Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Can I Get PTSD From My Job
Can I Get PTSD From My Job?
By Dr Z.
January 23, 2010
PTSD can be caused by four broad categories of trauma. PTSD wounds our souls. We usually think of rape or military service or natural disasters as causing PTSD. Yet, a question I sometimes get is, “Can I get PTSD from my civilian job?” (This essay was expanded on 24 Jan 2010)
The short answer is “Yes.”
Does It Matter How I Got PTSD?
PTSD does not care how you got traumatised. It just cares that you did get traumatised and then it tries to isolate and harm you. If you get PTSD from a civilian employment situation, you still get to experience the same PTSD symptoms and PTSD-Identity that soldiers and veterans get.
When I listen to military veterans, rape survivors, and others, they almost all exhibit similar PTSD symptoms. But they all got PTSD producing trauma in individual and different ways. Hopefully, as American society matures, we will realize the point is not how did I get PTSD, but that I have PTSD. People who have their souls wounded by PTSD, regardless of how they got it, need our prayers and compassion. Some of them will also need medical treatment for symptoms.
Compassion Deficit Disorder
When dealing with my own PTSD, and when I help others realize they have value in spite of their PTSD, I still frequently find people (who have usually not suffered much themselves) judging what sort of trauma is worthy of PTSD and hence, their compassion. If someone is in pain, they are worthy of our compassion.
But what about compassion deniers who themselves suffered from real trauma in their own lives? Sometime people will suffer from COMPASSION DEFICIT disorder because when they suffered people showed them zero compassion. They were told to just get on with it, or quit whining. That treatment added to their own suffering. Unfortunately, they then fell into the trap of treating others with the same lack of compassion. When we recognise someone elses suffering and can be compassionate, not only do we help them heal, but we heal a little more ourselves.
The PTSD-Identity wants to deny our own need for compassion and it denies that anyone else needs compassion. It knows that your soul will start to heal if you allow yourself to be compassionate.
PTSD From Civilian Jobs?
f your job routinely involves trauma then you can easily acquire PTSD from your job. Firefighters, police officers, emergency room technicians and paramedics can all be at heightened risk for PTSD.
Trauma From “Non-Emergency” Jobs?
This has more to do with the work environment, the sort of culture that the company allowed to develop.
Employment which is high stress, high risk, or with horrible supervisors or co-workers can all cause PTSD in their ways. If your co-workers are sexist or racists, that produces stress. If your boss is a screamer or sets you up to fail, that is also difficult to deal with.
PTSD risks beyond the job’s culture happens when trauma shows up unexpectedly. Then PTSD can be acquired in jobs that are not normally considered as emergency work. In fact, if your job is one that we dont expect to be stressful or traumatic, we can be caught off guard and even more easily harmed when things get horrible. For example, a bank teller is not an emergency trauma worker. If there is a shooting in the bank, the tellers can get PTSD.
Harrassment Can Cause PTSD
If your employment culture allows you to be harrassed, then you can get PTSD. Work place law even recognises that verbal harrassment is a criminal offense and companies have paid substantial fines for allowing it. Subtle discrimination on the job can also traumatize a person, especially when every job is at risk due to the profit first, people never machinations of Wall Street financiers and moving our manufacturing jobs out of the country.
Harrasment, on the job or not, is always despicable. In some cases it will traumatise us so deeply as to wound our soul and hinder our ability to have proper relationships.
Business Uncertainty and Unemployment Are Trauma Producing
The recession can cause PTSD for some people. The stresses of round after round of layoffs is a traumatic experience. It is traumatic to be laid off (fired?) from your job. It is stressful and traumatic waiting to see if your name is on the next list of people who are dismissed.
Being unemployed can also cause trauma. Applying for unemployment or welfare is stigmatized in American society. Even if you lose your job through no fault of your own, people act as if you are a leper. And if you have kids who are members of the “Entitlement Generation,” then not having the money (or the credit) to keep them in clothes and electronics can also be traumatic.
PTSD is Not Inevitable
We are not all fated to get PTSD. Yet, we are all at risk of being traumatized. Knowing that it can happen and that PTSD is a normal outcome of trauma can help us more easily heal.
Regardless of how we get the soul wound of PTSD, we still need prayer and hope. We still need compassion and forgiveness.
Section Dying America • Section Workplace • Section Spiritual Diversions • Section Personal •
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Friday, November 13, 2015
Loneliness, layoff and loss of hope. For the long-term unmemployed, it’s a downward spiral all tied together.
The deadly truth about loneliness
By Michelle H Lim, Lecturer and Clinical Psychologist, Swinburne University of Technology
November 8, 2015
Almost all of us have experienced loneliness at some point. It is the pain we have felt following a breakup, perhaps the loss of a loved one, or a move away from home. We are vulnerable to feeling lonely at any point in our lives.
Loneliness is commonly used to describe a negative emotional state experienced when there is a difference between the relationships one wishes to have and those one perceives one has.
The unpleasant feelings of loneliness are subjective; researchers have found loneliness is not about the amount of time one spends with other people or alone. It is related more to quality of relationships, rather than quantity. A lonely person feels that he or she is not understood by others, and may not think they hold meaningful relationships.
For some people, loneliness may be temporary and easily relieved (such as a close friend moving away, or a spouse returning home after a work trip). For others, loneliness cannot be easily resolved (such as the death of a loved one or the breakup of a marriage) and can persist when one does not have access to people to connect with.
From an evolutionary point of view, our reliance on social groups has ensured our survival as a species. Hence loneliness can be seen as a signal to connect with others. This makes it little different to hunger, thirst or physical pain, which signal the need to eat, drink or seek medical attention.
In affluent modern societies, however, turning off the alarm signals for loneliness has become more difficult than satisfying hunger, thirst or the need to see the doctor. For those who are not surrounded by people who care for them, loneliness can persist.
Researchers have found social isolation is a risk factor for disease and premature death. Findings from a recent review of multiple studies indicated that a lack of social connection poses a similar risk of early death to physical indicators such as obesity.
Loneliness is a risk factor for many physical health difficulties, from fragmented sleep and dementia to lower cardiovascular output.
Some individuals may also be biologically vulnerable to feeling lonely. Evidence from twin studies found that loneliness may be partly heritable.
Multiple studies have focused on how loneliness can be a result of certain gene types combined with particular social or environmental factors (such as parental support).
Loneliness has largely been ignored as a condition of concern in mental health. Researchers have yet to fully understand the extent of how loneliness affects mental health. Most studies of loneliness and mental health have focused solely on how loneliness relates to depression.
Although loneliness and depression are partly related, they are different. Loneliness refers specifically to negative feelings about the social world, whereas depression refers to a more general set of negative feelings.
In a study that measured loneliness in older adults over a five-year period, loneliness predicted depression, but the reverse was not true.
Loneliness may be mistaken as a depressive symptom, or perhaps it is assumed that loneliness will go away once depressive symptoms are addressed. Generally, lonelyӔ people are encouraged to join a group or make a new friend, on the assumption that loneliness will then simply go away.
While creating opportunities to connect with others provides a platform for social interaction, relieving the social pain is not so straightforward. Lonely people can have misgivings about social situations and as a result show rejecting behaviours. These can be misconstrued as unfriendliness, and people around the lonely person respond accordingly. This is how loneliness can become a persistent cycle.
A study examined the effectiveness of different types of treatments aimed at addressing loneliness. The results indicated that treatments that focused on changing negative thinking about others were more effective than those that provided opportunities for social interaction.
Another promising way to tackle loneliness is to improve the quality of our relationships, specifically by building intimacy with those around us. Using a positive psychology approach that focuses on increasing positive emotions within relationships or increasing social behaviours may encourage deeper and more meaningful connections with others.
Indeed, even individuals who have been diagnosed with serious mental illness have reported improvements in their well-being and relationships after sharing positive emotions and doing more positive activities with others. However, research using a positive psychology approach to loneliness remains in its infancy.
We continue to underestimate the lethality of loneliness as a serious public health issue. Contemporary tools such as social media, while seeming to promote social connection, favour brief interactions with many acquaintances over the development of fewer but more meaningful relationships. In this climate, the challenge is to address loneliness and focus on building significant bonds with those around us.
The growing scientific evidence highlighting the negative consequences of loneliness for physical and mental health can no longer be ignored.
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Monday, August 31, 2015
Introverts Are Cool
10 Reasons Why Introverts Are Incredibly Attractive People
By David K. William
Introverts are often thought of as shy, aloof, disinterested and “stuck up” because they keep a low profile. But that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Think of James Bond for a moment.
Bond doesn’t always wear his emotions on his sleeve or on his face. He is quiet, pensive, confident and driven. Do you think his demeanor makes him more or less attractive? His style makes him more attractive.
Similarly, introverts don’t center themselves as the life of the party, but they are among the most incredibly attractive and fascinating people youll ever meet. Here’s why:
1. They are mysterious.
Introverts have an mysterious aura about them. People want to know what they are thinking, but will never know all of it. This makes introverts incredibly fascinating and intimidating at the same time. It is no wonder that they are so extremely misunderstood by the more outgoing and vocal people in our society.
2. They are easy to be around.
It might surprise you, but introverts are some of the nicest and friendliest people youll ever meet. They are naturally chilled out, relaxed and loving. In a world that is always in a rush and that can’t stop talking and clamoring for the limelight, the introverts cool and laid-back nature is extremely appealing. It is true that introverts are drained by crowds, but they thrive in small groups and one-on-one interactions.
3. They are dreamers.
Despite what you may have heard, dreaming is anything but a waste of time. Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman and colleagues explain that A MIND THAT WONDERS aids in the process of “creative incubation.” You may already know from experience that our best ideas come seemingly out of the blue when our minds are elsewhere.
Introverted people get lost in their minds often and come out of them with refreshing and wonderful ideas. When you are with them you are fascinated and feel like a part of the magic because of the way they treat you and let you in on intriguing, new possibilities.
4. They are good listeners.
It seems everyone in our extroverted world today is preoccupied with themselves and whatԒs on their own mind. Every day is like a shouting contest where everyone wants to speak and no one wants to listen. So, when someone shows an interest in another and is willing to listen, its a huge attractor. Introverts listen more than they speak. They listen with the view to understand and not merely to reply. And that is incredibly rare and special. It boosts stronger connections and healthier relationships.
5. They are intrinsically motivated.
As inwardly-oriented people, introverts tend to be intrinsically motivated. That means they are motivated to act by deeper, internal convictions rather than shallow, external motivations like reward and recognition.
They know who they are, what they want and what matters in their life. And that is why they are the ones most likely to pursue their true passions despite the risks and inconveniences involved. Anyone who is self-driven, motivated by higher values and passionate is undeniably attractive and inspiring.
6. They are observant.
Introverts see things others often miss or donҒt see. The world is an introverts wonderland with possibilities everywhere. They are constantly taking in information in their quiet state and using it as fodder for creative expression. When you are with an introvert, nothing is lost. And it often seems like the introverted person always knows what you want even when you havenҒt spelt it out, which is brilliant and endearing.
7. They are mindful of what they say.
Nothing makes you look stupid and unattractive faster than saying inappropriate things because you rushed to speak and did not take time to consider your words. Introverts dont speak out of turn. In fact, they wonҒt speak at all unless they have something important to say. And when they do speak, they say just enough to pique your interest and leave you wanting more. The more they speak the more fascinated you become and the more you want to hear them speak.
8. They are creative, out-of-the box thinkers.
According to studies by the psychologists MILHALY CSIKSZENTMILALYI and Gregory Feist, the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted. Thats largely because solitude is a key ingredient for creative success. Introverts have no fear of being alone. They actually cherish privacy and freedom from interruption. In the state of solitude, introverts get in touch with their inner monologue, ask the right questions and flex their creative muscles.
That natural tendency to embrace solitude, focus deeply on a subject, think and act creatively makes introverts, past and present, gloriously remarkable and attractive people.
9. They are studious and smart.
Introverts are naturally drawn to reading and study. They enjoy learning and figuring out new things for themselves. And while they might be dubbed book worms, they are smart. And a smart person is sexy and attractive. You are better off spending time with someone whoҒs knowledgeable and eagerly interested in learning more, than someone who is ignorant and disinterested.
10. They are intellectually stimulating.
Because introverts are studious and self-reflective, their conversations are intellectually stimulating. They know all kinds of things to share with others. And there is something magical and beautiful about someone who lights up and is energized by meaningful, intelligent conversations.
10 Things Only Outgoing Introverts Would Understand
By Robert Locke
Introvert or extrovert? Think of it as a spectrum where you will rarely be at one end or the other. Most people, researchers say, tend to be somewhere in the middle. They are called ambiverts. Outgoing introverts are certainly in that position but people rarely understand this and expect people to be either one or the other. The outgoing introvert knows this only too well. Here are 10 things that they will resonate with because life is not so simple.
1. They feel that extroversion is overdone in our society.
They may have done group work at school and team work when employed, but they feel that quieter time for reflection and the ability to work by themselves should be more valued in the workplace. They cannot always work in a group or together.
2. They can be the life and soul of the party.
Outgoing introverts can be chatty, exuberant, funny and great company at a party. They will be completely drained afterwards and may not want to see anyone for a few hours or days!
3. They can make excellent sales persons.
Tradition has it that an extrovert is the ideal person to clinch the sale, but the outgoing introvert has a lot going for them in the sales world it seems. They know when they should keep quiet and when they should push. They are also pretty good at tuning into a clients needs and
4. They do not enjoy proms.
Being forced to take part in certain rites of passage such as proms is a real turn off for many outgoing introverts. They would much prefer to stay at home and read a book.
5. They prefer social media.
Social media has helped many an outgoing introvert to cope with all the shenanigans. It is sufficiently social while allowing for quiet downtime with no chatty interruptions. They do not have to move too far from their comfort zone. ItҒs an ideal combination acting social and being alone!
6. They prefer to be left alone sometimes.
This sometimes causes upset when they start to date. They can be chatty and great company but then they may seem to withdraw into themselves because they do not answer texts or calls. The fact is that their social batteries need recharging and this has to be done alone.
7. They don’t use their phones all the time.
One thing you notice about these introverts is that they are deeply focused and they cannot flit from one chatty remark to a text or a phone call. Listening and talking are just not compatible with their deep thinking and concentration.
8. They pick and choose their social events.
Going out may mean a lot of small talk and that can be pretty meaningless. Yes, they enjoy company and social outings but you can bet that they will be pretty choosy when doing so. Other social occasions are sometimes risky and tricky for them. They may go with the flow or they may appear withdrawn.
9. They value their introversion highly.
Silence and moments of quiet are often regarded negatively. Yet, these qualities have led to great discoveries and advanced our civilization for centuries. The outgoing introvert regards his introversion as a great strength and is perfectly content to be that way. They get very angry when people start to imply that there is something wrong with them!
10. They find it hard to adapt.
Problems arise when they are expected to be outgoing all the time and perform as if they were circus clowns. They have to do this to get a job, make friends or network. They know what society demands and expects. It is not always easy to switch on extroversion like a light.
Its great being an outgoing introvert but wouldn’t it be wonderful if people understood them a bit more?
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Sunday, November 24, 2013
The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.
- Dag Hammarskjold
Choosing to stop, or change your degree of, participation in long-time family or friends traditions is hard. But, as a person looking for a job, you have the best excuse, actually a sound reason, to beg off of holiday events: “You can’t afford it. You don’t have the resources - the money, time, or energy - to participate this year - that’s it!”
- Holiday Traditions and Your Job Search
Another THANKSGIVING is coming this week.
For another year despondency, bitterness, anger, guilt, shame, and self-hatred carved deeper gouges in my heart.
ESPECIALLY ABOUT MY DYING MOTHER who I can’t afford to visit - and even if I could scrape up the money to fly up and see her like I used to - am in no emotional shape to take care of.
The inner pain of everything negative from my failed job hunt and loosing hope has built to a point that instead of committing SUICIDE - I just about shut down inside.
The Salvation Army people are out for the holidays with their donation buckets.
After my last good job went away, I STOPPED BUYING A BICYCLE FOR A POOR KID each Christmas and I’d walk past the SALVATION ARMY BELL RINGERS without making eye contact, or a donation. Today, living off cheap, DISPOSABLE temp jobs - I put a dollar in the pail each time I walk by. Not because I’m not afraid of the future - I’m more frightened than ever - it’s something else. Denial maybe?
Maybe these acts of charity are SELFISH cause it gives me some dignity inside, or maybe SELFLESS from EMPATHY feeling the pain of those worse off than me? Maybe I’m looking for attention like those that slit their wrists but never succeed.
Do you think something can happen to ole Humpty to get him back to the way he was before falling off the wall?
Maybe some of us are like WEEBLES - we wobble but don’t fall down.
Maybe the scars are too deep.
Long-Term Unemployment and Mental Health
By Mental Health Psychology Info
November 11, 2011
There is more lost than a paycheck when a person experiences extended periods of unemployment, according to recent research. When adults with no previous mental health history experience their first instances of psychological distress when they become unemployed, the distress is most likely to be the result rather than the cause of the job loss.
A Washington and Lee University study is slated for presentation to Congress some time this month. The studys findings will be part of a briefing given to Congress on the emotional impact that results from unemployment.
The Washington and Lee study revolved around those who, until a recent extended period of unemployment, had never before experienced clinically defined issues of mental health. Extended or long-term unemployment was defined as lasting greater than 25 weeks. The team contrasted the mental health of those who enjoyed uninterrupted employment with those who experienced a job loss lasting under 25 weeks and those who remain unemployed for more than 25 weeks.
The study revealed several interesting facts. First, a person who remained jobless for more than 25 weeks over the past year is three times more apt to experience mental health issues than is the person who had continual employment. This was true regardless of whether or not the person had ever been clinically diagnosed with mental health problems before. In other words, being unemployed for such an extended period was likely to initiate a person’s first ever exposure to clinically defined psychological distress. The potential for mental health problems was about the same for the person unemployed fewer than 25 weeks as it was for the person who was fully employed throughout.
Another contributing factor to whether a person undergoes psychological distress appears to be connected to their level of education. Those with higher levels of education were actually more at risk for mental distress than were those with less education. Researchers hypothesize that this may be due to the fact that more educated people feel a greater sense of control over their lives and when unemployment strikes, that sense of power is taken.
Also of note, this education-mental health connection appeared strongest among well-educated minorities. This could be because minorities are faced with formerly latent fears regarding job discrimination.
Depression and anxiety are common reactions to situations that make a person feel out of control such as long-term unemployment. Self-blame and worry about the future can become a struggle for people who have never before faced psychological struggles. Work provides people with a sense of purpose and its loss inherently impacts self-perception. Other bad news related to recessions: Marriage rates go down, divorce rates go up, and children of unemployed parents perform poorly and behave badly in school.
Like ripples from a pebble dropped in the water, losing a job reaches out and touches others parts of a persons life. The research indicates that a short-term job loss is mentally processed as another of the myriad ups and downs that make up life’s journey. On the other hand, long-term unemployment appears to wear down otherwise resilient people who, until now, had maintained a sense of power over their lives. Congress needs to hear the full-orbed impact of recessionary times. So much more than credit ratings get hurt when the economy refuses to repair.
The Science Of Rejection: Helping The Long-Term Unemployed
Project aims to assist long-term unemployed
MIT professor launching effort to help them overcome barriers
By Megan Woolhouse
The Boston Globe
November 17, 2013
More than four years after the last recession ended, long-term unemployment remains near record levels, with 4.1 million Americans out of work for more than six months and still struggling to find jobs. What makes the problem so vexing, Sharone said, is these workers, typically older, have qualifications that should provide the path to employment, namely experience, accomplishment, and college degrees.
You can’t just say go get an education because these people are often educated. he said. “It’s scary because there’s not an obvious, easy solution.”
Sharone, however, is daring to try to find one. Later this month, he will launch a project called the Institute for Career Transitions, an organization to help the long-term unemployed, focusing on 40- to 65-year-old workers with college degrees. The institute will begin by pairing them with career counselors or job coaches, free of charge, for three months.
Sharone and his researchers will also try to build a better understanding of long-term unemployment and approaches that might help overcome its challenges and barriers. They will study the moods, health, and levels of depression among participants, examining how long-term unemployment and repeated disappointments - affect them, their motivation, and ability to get back to work.
“We need a nuanced interpretation of what it means to get rejected,” he said. “How does that affect your future, your job search, your sense of self, your life, your relationships?”
Among those working with Sharone is Rand Ghayad, a Northeastern University researcher and visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, who has published groundbreaking work on long-term unemployment. Ghayad, who mailed 4,800 fictitious resumes and recorded employer response rates, concluded that companies frequently screen out applicants who are unemployed for more than six months.
Ghayad found that employers showed four times more interest in candidates unemployed for six months or less even if they had less experience and fewer qualifications than those experiencing longer bouts of joblessness. Older unemployed workers, he found, were most frequently passed over, viewed as having outdated skills or as being דdamaged goods.
“I believe workers aged 55 and older are not only suffering from unemployment discrimination, but also age discrimination, which is making it nearly impossible for them to find work in this sluggishly growing economy,” Ghayad said. “Long-term unemployment among older workers should be our priority as a nation.”
“Solving long-term unemployment would boost the nation’s economy, which is at risk of losing the potential, productive capacity, and spending power of millions of Americans,” Sharone and Ghayad said. “Many long-term unemployed ultimately drop out of the workforce, depleting retirement savings, collecting Social Security early, or turning to public assistance.”
Many also suffer debilitating depression, and in the worst cases become suicidal, feeling as if they have failed or no longer have value.
Sharone, 45, has studied long-term unemployment for more than a decade, an issue he came to unexpectedly. After graduating from Harvard Law School and working in the corporate world, he said he felt unfulfilled and returned to school at the University of California at Berkeley to study sociology, writing his doctoral dissertation on the experiences of unemployed technology workers after the dot-com bubble burst early in the last decade.
That crash left thousands of people out of work for several months and longer, despite skills, experience, and often advanced degrees.
Sharone said his research found that Americans tend to suffer greater discouragement related to long-term unemployment than do people in places like Israel, where Sharone was born and raised. In Israel, unemployed workers tend to blame the system, directing their anger at a rigid economy that can make it difficult to move between jobs.
Americans, however, often blame themselves. White-collar job searches put a heavy emphasis on networking with ones peers and on a candidateҒs chemistry with an employer, requiring prospective employees to establish rapport.
This means that when you are rejected for a job, it often feels like itӒs not your qualifications that have been rejected, its you, personally,Ҕ said Sharone, who recently published the book Flawed System/Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment ExperiencesӔ based on interviews with more than 170 white-collar job seekers in the United States and Israel.
Sharone said the new institute, primarily funded through his MIT research budget, will begin randomly matching about 60 unemployed people with career counselors and coaches in the next two weeks. The research component will study three groups of unemployed: one getting one-on-one career counseling, another receiving counseling in a group setting, and finally, a control group that wont get any coaching.
The program has taken referrals from networking groups to find candidates for the study. But response among career counselors and coaches has been so great (nearly 40 offered their services for free) that Sharone said there is room for about 20 additional long-term job seekers who want help. More openings could be on the horizon.
Sharone said anyone interested should visit the organization’s new WEBSITE.
Amy Mazur, a Newton career counselor who usually charges $85 an hour, said she is donating her services to the project because she thinks the intervention could help many long-term unemployed. She said she also wants to be part of a larger discussion among career professionals on how they might address the problem and change employers views of the long-term unemployed.
“What are we doing about a situation where we have people with a lot to offer, people with skills and motivation? You can’t put them out to pasture,” she said. “You don"t want to and it’s not the best thing for the economy and society.”
Sharone said he hopes to hold a conference on long-term unemployment in May to release his initial findings. The research could reveal strategies to benefit job seekers, identifying ways to help them network and overcome obstacles such as an ignored resume.
“It could also lead to something bigger,” Sharone said, “such as a national group that recruits professional counselors to offer this kind of service. Right now, there are few services and institutions dedicated to helping the long-term unemployed, heightening the isolation they likely feel.”
“How to cope and remain resilient in the face of rejection is one of the key skills that unemployed job seekers need to develop,” he said. “This is also about how to find a job. But an important part of what I care about is how to deal with rejection in a way that’s not overly self blaming.”
Megan Woolhouse can be reached at megan.woolhouse at globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at megwoolhouse.
Unemployment Is an “Ongoing Traumatic Stress Disorder”
How the Economic Crisis Affects Lives
By Leonard Fein
June 10, 2011
On a flight back from Israel several weeks ago, I had a brief conversation with my seatmate, an automotive parts salesman from London. We talked a bit about life in David Camerons England and then switched to Israel. That is when he startled me. I’d been describing how, within one 24-hour period, I’d heard the same words from a psychiatrist in Gaza and a social activist in Sderot, the city to which most of the rockets fired from Gaza have been aimed: “Everyone here,” they’d both said, “suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.” To which my seatmates immediate response was, “Why post?”
Why, indeed? People in both places cannot know whether and when the next assault will take place - a flurry of rockets, a bomb from a high-flying drone, perhaps more than that. So why post?? The trauma continues; it is part of life in these places.
I’ve been mulling his wisdom lately, and it occurs to me that around the world, there are very many people, altogether too many, who suffer from what I - not a mental health professional - am inclined to call OTSD, ongoing traumatic stress disorder.
Take the 13.9 million unemployed people in the United States today; of these, more than 6 million have been out of work for six months or more. These numbers do not include the 8.5 million הinvoluntary part-time workers, people who are working part-time either because their hours have been cut back or because they have been unable to find full-time jobs. At some recent point, most of these 22.4 million people were “outplaced,” the current euphemism for “fired,” or were shifted from full-time to part-time work.
These are but numbers, although they benumb us, or should. They summarize real people who suffer the agony of joblessness, which is often accompanied by growing feelings of worthlessness - and, of course, shame and guilt for the inability to provide adequately for themselves and for those who depend on them. The National Institute of Mental Health, often cautious in its language, says that People may develop PTSD in reaction to events that may not qualify as traumatic but can be devastating life events like divorce or unemployment. For my part, I cannot imagine the feelings of helplessness these people suffer, nor the fears they experience as more and more states cut or propose to cut back on unemployment insurance payments and as more and more of them lose their homes to foreclosure.
My brother, in the 1950s a young professor teaching economics at the University of North Carolina, tells a story that illustrates the shame: Midway through the semester - it became clear to me that none of my students had any idea of the real economic costs and psychological impact of unemployment. And so I gave them an assignment to be completed over their Christmas holidays. I asked that they speak to their parents or grandparents, an older relative or family friend, and discuss the ways the Great Depression had affected their lives. The students would then writean essay summarizing those conversations.
I was not surprised that the essays revealed that few of the students had been aware of this chapter in their family history and that they found their newly gained understanding both emotionally and intellectually rewarding. But I was surprised at the number of parents and grandparents who wrote to me or who asked their offspring to tell me how much they appreciated the assignment and its context. For many of them, this was the first time they had felt comfortable in telling their story, a story they feared would be interpreted as reflecting a personal failure.
Shame? Trauma? This last April, there were 219,258 new foreclosure filings; of the $46 billion that Congress gave the Treasury Department to spend on keeping homeowners in their houses, a total of $1.85 billion has been spent. If youre unemployed - currently, the primary cause of foreclosure it’s often impossible to negotiate your way out, since some monthly payment is still required. Now: Instead of “foreclosed,” a relatively anodyne word, read “evicted.” And consider whether the experience of being evicted qualifies as a trauma, one that continues to cause pain as you awake each morning in the home of relatives or friends and set out again to find a job, knowing that there are roughly five unemployed people for every job that awaits and that very many prospective employers will not consider unemployed candidates.
And Congress? Republicans battle on for their proposed solution: Slash federal spending, cut corporate taxes, deregulate, extend the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and allow the states to prematurely end benefits to the long-term unemployed - this although unemployment insurance is widely understood as one of the most effective means of increasing demand in a sluggish economy. Yes, our country has a long-term deficit problem. But the effort to “solve” that problem while ignoring the immediate jobs deficit problem is perverse.
There is no therapeutic model for dealing with such things. But perhaps we might learn from my brother’s experience, and seek out and get to know one person, one family, currently experiencing the trauma of joblessness.
Lost Income, Lost Friends and Loss of Self-respect
By Rich Morin and Rakesh Kochhar
July 22, 2010
Long-term unemployment takes a much deeper toll than short-term unemployment on a person’s finances, emotional well-being and career prospects, according to a new Pew Research Center survey that explores the attitudes and experiences of workers who have lost jobs during the Great Recession.
Of those who have experienced an unemployment spell of at least six months, more than four-in-ten (44%) report that the recession has caused major changes in their lives. By comparison, fewer than a third (31%) of those who had been unemployed less than six months and 20% of adults who were not unemployed during the recession say they were similarly affected.
To measure the impact of unemployment during the Great Recession, the Pew Research Center interviewed 810 adults ages 18 to 641 who are currently unemployed or who were jobless sometime since the recession officially began in December 2007. They were part of a nationally representative survey of 2,967 adults conducted May 11-31, 2010.
Pew Center researchers also analyzed recent employment data to create a demographic portrait of the long-term unemployed.2 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median duration of unemployment stood at 25.5 weeks in June 2010, meaning half of the unemployed the largest proportion since World War II - have been looking for work for six months or more. The previous high, in May 1983, was 12.3 weeks, less than half the level today. The Centers demographic analysis finds that the median duration is highest among older workers, blue-collar workers and black workers. However, all workers, regardless of race or ethnicity, age, gender, nativity or occupation, have experienced a sharp increase in long-term unemployment during the recession.
Together, the survey and analysis of employment data documenthow a prolonged period of joblessness can strain household budgets, test personal relationships, force changes in career plans and erode self- confidence. Key findings include:
Family finances: A majority of the long- term unemployed (56%) say their family income has declined during the recession, compared with 42% who were out of work less than three months and 26% of adults who have not been unemployed since the recession began in December 2007. Overall, the long-term unemployed are also more likely to say they are in worse shape financially now than before the recession.
Impact on relationships: Nearly half (46%) of those unemployed six months or more say joblessness has strained family relations, compared with 39% of those who were out of work for less than three months. At the same time, more than four- in-ten (43%) long-term unemployed say they lost contact with close friends
Loss of self-respect: Nearly four- in-ten (38%) long-term unemployed report they have lost some self-respect while out of work, compared with 29% who were jobless for shorter periods of time. The long-term unemployed also are significantly more likely to say they sought professional help for depression or other emotional issues while out of work (24% vs. 10% for those unemployed less than three months).
Impact on career goals: More than four-in-ten (43%) of the long-term unemployed say the recession will have a ғbig impact on their ability to achieve their long-term career goals. Among those unemployed less than three months, 28% said being jobless would have a similarly serious impact.
Am I in the right job? More than seven-in-ten long-term unemployed say they changed their careers or job fields or seriously thought about doing so. They also were more likely to pursue job retraining programs or other educational opportunities while out of work.
Settling for less: Among workers who found a job after being unemployed for six months or longer, about three-in-ten (29%) say their new job is worse than the one they lost, compared with only 16% of re-employed workers who had been jobless for less than six months. In separate questions, these workers also report their new job paid less and had worse benefits than their old one.
Pessimism on the job hunt: Among adults who are currently unemployed, those who have been jobless for six months or longer are significantly more pessimistic than the short-term unemployed about their chances of finding a job as good as the one they lost.
While the long-term unemployed have suffered the most during the Great Recession, the survey found that shorter spells of unemployment also have been painful for many Americans and their families.
The remainder of this report examines in more detail how the unemployed - particularly the long-term unemployed - have fared during the Great Recession. Chapter 1 offer a demographic profile of the long-term unemployed. The report then examines the problems encountered by those who have been unemployed during the recession and the larger hardships faced by the long-term unemployed. The final chapter examines how long-term unemployment affects workers even after they find another job and the attitudes of the currently unemployed.
Read the FULL REPORT for more details.
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Friday, September 27, 2013
Scarcity Makes You Stupid
By Tina Rosenberg
September 25, 2013
“Scarcity” is a new book that does something that I didnt think possible: it says something new about why people are poor - and what to do about it.
Heres whatҒs not new: Poor people have more self-destructive habits than middle-class people. The poor dont plan for the future as much. Compared to middle-class people, the poor have less self-control and are quicker to turn to instant gratification. These habits perpetuate a cycle of poverty.
This is proven. The controversy is why it is the case. For conservatives, roughly speaking, these behaviors cause poverty. For liberals, also roughly speaking, poverty in many ways causes these behaviors. It is easy to see how the stresses of poverty weigh in. With eating habits, for example: fruit and vegetables cost more that many unhealthier foods, and might not be available in a poor neighborhood.
But there are behaviors the liberal view struggles to explain. Even when healthy foods are available and made cheap, for example, poor people take advantage of them far less.
Now Sendhil Mullainathan, a Harvard economist, and Eldar Shafir, a psychologist at Princeton, propose a way to explain why the poor are less future-oriented than those with more money. According to these authors, one explanation for bad decisions is scarcity not of money, but of what the authors call bandwidth: the portion of our mental capacity that we can employ to make decisions.
Worrying about money when it is tight captures our brains. It reduces our cognitive capacity - especially our abstract intelligence, which we use for problem-solving. It also reduces our executive control, which governs planning, impulses and willpower. The bad decisions of the poor, say the authors, are not a product of bad character or low native intelligence. They are a product of poverty itself. Your natural capability doesnt decrease when you experience scarcity. But less of that capacity is available for use. If you put a middle-class person into a situation of scarcity, she will behave like a poor person.
The authors and two colleagues had a team of researchers approach SHOPPERS at a mall in New Jersey. People were asked about their income and then classified (without their knowledge) as either poor or rich. Then they were asked a question: your car needs a repair that will cost you $150. You can take a loan, pay in full, or postpone service. How do you go about making this decision? After they answered, the subjects took tests that measured fluid intelligence and cognitive control.
Poor and rich people did equally well on the test.
But then the researchers changed one thing: instead of needing $150 for the repair, they would need $1,500. The rich subjects did as well on the intelligence and willpower tests as they had before. The poor group did not.
Their scores dropped the equivalent of losing 13 or 14 IQ points - larger than the drop experienced by people who had just stayed up all night. Thinking about how to come up with $150 didnt affect them. But thinking about coming up with $1,500 eroded their intelligence more than if they had been seriously sleep-deprived.
This result isn’t particular to New Jersey. The same team studied sugar cane farmers in India, testing their intelligence just after the harvest, when they were flush with cash, and before it, when they were poor. The same farmers got 25 percent more questions right on the intelligence test when they were rich, and made 15 percent more errors on the executive control test when they were poor.
Isn’t this just stress? We know how harmful stress can be. But Mullainathan and Shafir argue that the effects of scarcity go further. It’s capture of our brains leads people into a tunnel; your only focus is solving the emergency of the moment. If the rent is due, you use money that would have gone to the car payment. The fact that this will end in getting your car repossessed, and therefore losing your job, doesn’t really register. You take very little notice of whats outside the tunnel.
In this way, scarcity creates a vicious circle. Tunneling leads people to borrow to deal with the emergency expense. For the poor, borrowing is VERY COSTLY. They take high-interest PAYDAY LOANS, buy on installment, pay large credit-card fees and interest. They borrow by paying bills late, which means they pay a substantial portion of their income in late fees and reconnection fees. These consequences, however, lie outside the tunnel - until paying those bills becomes the new emergency.
The authors designed complicated games to simulate conditions of scarcity. One was a version of the TV game show Family Feud, played by Princeton students assigned at random to either have a lot of time to answer questions or just a little. When researchers allowed players to borrow time from their future rounds at high rates of interest, the time-poor players borrowed profligately, and their scores plummeted. When the loans could be rolled over - simulating real-world debt traps - the time-poor did even worse.
Mullainathan and Shafir writethat the same mentality of scarcity that applies to the cash-poor also applies to people who are overly busy and those who are DIETING.
People short of time also tunnel, borrowing time by postponing projects that are tomorrows emergency but not todays. And being hungry captures the mind in a way similar to being poor. People who are on strict diets spend a lot of their bandwidth thinking about food.
“The scarcity phenomenon is good news because to a certain extent, we can design our way around it. Awareness of the psychology of scarcity and the behavioral challenges it yields can go some way toward improving the modest returns of anti-poverty interventions,” Mullainathan and Shafir write.
Here are some examples:
Automate good decisions. Since we cant be counted on to make good choices when weԒre in the tunnel, we can make them automatic. One decision to automate your choices will eliminate all those future opportunities to screw up. One way is to switch the default. For example, instead of making enrolling in a 401(k) savings plan voluntary, make not enrolling voluntary. This simple change has produced spectacular increases in usage of 401(k)s, organ donation and AIDS testing. It can be used for many outside-the-tunnel decisions, like building savings: sign up to have part of your paycheck automatically deposited into a savings account. You can still get at it, but you have to take steps to do so.
Provide better options for borrowing. Employers of minimum wage workers often complain that these workers are unprepared for their jobs, unfriendly to customers and distracted. Part of the reason may be that they are devoting little bandwidth to their jobs because they are worrying about how to live on their wages.
The theories in Scarcity support the idea that paying them a living wage would increase productivity. But since some employers may balk at this, the book proposes a smaller step: remove some of the penalties that come with borrowing.
Since poor people often have an urgent need for small sums, they take a lot of payday loans. These loans, some of which have interest rates of more than 300 percent, cost workers hundreds of dollars in fees. They are a scam designed to trap people in cycles of debt 85 percent of payday loans go to people who take seven or more loans each year. (See this report (pdf) for a thorough explanation of their horrors, and this column by Tom Edsall.)
One solution is to spread credit unions. Another is to expand workplace-based financial counseling and services, like Neighborhood Trust’s innovative Employer Solution.
Employers can help by paying weekly instead of bi-weekly, and by offering loans themselves with reasonable interest rates. Better yet, a portion of the repayment could go automatically into a savings account for each worker, so they could eventually borrow from themselves.
Internationally, we now know that microcredit loans are often used to cover personal emergencies, not to start businesses. They are not well-suited to this, as they are usually too large and take too much time to get. (This is why even people with access to microcredit continue to go to pawn brokers and loan sharks.) Dhanei KGFS, a financial services provider in Orissa, India, pioneered a successful new product: small, low-interest emergency loans that clients of their bank had pre-qualified for and could get at any time of day or night, nearly instantly.
Design services for the poor to take up less bandwidth. We know the poor are short of cash; we design for that (most of the time). But we dont think about their scarcity of bandwidth, and that should influence services as well. One good model is Single Stop, which operates more than 90 sites around the country where low-income people can apply for benefits, do their taxes and get legal and financial advice.
Structure incentives to put them inside the tunnel. Since scarcity forces us to tunnel, and concentrate only on what’s inside that tunnel, incentives and penalties will work best when they can be inside, too. This means very short deadlines and quick rewards - perhaps in several installments.
Telling people they can be on welfare for only five years isn’t effective. That deadline might not become part of the tunnel until they hit four years and 11 months too late to start looking for a job. Mullainathan and Shafir call this the worst of both worlds: җit penalizes but fails to motivate, they write.
The same phenomenon explains why the death penalty, the three-strikes law and other harsh punishments fail to deter criminals. No matter how harsh they are, they are far enough away to lie outside the tunnel.
These design shifts Ӕ the authors and others propose more of them on the behavioral economics site http://www.ideas42.org are a small solution to a very big problem. But the theory is a new one. It needs more study ח but part of that exploration will be trying out different models of antipoverty services that take bandwidth scarcity into account. It is far from the only reason people are poor, of course, but whats particularly useful about the idea of scarcity is that it is overarching; ease that burden, and people will be better able to deal with all the rest.
The Mental Strain of Making Do With Less
By Sendhil Mullainathan
September 21, 2013
Doets dont just reduce weight, they can reduce mental capacity. In other words, dieting can make you dumber.
Understanding why this is the case can illuminate a range of experiences, including something as far removed from voluntary calorie restriction as the ordeal of outright poverty.
Imagine that you are attending a late-afternoon meeting. Someone brings in a plate of cookies and places them on the other side of the conference table. Ten minutes later you realize you’ve processed only half of what has been said.
Why? Only half of your mind was in the meeting. The other half was with the cookies: “Should I have one? I worked out yesterday. I deserve it. No, I should be good.”
That cookiethreatened to strain your waistline. It succeeded in straining your mind.
This can happen even with no cookiein sight. Dieters conjure their own cookies: psychologists find that dieters have spontaneous self-generated cravings at a much higher rate than nondieters. And these cravings are not the dieters only distraction. Diets force trade-offs: If you eat the cookie, should you skip the appetizer at dinner? But that restaurant looked so good!
Many diets also require constant calculations to determine calorie counts. All this clogs up the brain. Psychologists measure the impact of this clogging on various tasks: logical and spatial reasoning, self-control, problem solving, and absorption and retention of new information. Together these tasks measure “bandwidth,” the resource that underlies all higher-order mental activity. Inevitably, dieters do worse than nondieters on all these tasks; they have less bandwidth.
One particularly clever study went further. It tested how dieters and nondieters reacted to eating a chocolate bar. Even though the bar provided calories, eating it widened the bandwidth gap between dieters and nondieters. Nondieters ate and moved on, but dieters started wondering how to make up for the calories they had just ingested or, even more fundamentally, pondered, “Why did I eat the bar?”
In other words, diets do not just strain bandwidth because they leave us hungry. They have psychological, not just physiological, effects.
The basic insight extends well beyond the experience of calorie counting. Something similar happens whenever we make do with less, as when we feel that we have too little time, or too little money. Just as the cookietugs at the dieter, a looming deadline preoccupies a busy person, and the prospect of a painful rent payment shatters the peace of the poor. Just as dieters constantly track food, the hyper-busy track each minute and the poor track each dollar.
As Prof. Eldar Shafir at Princeton University and I argue in our new book, “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much” (Times Books), a similar psychology of scarcity operates across these examples but with varying degrees of force. If a cookiecan tax our mental resources, imagine how much more psychological impact other forms of scarcity can have.
Take the case of poverty. In a paper published last month in Science, with Profs. Anandi Mani at the University of Warwick and Jiaying Zhao at the University of British Columbia, Professor Shafir and I waded into politically charged territory. Some people argue that the poor make terrible choices and do so because they are inherently less capable. But our analysis of scarcity suggests a different perspective: perhaps the poor are just as capable as everyone else. Perhaps the problem is not poor people but the mental strain that poverty imposes on anyone who must endure it.
One of our studies focused on Indian sugar cane farmers, who typically feel themselves to be both poor and rich, depending on the season. They are paid once a year at harvest time. When the crop is sold, they are flush with cash. But the money runs out quickly, and by the time the next harvest arrives they are stretched thin: they are, for example, 20 times as likely to pawn an item before harvest as after it. Rather than compare poor and rich farmers, we compare each farmer to himself: when he is rich against when he is poor. This kind of comparison is important because it addresses valid concerns that differences in psychological tests merely reflect differences in culture or test familiarity.
We measured farmers’ mental function on what psychologists call fluid intelligence and executive control ח one month before and one month after harvest. And the effects were large: preharvest I.Q., for example, was lower by about nine to 10 points, which in a common descriptive classification is the distance between averageӔ and superiorӔ intelligence. To put that in perspective, a full night without sleep has a similar effect on I.Q.
Bandwidth scarcity has far-reaching consequences, whether we are talking about poor farmers or affluent dieters. We all use bandwidth to make decisions at work, to resist the urge to yell at our children when they annoy us, or even to focus on a conversation during dinner or in a meeting. The diversity of these behaviors combined with the size of the measurable effects ח suggests a very different way to interpret the choices and behaviors of the poor. Just picture how distracting that cookiewas, and multiply that experience by a factor of 10.
For dieters, bandwidth scarcity has one particularly important consequence, illustrated in one study that gave people a choice between fruit salad and cake. Before choosing, half of the subjects had their bandwidth taxed: they were asked to remember a seven-digit number. The other half had a mentally less-demanding task: they were asked to remember a two-digit number. Those with less available bandwidth ate more cake: they were 50 percent more likely to choose cake than the others. There is a paradox here: diets create mental conditions that make it hard to diet.
This may sound defeatist. But there are positive lessons for how to manage the different kinds of scarcity.
The United States government, laudably, offers financial aid for low-income students to attend college. Qualifying for it, though, requires completing a densely packed 10-page booklet, mentally taxing for anyone. A one-page version would not only be simpler but it would also recognize that the poor are short on bandwidth as well as cash.
The same tactic economizing on bandwidth - can be used in dieting. Take the Atkins diet, which effectively bans many foods, including bread and a lot of desserts. A ban is less complex than the trade-offs and calorie accounting required by many other diets. While all diets require self-control, Atkins requires less thinking. This might explain its popularity, and even its effectiveness: a recent study shows that people persist longer with diets that require less thought.
The same study had another interesting finding: it was the perceived complexity of a diet - not its actual complexity - that determined persistence.
So keep this in mind the next time youre picking a diet to shed a few pounds. Try one that won’t also shed a few I.Q. points.
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