Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=99993
Story Retrieval Date: 5/24/2013 6:43:36 AM CST
American Psychological Association
Research was conducted between June 23 and Aug. 13 among 1,791 adults above the age of 18 and an oversample of 231 adults above 18 in Chicago. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated, according to the source.
“They just want to run away.” That’s what one psychologist said of people who fantasize about escaping their lives of financial stress.
With the nation’s economic future uncertain, stress becomes more synonymous with anxiety, or “fear of the unknown,” explained Dr. Terrence Koller, who has been with the Illinois Psychological Association for 15 years.
That is strongly reflected in a report released Tuesday, called “Stress in America Chicago.” The report, by the American Psychological Association, is conducted annually. This year’s survey indicates that 76 percent of stressed Chicagoans cite money and 69 percent cite the economy as significant sources of their condition, closely matching national percentages.
Where Chicago differs from the nation, however, is in its unhealthy management of stress: 36 percent of area residents tended to turn to alcohol, compared to 18 percent nationally.
Although financial stress affects everyone, the problem is amplified for those who work with money, another Chicago psychologist says.
Dr. Daniela Schreier provides stress management consulting for investment bankers. She finds it common for this group to drink and use drugs in an attempt to allievate stress.
“They have to deal with incredible amounts of money,” Schreier said. She added that while not all of these patients experience a dependence on drugs and alcohol, its usage is still very acceptable in their community.
But patients of all kinds, according to another psychologist, can slip into this coping pattern.
“I’m seeing people drinking a ton,” said Dr. Nancy Molitor, former president of the Illinois Psychological Association. As insomnia is often a byproduct of stress, people may drink not only to quell troubles, but also to simply get to sleep, she explained.
Unhealthy reactions are not limited to drinking. Late-night binge-eating and gambling also make the list.
Molitor described one patient who had never gambled in her life who confessed to betting away her retirement savings.
“It is affecting the entire family,” she emphasized.
Couples especially feel the heat of financial stress. According to the APA survey, 52 percent of the stressed in Chicago point to their relationships as a key source.
“The financial situation affects the quality of our interpersonal relationships,” Dr. Schreier added. She has been getting more calls from couples seeking counseling who bring their money issues home with them.
Couples whom Molitor has not counseled in four to five years are now ringing her up. She said that once a couple finds themselves in a financial crisis, they start blaming one another and arguing more.
Some of the typically healthy ways to combat stress are now being scrutinized.
“Stop reading the bad news” is usually advice that a psychologist will dole out to patients who fear the future. But that recommendation would be ill-advised in the case of financial stress, Molitor said.
“I can’t tell people in good conscience, ‘Don’t pay attention to the news,’” she said. “I can’t tell people, ‘Don’t pay attention to your financial situation.’ They have to pay attention and make decisions.”
Financially stressed patients tend to both over- and under-react. They either panic by taking money out of their IRAs, for example, or they freeze and ignore bills.
When people are stressed, they feel a lack of control, Dr. Koller explained. The good news is that people can somewhat control their financial futures.
“You can control [whether or not] you buy the Starbucks coffee every day,” Koller said.
Another way to begin to eliminate stress is simply to identify it, according to Koller. Focusing on one’s own situation, rather than going “too big picture” is a good way to not feel overpowered.
However, if stress is getting too out of hand, a person should consider consulting a mental health professional for stress management.
But the outlook for the financial market might be as grim as those who are crumbling beneath it.
“I have never seen such high levels of stress, pretty much across the board in our community,” Molitor emphasized. “I don’t think this is going to abate quickly.”