The emotional toll of losing a job

February 24, 2009 12:31:46 PM PST
Being out of work creates not only financial heartache, but also can cause an intense emotional strain."I have not seen the situation as dire as this one," Dr. Ani Kalayjian said.

Psychologist Dr. Kalayjian is seeing more clients suffering under the pressures of losing their jobs.

"Anything from depression to panic attacks, anxiety, general anxiety to nightmares and fear," says Dr. Kalayjian "During the job search, lots of fear. How would I pay my bills? How would I survive?" Kyle Nickens said.

Nickens knows too well. We met last fall when he had been laid off for months.

"Unemployment experience was hard. Felt lethargic," said Nickens.

It's where Karen Nelson is now. She is a confident woman with degrees in teaching and social work, but now she's unemployed. Resumes are out everywhere, but no offers so far.

"It plays on a sense of hopelessness, and I find myself fighting to not become hopeless about the situation," Karen Nelson says.

Dr. Kalayjian says fight yes, but also look for what else you may be missing.

"Use this time to evaluate what's important in your life. This is a time given by the universe for you to re-evaluate your life's priorities," Dr. Kalayjian said.

She says in losing their jobs, many people, unfortunately, are losing their identities.

"They put their whole life meaning into their work, and when I say, what else did you do? Nothing. I worked!" Dr. Kalayjian explained.

American work culture is partly to blame, she says. We accept that our jobs help define our worth, as Karen can attest.

"There is a value that is attached to that, nothing can replace that, when you have your own earnings, your own income," she said.

And Kyle proves it. Back to work, he turned a temporary position into a permanent career.

"Things are great. Been on a business trip, new challenges, new things I haven't done before. I'm already planning a vacation," Kyle said.

Dr. Kalayjian's advice for all of us: spend time with family, revive old goals, volunteer. Become part of the community that has to help us all survive this economic crisis.

"Here is a gift from God's universe for you to really take care of yourself. Prioritize, and have a plan, because this may happen again," he said.

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