Finances Affecting Mental Health

February 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Your "financial health" might be suffering in these tough economic times, but what about your mental health?Valley mental health specialists said they are seeing a dramatic rise in people seeking help. In fact, "The American Psychological Association's" latest poll found 80-percent of those surveyed are severely stressed about finances.

Cheryl Niederfrank of Fresno is getting married, and her mother couldn't be happier.

In this tough economy they're shopping for good deals for the wedding, but Carol Niederfrank also has the stress of paying such a large expense just after her husband passed away in May.

"He had pancreatic liver cancer and it lasted probably a year," said Carol Niederfrank.

Instead of withdrawing from life, Carol reached out and joined a support group that helped her get through an unsure emotional and financial future without her husband. "It was really a good thing that I had someone outside of the family to lean on."

That's one of the keys to getting through tough times according to Dr. Keith Delaere of Fresno.

The Kaiser Permanente psychotherapist has seen a significant increase of patients who are seeking therapy for stress that's directly related to the economic down turn. "Our body starts to breakdown. We don't function as well. We start to have anxiety. We start to lose sleep," said Dr. Delaere.

Dr. Delaere said there are key signs of stress that act as a warning before more a more serious condition of depression could develop. They include: disruption of normal sleep patterns, increased irritability, relationship problems, heart palpitations, difficulty breathing and feelings of despair or hopelessness.

Dr. Delaere said it's important to recognize when you need help. "What's going to be hard about that is you say I don't have time for that, I've got my mortgage to pay I've got to worry about my job, what's happening in my home, so sometimes it's hard to quiet the mind for just a few minutes to do that but it's important and it's helpful."

Dr. Delaere said reaching out for help isn't a sign of weakness, but of strength. For Carol Niederfrank, it's what keeps her going one day at a time. "It's hard learning how to take control of your life and that's a big thing and I'm going through that and I'm doing pretty well in it."

Many therapists teach their patients, relaxation techniques. They say the simple act of "quieting the mind" can help the body relax and prevent it from breaking down under stress.

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