I'm a college senior with a positive net worth and good job prospects. I could live for at least several months on my savings. Somehow, that isn't enough to assuage my worries. I feel guilty about having spent $10 on a new shirt, and I wonder whether I would be able to pay for long term care insurance for my parents on a grad student stipend. I've started running the numbers on my budget and savings a wee bit too obsessively.
It's entirely possible to devote this much time and effort to money and be psychologically fine, a little quirky by the standards of modern America, but fine. If you're trying to get out of debt, buy a house, save for retirement, or pay cash for a stereo system that could wake the dead, focusing time and effort on finances makes perfect sense. If, however, you are motivated instead by free floating anxiety, then something may be wrong.
I've seen myself fall into this pattern before. In junior high, I was slender but counted calories compulsively. I carefully measured my cereal each morning, and I knew exactly how many calories I was getting from the tablespoon of peanut butter on raisin bread and an apple I allowed myself for lunch. I had very irregular periods, and I regarded menstruation as I sign I had let myself get too fat. My self worth was linked to the number I saw on the scale each morning.
When life gets scary and overwhelming, I tend to focus on one area of concern. Things seem much more manageable if I pick one thing, preferably something that can be quantified, and work as hard as I can on that. I know that it makes no logical sense, but I convince myself that if I can just lose two more pounds or save two hundred more dollars this semester, then I'll be able to cope with everything else. It doesn't work that way, and ever-shifting but pointless goals only add to my anxiety.
I'm aware it is a problem, but I don't know how to fix this.