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This is what your brain does when you have money woes

  • Most Americans are anxious about their finances, and that stress can lead to bad financial decisions.
  • Getting advice can alleviate stress and help you feel better about the choices you make.
brain scans
Monty Rakusen | Getty Images

Worrying about your wallet can mess up your head.

Weighing whether to buy a house or a car or even how to budget for the week doesn't just take a mental toll — those decisions actually impact brain function, according to a new study by Northwestern Mutual.

Eight in 10 Americans are anxious about their finances, and that stress can lead to bad financial choices, the 2017 Brain on Finance study found.

Northwestern Mutual partnered with neuroscience research firm ThinkAlike Laboratories to measure the electrical activity of people's brains when they are evaluating different financial scenarios.

Those who felt pressure to make a hasty financial decision were more prone to buyer's remorse, said Sam Barnett, a neuroscience researcher at ThinkAlike. That proved true across all ages, demographics and education levels, he said.

On the upside, getting advice, either from a peer or a professional advisor, alleviated stress and improved brain function, making it easier to make good decisions about saving, spending and tackling debt, Barnett said.

Student loan debt, in particular, is a huge source of stress for many borrowers — especially now, as the student loan grace period nears its end.

Half of those dealing with student loan debt said they feel anxious or depressed, according to a separate study by online lender SoFi.

A third said they have lost sleep over it and 15 percent of respondents sought out a mental health professional to help them deal with the stress of their student debt.

For help on how to start repayingthat college tab, here's what to do first. For other common types of debt, here's how best to manage it.