Recession’s Psychological Fallout Isn’t Limited to the Unemployed

Psychologists and therapists nationwide, especially those who specialize in work-related counseling, report employee stress levels that are higher than any time in the past several decades. The mental health consequences of a fragile economy are significant. Often, those whose jobs have been cut are the focus of the recession-mental health discussion, and for good reason. The financial stress of living without income, especially with a family, can be both psychologically overwhelming and even physically harmful. But those who have retained employment are not immune to the recession-related mental health struggles. Seeing long-time coworkers lose their jobs can give survivors a sense of guilt and also of fear that their own employment is equally precarious.

In an interview with Forbes.com, Manhattan psychologist Joan Kane, a veteran therapist of 23 years, raised a particularly interesting point. “In therapy, we try to help patients discover who they really are, (but) in this environment, it’s more helpful” to show that you can adapt than to “be your authentic self,” she said. Before the recession, employment-related reflection revolved around finding a job that would be both financially and personally rewarding. But with job cuts looming, people are forced to shift their attentions: looking for a dream job seems a forgotten luxury; now, we’re striving to become dream employees, and thus indispensible to the higher-ups.

Still, many people have used the recession as an opportunity to switch direction and pursue careers they’d always dreamt of. It’s not rocking to boat to enter a new career if the boat is already rocking, this choice seems to say. But for people who find themselves stuck in less-than-satisfying jobs, the stress of the environment can be emotionally defeating. Often, employees who would otherwise voice concerns or complaints keep silent for fear of dispensation, said Kane. It’s important, then, for people determined to ‘stick it out’ to do so with their own mental and physical health in mind. From periodic visits to a therapist to regular exercise and relaxation activities, playing an active role in your mental health is essential, especially when work isn’t making that health any easier for you.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • dwayne

    dwayne

    October 26th, 2010 at 7:07 PM

    my dad keeps telling us how he’s scared that he may lose his job.he’s a good and efficient employee and all but then the cut down in the workforce Tht the recession has prompted is just too big a threat for the middle class. :(

  • Sam

    Sam

    October 27th, 2010 at 4:40 AM

    I work in a position and a field where I have seen many of my fellow co workers lose their jobs, and I know that some part of them must be looking at me and thinking that I am next and thankfully that has not happened yet. But I do some sense of shame and guilt at having been able to keep my job while others have lost theirs. It is not that I think that I do a better job than they have, but in a sense I just think that it has been the luck of the draw. But I would hate to think that they would begrudge me for being able to retain my job, as I wish them nothing but the best I would hope that they feel the same for me.

  • PAUL

    PAUL

    October 27th, 2010 at 5:37 AM

    A serious issue that has not got the required attention I’d say. There has been absolutely nothing been done to actually make sure that people are not falling depressed due to a job loss or something. Instead there have been metal health facilities closing down. Wow!!!

  • YT

    YT

    October 27th, 2010 at 11:04 AM

    As can be seen from the first comment here from dwayne,this is equally exhausting and stressful for even kids(?) and family of those whose jobs are at risk!

  • Jane

    Jane

    October 28th, 2010 at 4:45 AM

    Yes, but I would far rather be stressed out and working than stressed out and not working in today’s economy.

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