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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Economic and Mental Depression

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: May 13th 2008

 How does the media refer to it when they the present economic crisis is discussed? They refer to it as a recession, an economic down turn, a slowing of the economy, a depression? Actually, they avoid using the term "depression" and constantly ask if there are signs of a recession? The fact is if you are one of the Americans who has been "laid off," foreclosed on your house for inability to make mortgage payments, working part time because it is impossible to get a full time job and have no medical benefits to rely on in the event of illness, then you are in a Major Depression...of more than one kind.

There is an article that can be found on http://www.medicalnewstoday.com that reports the fundamental fact that the present economic crisis is creating a mental health crisis because people are unable to pay their bills. Both in the United States and the United Kingdom people are deeply in debt, facing rapidly rising prices for products such as food, clothes and fuel. This leaves people facing harassing phone calls from collection agencies.

In any case, the pressure created by the state of the economy is causing a vast increase in anxiety, stress and depression. Those who struggle with depression are feeling even worse than usual. Those who do not usually feel depressed find themselves suffering from symptoms due to their debt, financial and economic circumstances. The article uses a term that is new and unfamiliar: "debt depression."

While it is usual to discuss the fact that mental illness can create poverty by making difficult for people to work with any kind of consistency, it is now being recognized that financial or economic problems can cause emotional and psychiatric difficulties.

When discussing the factors can cause mental problems we refer to what is called the Bio-Psycho-Social factors that form the basis of how an individual is able to live and function.
1. Biological causes of emotional problems can range from serious physical sickness and disability to inherited or genetic characteristics that influence emotions and behavior.

2. Psychological factors that can cause emotional problems are the amount of stress a person has tolerated throughout their lives to their emotional and intellectual capacities all the way to how they perceive and think about events in their lives.

3. Social factors that cause mental illness can be such things as national and world events, such as wars, inflation and unemployment all the way to alcohol and drug abusing parents, living in a slum versus a wealthy neighborhood and level of education.

Financial and economic problems can affect mental health by causing people to feel:

1. Inadequate and helpless about being able to solve their problems.
2. Worried and anxious about the debts they have accumulated and how they can resolve them.
3.Insecure and pessimistic about the future.
4. Angry and irritable, particularly around family and friends.
5. Fearful about discussing financial problems for fear of being judged by others.

It is important for people in these circumstances to reach out for help. There are many not for profit credit counseling agencies that will mediate bill payment with creditors and put a stop to the harassing phone calls. They will also negotiate to lower the credit rate on those bills. These can be found by doing a search on the Internet or in the telephone directory. I would suggest checking credentials with the Better Business Bureau just to be certain that the agency has a good reputation.

Low cost psychotherapy is also available through many local agencies or through not for profit organizations such as Catholic Charities, or several Jewish and Protestant organizations or through local hospitals that may have out patient clinics.

Rather than hiding an economic dilemma it is important that people reach out for help.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    More Information Please - Vicki - Sep 24th 2012

    Good article although I don't think we who are experiencing this type of depression need the clinical description of how it works.  We know how it works -- we struggle to pay the bills and then another bill comes along for $500 a month and there's no way in ___ that we can pay it, but we will probably be thrown in jail if we don't because it's a student loan payment.  We've already drained our retirement funds, are supporting another person who only has a part time job and no medical insurance and our income has dropped by 20% in the past year.  Gee, I wonder why there is so much depression.

    Anyway, you comment, "...it is important for people in these circumstances to reach out for help. There are many not for profit credit counseling agencies that will mediate bill payment with creditors and put a stop to the harassing phone calls. They will also negotiate to lower the credit rate on those bills. These can be found by doing a search on the Internet or in the telephone directory. I would suggest checking credentials with the Better Business Bureau just to be certain that the agency has a good reputation.", is useless.  Please provide the names of specific, reputatable agencies to call.  I don't know the difference and in my depressed state, I am unable to work through this rationally.

    I'd appreciate any help you can provide along these lines.

    Unemployment causes great stress - Spencer - Apr 24th 2010

    Dr. Schwartz, you don't know me but just described my life.  I am 57 years old, and unemployed, I had a great job in civil service as a machinist for 20 years.  However, the military base where I worked was shut down by the federal government.  At the time, I was only two years short of retirement.  With all my years of being machinist employers will not hire, most likely due to age.  At my advanced age, I returned to school and graduated as a Medical Billing and Coding Specialist.  But the problem still exist, no one will take a chance on hiring me.  I am greatly stressed due to this, I checked my BP the other day and it was 174/111.  I have been diagnosed with depression in the past, but now I believe it has escalated to severe depression and I am afraid for my health. What can I do? I'm too old for society, I have no job, no health benefits and no life insurance.

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