Recession Anxiety Seeps Into Everyday Lives
Richard Patterson for The New York Times
Anne Hubbard has not lost her job, house or savings, and she and her husband have always been conservative with money.
But a few months ago, Ms. Hubbard, a graphic designer in Cambridge, Mass., began having panic attacks over the economy, struggling to breathe and seeing vivid visions of “losing everything,” she said.
She “could not stop reading every single economic report,” was so “sick to my stomach I lost 12 pounds” and “was unable to function,” said Ms. Hubbard, 52, who began, for the first time, taking psychiatric medication and getting therapy.
In Miami, Victoria Villalba, 44, routinely slept eight hours a night until stories of desperate clients flooding the employment service she runs began jolting her awake at 2 a.m. No longer sleepy, she first began to respond to e-mail, but that caused sleeping colleagues’ BlackBerrys to wake them, so now she studies business books and meticulously organizes her closets.
“I’m embarrassed,” she said. “Normal people aren’t doing this.”
With economic damage expected to last months or years, such reactions are becoming common, experts say. Anxiety, depression and stress are troubling people everywhere, many not suffering significant economic losses, but worrying they will or simply reacting to pervasive uncertainty.
Some are seeking counseling or medication for the first time. Others are resuming or increasing treatment, or redirecting therapy for other issues onto economic anxiety.
“The economy and fear of what’s going to happen is having a huge effect,” said Sarah Bullard Steck, a Washington therapist who also directs the employee assistance program at the Commerce Department. “People are coming in more” with “severe anxiety” or “more marital strife, some domestic violence, some substance abuse.”