The nation’s home foreclosure epidemic is taking a toll on Americans’ mental health, according to a study released in August by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Researchers enlisted 250 Philadelphia homeowners who were undergoing foreclosure, and almost half reported symptoms of depression and 37 percent met the criteria for major depression, the study found.
Peter Kanaris, a Smithtown-based psychologist and the public education campaign coordinator for the New York State Psychological Association, was asked about the psychological cost of foreclosure for Long Islanders:
Have you noticed a rise in patients distressed about foreclosure?
Yes, there has been an increase in clients presenting stress reactions to the current economic crisis, including those facing foreclosures and even those just facing the threat of losing their home. Just the prospect of losing a home can sometimes cause more symptoms of depression than to those who are going through the actual process of foreclosure.
What has been the approximate increase of such patients?
I really can’t give a precise percentage, but we’ve noticed a general increase. People with depression and anxiety also may have their overall health affected. They are more inclined to get sick. With stress, there is a mind/body connection. Wherever a person has a physical vulnerability, such as a heart condition, headaches, high blood pressure and even diabetes, stress can cause the symptoms of these health conditions to worsen. Relatedly, stress can compound the problems of negative behavioral habits, such as smoking, gambling, overeating, drinking and drug use.
What specific symptoms might someone who is depressed have while possibly losing their home?
There are different symptoms associated with depression. One may feel a sense of helplessness, hopelessness and overall dispair, and anhedonia — the I-get-no-kick-from-champagne-syndrome, which means not enjoying normal activities or things that usually bring enjoyment. Also, insomnia, change in appetite, irritability, anxiety, headaches, a rapid heartbeat, sweating — these are all common symptoms that relate to depression and a stress condition. Certainly, if you have multiple symptoms, you should contact your family doctor and a mental health professional. You should also reach out to your family or friends for support — beware of self-isolating and withdrawing — and try to take care of yourself by eating properly, getting rest and exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block.
Is the NYSPA addressing this concern through special correspondence, seminars, etc.?
Yes, the American Psychological Association and the New York State Psychological Association are currently promoting a mind/body public health campaign. I would recommend the Web sites nyspa.org and apa.org where there are loads of information on how to cope with stress, and if people want to speak to a professional, where one can be found in their area.