Does the World Have Financial PTSD?

When FDR said: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” he was right. PTSD is the fear following an intial trauma — that caused you to feel vulnerable — of retraumatization, that you’re afraid will finish the job and destroy you.

When FDR said: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” he
was right.  PTSD is the fear following an intial trauma — that caused
you to feel vulnerable — of retraumatization, that you’re afraid will
finish the job and destroy you.


You listen to the stock
market reports as if rubber necking a car accident. And when you hear
about that 500+ and then 600+ point drop in the Dow, you’re not merely
disappointed, you feel a kick in the stomach and get nauseated or light
headed. Your boss reassures you that there will not be any more layoffs,
but his voice seems tentative. Nauseated and light-headed again. You’re
speaking less and less to people around you. You’ve lost your sense of
humor. Even if you’re a calm person, you have to struggle with your own
road rage if someone cuts you off in traffic. Your drinking is up. And
as far as dieting, exercising, taking care of yourself or having a
healthy happy sex life? Forgetaboutit.

What’s going on? You are
continually being traumatized and re-traumatized, can’t get your footing
and instead of becoming stronger, you’re becoming more anxious. And if
the following hold true, there’s a good chance that you have Financial

Re-experiencing the traumatic event

  • Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
  • Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
  • Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
  • Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
  • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)

PTSD symptoms of avoidance and emotional numbing

  • Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
  • Loss of interest in activities and life in general
  • Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
  • Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)

PTSD symptoms of increased arousal

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)
  • Feeling jumpy and easily startled

Other common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Anger and irritability
  • Guilt, shame or self-blame
  • Substance abuse
  • Depression and hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • Feeling alienated and alone
  • Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
  • Headaches, stomach problems, chest pain

can you do? First off, knowledge is not just power, it also helps gives
you control over anxiety. To that end you could start to take a
Financial Literacy (see resources below) course to better understand
money and finances. That way you won’t feel so dependent on and
vulnerable with institutions you may have trouble trusting at this

And you can actually seek the same treatment that soldiers
with PTSD or rape victims (and doesn’t a part of you feel raped by the
economic events of the past couple years?) including support groups,
seeking out a therapist or psychiatrist and checking out resources such
as those at the bottom of this blog.

You also might do well to
heed and follow the famed Serenity Prayer (so embedded in the fabric of
12-step programs): “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I
cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know
the difference.”

Too inspirational for you? Need something more concrete?

Then how about:

  1. Each
    day when you wake up say to yourself and write down the answer to:
    “What do I need to do today (or the next week), to make my
    company/department/organization a better company/department/organization
    and my marriage and family happier and my health healthier?”
  2. Then
    “Just Schedule It.” Either for today or the next few days, because you
    haven’t made a commitment until you’ve scheduled it and you haven’t kept
    a commitment until you’ve checked it off after you have done it.

And what about a larger scale Rx for leaders in America and around the world?

this as a guiding principle: A goal without a measurable outcome and
specific strategies and tactics to achieve it is like throwing darts
into the future based on a wing and a prayer
(both of which it seems we are fresh out of).


About the author

Mark Goulston, M.D. is the Co-Fonder of Heartfelt Leadership a global community whose Mission of Daring to Care it dedicated to identifying, celebrating, developing and supporting heartfelt leaders who are as committed to making a difference as they are to making a profit