Economy a hot topic for therapists

A therapy session

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: The financial crisis fallout is starting to mess with our heads. The American Psychological Association says 80 percent of people list the economy as a major source of stress. Marketplace's Sean Cole gets freudian on us.


Sean Cole: "Incidentally," said my therapist the other day, "some information for you as a journalist." she said every single person she'd seen that week was anxious, like they'd internalized all the economic turmoil and needed to talk about it. And then she said another therapist, Arnis Berger, had mentioned the same thing. So I got in touch with her.

Arnis Berger: ARNIS BERGER: I wouldn't say that every single person I see has been talking about it, but a higher percentage than usual -- and yes, across the board.

Meaning all ages, teens to elders.

Berger: Usually, world events don't get raised or they just get mentioned, acknowledged. But they're not what people want to talk about in their therapy sessions. The only time that I can remember in the many years that I've practiced that is anything like this was after 9/11.

I checked this out with yet another therapist.

Sharon Gordetsky: Oh, it's very similar.

Sharon Gordetsky. She says crises like these can cause a kind of societal anxiety disorder.

Gordetsky: I think that that's what we saw after 9/11. And then some people experience a slight increase in anxiety and other people, say, spiked.

It depends on where your head's at, really. Often the economy might just be exacerbating other problems. For instance, this one was having some anger management issues, so he went in to see David Hollis.

David Hollis: I'm David Hollis, I'm the clinical director of Jewish Family Service.

In Worcester, Mass and they're talking things over . . .

Hollis: And he reported to me that he'd been feeling more irritability through September.

Turned out the guy had been checking his retirement balance every day. Hollis's advice?

Hollis: He could choose to not only stop tracking his financial balance sheet on a daily basis, but he could also choose to not open his monthly 401k statement, for example.

So the guy stopped. And it helped. And that might sound like denial, but Arnis Berger says denial can be healthy.

Berger: If we didn't have a little bit of denial, we wouldn't go outside, we wouldn't cross the street, we wouldn't go on planes.

And we certainly wouldn't keep our money in this market. Or in a bank. Or even in the mattress, where it would be ruined by the cascade of our anxious tears.

In Boston, I'm Sean Cole for Marketplace.

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