Dear Dr. Poussaint:
I'm having a lot of family problems, especially with my husband, but I think it's partly my fault. I've been feeling down a lot lately and am constantly upset and worried about money. Each year it seems harder for us to make ends meet and keep up with rising prices. I know that inflation affects everyone and I feel silly sometimes because I feel like I'm being a baby in not being able to cope with it.
But, still it has affected out entire household and lifestyle so much that there is an air of tension and strife that didn't exist before. My husband is a maintenance worker and makes about $14,000. We have two young children. Last year I started taking in children to babysit for extra money. This causes problems with my children but we need the money.
With rising rents and heat, we have no money left for entertainment (mostly movies and dances) or clothes. My husband and I fight more because we can't have the same kind of fun we used to have.
Now it looks like inflation is going to get even worse and I just start crying when I think about it. I don't know -- maybe I'm just afraid and worried when I think about it. Do you think my problem is one that a psychiatrist can help me with or should I just stick it out? I feel I would get over this if I just had more money. C.M., Chicago Dear C.M.:
More people are suffering from tension and depression due to the deteriorating economy than most people realize. Many individuals complain about rising prices but few feel comfortable admitting that they are developing emotional symptoms as a result of it.
Traditionally, depression and anxiety have been associated with internal conflict and intraphysic phenomena, rather than with external events. Perhaps this is one reason why you are loathe to admit you are personally depressed about the economy.
Socioeconomic conditions do have a profound effect on the mental health of families and individuals. During the Great Depression, a time of acute economic upheaval, many individuals turned to alcohol, crime and suicide. Today we are seeing clear relationships between unemployment (and underemployment) and financial strain -- with family breakdown, child abuse divorce and depression.
These symptoms can easily be understood in our society because most of us expect to be able to experience at some point in our lives the American Dream of success and material comfort. This despair is particularly apparent when on's ability to buy goods and support a household is greatly diminished.
Many Americans may have to adapt to a lower standard of living for the time being and change their expectations of the good life. Already the dream of owning a home is becoming impossible to realize for many families.
Even though adjustments must be made, individuals should get involved and urge their government to cope more vigorously with the problems of energy, inflation and recession. There is much that can be done. But it seems we are unable to join hands and work together on solutions. Perhaps your own involvement in a local goods cooperative or other community family-support programs will ease your despair.
Perhaps more money would alleviate your depression and perhaps it would not. If your depression is affecting you and your family, you should seek mental counseling whether your depression is due to internal or external pressures. With that help, there is the possibility that you can move in new, positive directions.