it: money and debt can be pretty scary.
However, chrometophobia takes this ordinary fear of money and spending to the next level. Jump to our infographic below to learn more about this phenomenon or keep reading for a deep dive into what this fear of money really means, what causes it, and how you can overcome it.
Chrometophobia is not as common as other phobias, like claustrophobia (the fear of crowded spaces) or acrophobia (the fear of heights). However, like other phobias, chrometophobia is an abnormal and irrational fear that carries with it a number of symptoms that vary in severity. Here are a few clear symptoms of chrometophobia.
Extreme Hesitance to Think About Money
For most people, chrometophobia boils down to an unwillingness to address unhealthy spending and saving habits. Perhaps this means you’re excessively hesitant to spend money, even on items that you know are necessary, because you’re afraid you might run out of money. Or maybe you feel powerless to manage your finances, so you stop saving money and paying your bills.
Withdrawal from Activities
If you suffer from chrometophobia, you might find yourself avoiding activities that you normally enjoy. For example, maybe you skip family movie night, date night with your partner, or another pleasurable activity because you’re worried about your finances.
Desire to Count Money Constantly
It’s normal to check your bank account on a regular basis. Some people check theirs every day! However, if you’re constantly logging into your checking account or counting and recounting the cash in your wallet several times a day and feeling stressed about what you find, you might suffer from chrometophobia.
Refusal to Touch Money
On the other end of the spectrum, if you refuse to handle money, you might also suffer from chrometophobia. Maybe you’re afraid of getting sick from the germs on money or maybe you’re emotionally triggered by the sight of money. Regardless of the reason, refusing to touch money can make everyday activities more difficult.
Depressive Thoughts Or Physical Ailments
Chrometophobia, like other phobias, can also bring with it intense feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and depression. If you’re feeling intense anxiety caused by your financial situation, you should contact a mental health professional right away.
In some cases, you might also experience physical symptoms of chrometophobia, like shaking, sweating, dry mouth, nausea, or shortness of breath. Again, contact a medical professional immediately if this is the case.
Chrometophobia Causes and How to Overcome Them
Every case is different, but here are some common causes of chrometophobia and what you can do to address them.
Taboo of Money
Money is perhaps one of the most taboo subjects. Seventy percent of Americans consider money an “intimate” topic, even more so than politics (36 percent) and religion (40 percent). This unwillingness to talk about money can be emotionally harmful and can lead to symptoms of chrometophobia.
Try being open and honest with yourself and others. As difficult as this might be, talk to others about your financial woes. At the very least, you’ll have someone who understands your financial situation, and you won’t feel as alone. In the best-case scenario, a friend or loved one can offer an honest assessment of why you might be struggling and what steps you can take to improve.
If you’d rather not talk to someone you know about your financial anxieties, try being open with a financial counselor. The idea here is to identify that you are struggling and take some concrete steps to improve.
Everyone knows that money is limited and that you should use it wisely. It’s when you take this idea to the extreme that chrometophobia can kick in. Maybe you have drastically cut back on spending because you’re afraid that you won’t have enough money when you really need it.
To counteract this fear, plan out all of your expenses. Track how much money goes toward each expense and set up an emergency fund to put yourself at ease. If you already have an emergency fund, increase your contributions to it.
Earned Money Anxieties
It’s important to have a good sense of how the number of hours you work connects to the amount of money you earn. However, tying each dollar earned to each hour worked too closely can cause you to feel as if you don’t deserve to spend the money you earned.
Convince yourself that you need and deserve to spend money on yourself sometimes. Think of spending responsibly as a way to celebrate your hard work after a long week.
Complexity of Money
Money can be hard to understand. If you find yourself confused by financial jargon and don’t understand the world of bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or mortgages, you might prefer to ignore your finances completely. However, ignoring your finances can put your future in jeopardy.
It’s important to remember that many money topics seem more complicated than they actually are. Take baby steps. Ask for help, and don’t be afraid to ask a ton of questions. Additionally, consider playing fun online money games, like The Stock Market Game.
Prioritize Your Finances and Overcome Chrometophobia
The most direct way to overcome chrometophobia is to face your fear of money head on. Phobias are usually connected to a very specific traumatic experience. Instead of allowing yourself to worry about your finances in times of crisis — when bills are due or bank balances are low — think about your finances proactively.
In the same way that you make time to work out, read a book, meditate, or relax, make time to think about your finances every day as part of your self-care routine. Carefully plan out your inflow and outflow of money, and make a detailed saving and spending plan. Reduce your fear of money by talking through your anxieties with loved ones or third-party experts.
Most importantly, focus on your progress, not on how far you still have to go. Did you increase your emergency fund by $25 last month? That’s a win! Were you able to open up to your friends about your student loan debt anxieties? That’s also a win! Every little bit helps.