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Unemployment & mental health: How losing your job takes a toll on the psychological state

Updated : March 6th, 2020

Employment is undoubtedly essential for meeting one’s basic requirements. It promotes self-esteem, self-realization, and satisfies creative urges. Conversely, unemployment has adverse effects on mental health. Read on to know more about how unemployment and mental health are interconnected. 

According to statistics, the unemployment rate in the United States rose to 3.6% in 2020. Several factors, such as changing policies, climate change, widespread epidemics like coronavirus, etc. have contributed to the rise in the unemployment rate. 

Unemployment and Mental Health

With that said, unemployment, particularly when involuntary or unexpected, takes a toll on one’s mental balance. An unemployed person displays lower levels of psychological well-being than the employed. When one experiences unemployment for an extended period, he/she can report several mental disorders & conditions such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, substance abuse, to name a few. In some extreme cases, psychological distress can lead to violent and suicidal behaviors. Let us have a brief look at the impacts of unemployment on mental health.

Depression 

As per statistics, about 6.7% of US adults experience major depressive disorder after a job loss. When individuals remain unemployed for a longer time, it is natural for them to feel a sense of hopelessness. Some just feel disappointed, and others may disconnect themselves from family, friends, and social life as they find it difficult to face people and questions on the unemployment that arises during the conversation. Some of the symptoms of depression include:

  • Social isolation
  • Irritability 
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of concentration 
  • Hypersomnia 

In some extreme cases, individuals can also experience hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, and delusions. 

Anxiety 

Anxiety is another major psychological disorder attributed to long-term unemployment. When individuals no longer have a source of revenue, they become anxious about everything. How to fulfill the needs of the family? How to pay utilities, rent, medical, meals, and children’s school fees? Such thoughts can haunt them all the time. Some of the symptoms of anxiety are:

  • Restlessness
  • Excessive worry 
  • Irritability 
  • Specific phobia
  • Sleep disturbance 
  • Muscle tension

Long-term anxiety or chronic anxiety can result in physical health issues such as respiratory and urinary problems, and many more.  

Low self-esteem 

Unemployment and mental health conditions, like self-esteem, are closely linked. When employed, individuals would feel a sense of purpose and critical contributors to society. But when they lose the job or remain unemployed for a longer duration, they experience the feeling of worthlessness, incompleteness, and lack of confidence. Further, due to low self-esteem, the unemployed person might see disapproval or rejection even when there isn’t any. Some of the common signs of low self-esteem are as follows:

  • Social isolation
  • Sensitive to criticism 
  • Indecisive
  • Fear of failure
  • Easily annoyed
  • Constantly seeking reassurance
  • Trouble being alone

Low self-esteem can also manifest physical health problems and erode individuals’ life in every way. 

Develop low confidence

Being unemployed can unknowingly cause psychological damages like lack of confidence or self-doubt. This is common among those who are unemployed for a longer period. Self-doubt deepens when they are unable to find a job within a short span after losing a source of income. The individuals may feel they are not worthy of a job and start doubting their skills and capabilities. Common signs of lack of confidence are as listed below.

  • Constructive to feedback
  • Emotional turmoil
  • Continuously trying to find a loophole in skills 
  • Keeping mum during job regarding conversations 
  • Finding excuses for actions 

Individuals developing low confidence can eventually lapse into conditions where every action appears personal. 

In the worst scenario, the unemployed can also turn to illegal drug use. Unemployment is undoubtedly one of the significant factors that affect mental health. However, the impact varies with the duration of unemployment. 

If you are one among the unemployed, do not lose hope, and pay attention to your mental health. If you are employed but know people who are currently facing such unfortunate situations, ensure to motivate them and ask them to stay positive! 

If you are in need, you can avail of unemployment benefits. Ensure to check your eligibility criteria before applying for filing for unemployment benefits.  

 

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