Recession, Anxiety and Depression

It would be easy to find fault and a bit of glee when we hear of wealthy people suffering psychological distress as a result of loss of money and status. But the wealthy and formerly wealthy are no more protected from mental disorders than those who are less financially fortunate. Perhaps the distress is even worse if the fall follows years of working towards the top. It certainly makes sense if the climb started from a very low position. It may also be worse in those with a strong sense of social responsibility.


An article in Saturday’s New York Times started this rumination. The article can also be accessed online at LINK.


The article highlights a private psychiatric facility in New York. The facility is accustomed to high profile and wealthy clients. But there is mention that the symptoms of “recession psychosis” (an unofficial diagnosis not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) can also be found among those not in the upper layers of society. The symptoms include severe anxiety and suicidal tendencies set off by the economy. In addition, there is often paranoia related to global or local news. This sometimes translates into a survival mentality, such as not eating in order to have enough money to buy food or buying guns in order to feel safe. Individuals who are still employed may have periods of manic behavior as they strive harder and harder to prove themselves worthy of keeping their jobs. Alcohol and drug abuse become more common as individuals try to either calm themselves or to increase their energy so they can work non-stop.


There is no easy cure for this “psychosis.” Of course, curing the economy is necessary. But since predictions for that occurrence are conservatively one or two years, people who find themselves unable to cope with their anxiety and depression need to have help now. Anxiety and depression are more easily handled, with psychotherapy and medication, before they become severe enough to make a hospital admission necessary.


Now is not the time to cut back on health benefits. Now is not the time to cut back on stress reducing tactics such as exercise or meditation.


Now is the time to gather support from family and friends and to remain connected to community.


And remember – seek help if you need it.


Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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