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  • Depression and the Economy

    From the stock market to stimulus bills, from social security to job security, the recent economic climate has many people feeling the pinch. Although money isn't everything, the lack of it can certainly cause a great deal of worry, and in some cases contribute to a deeper-rooted concern. Is the economic depression causing an increase in the likelihood of psychological depression?

    "The economic crisis is a definite stressor," said Mark Zimmerman, MD, a psychiatrist at Rhode Island Hospital.

    A certain level of anxiety is normal in the face of the unknown, and sadness after a particularly negative event, like losing one's job, is to be expected, but those natural emotions can evolve into bigger issues.

    "Losing your job, or even worrying about losing your job, is a big blow to the self-esteem and it's tempting to spiral into a period of isolation and depression because it feels like others are evaluating you based solely on job and income," says Zimmerman. "When you're experiencing stress, it can result in insomnia, spill over into your day and effect your mood, energy, ability to concentrate, and a variety of symptoms can stem from there."

    Knowing the symptoms of general anxiety disorder and depression can help you or a loved one get help in a time of need. It is important to note that not all symptoms will be present in all people who are experiencing these disorders.

    The most common signs of anxiety include:

    • Overwhelming feelings of apprehension or dread
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Feeling tense and jumpy
    • Anticipating the worst
    • Restlessness
    • Constantly watching for signs of danger
    • Feeling like your mind's gone blank

    The most common signs of depression are:

    • Social withdrawal
    • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
    • Prolonged sadness and/or uncontrollable crying
    • Hopelessness
    • Insomnia (or oversleeping)
    • Fatigue
    • Loss of appetite (or increased appetite)
    • Unexplained aches and pains
    • Preoccupation with death

    The biggest sign that a severe problem is occurring is not one or all of these symptoms, but the overarching effect. "You know someone has a true problem if it is beginning to interfere with their functioning, when they can't get tasks done or deal with the aspects of life they need to address," says Zimmerman.

    If you think that you or someone you know has a problem, help is available.

    "There is a multitude of services out there-from prescribed medication to talking to a counselor to programs for underinsured individuals-there are many options for assistance," says Zimmerman, who encourages people to remember that even in the worst circumstances, hope endures.

    "If you find yourself worrying too much about economic issues, it is important to take stock of your life and begin to prioritize, to examine your values, determine what is important and what is not important, to distinguish between what one needs and what one wants. No person is just a paycheck."