In many ways, consumer credit card debt is like a disease, a crippling ailment that afflicts people of all ages, backgrounds and income levels. But often a credit card problem is just a symptom of a more significant issue like a divorce, a job loss or business failure, or a costly medical episode. When left unchecked, the debt can cause high levels of stress, which in turn can strain relationships, create or exacerbate anxiety and depression, and affect the consumer’s physical health.

If diagnosed correctly, credit card debt can be treated in a variety of ways. The best course of treatment will depend on other aspects of the patient’s financial state. Two popular treatment methods are bankruptcy, which can wipe out or restructure payments over time, and consumer debt management programs, which require the debtor to commit to a payment schedule for a period of time, at a lower, negotiated interest rate.

Which treatment is right for me?

Everyone’s situation is unique. If you have high enough income relative to your debt obligations, you may not qualify for Chapter 7 liquidation, which discharges unsecured debt. In that case, you may benefit from enrolling in a debt management plan through an accredited credit counseling agency, or you may choose to use a Chapter 13 repayment plan.

If you are able pass the Chapter 7 “means test,” you won’t need to spend years paying off your debt. You can choose to file for bankruptcy and see your credit card debt go away, usually within a matter of months. This can bring relatively fast relief that will allow you to put your money toward important expenses like housing, transportation and your children’s needs.

What are the side effects? How do I get cured?

There are downsides to bankruptcy and debt management. Some people are concerned about their credit scores, while others feel a strong sense of obligation to pay off their debts completely. You should understand your options and choose carefully.

An experienced attorney can explain the differences between Chapter 7, Chapter 13 and debt management programs and help you understand how you might benefit from a strategically planned bankruptcy filing. The consultation is usually free.