Work Overload Brings Panic, Anxiety, Stress

The more demanding recession-crunched jobs get, the more health problems ensue.

ByABC News
September 9, 2008, 6:15 PM

Feb. 18, 2010 — -- By now we've all heard the tales of the new workplace normal: Dwindling resources and ever-burgeoning workloads drive managers to push their staff to new lengths -- and new lows. Feeling trapped, rank-and-file workers do as they're told and do their best to keep the ensuing stress at bay.

Until getting laid off last month, Kristen, who didn't want to give her last name, was one of those workers. Only the more demanding her job became, the more her health suffered.

For one thing, the depression Kristen had managed all her adult life with "relatively low-strength" medication became unbearable, and her doctor prescribed her a second antidepressant.

For another, said the fit, 25-year-old St. Louis resident, "My blood pressure was totally rising. And I'd never had high blood pressure before. Plus, it was getting to the point where I had a bad headache every day. I was like, 'This is getting out of control.'"

Her doctor, who she was seeing more and more, thought so too.

"When I got laid off, my doctor said, 'You know, I'm really glad you're not working there anymore,'" Kristen explained. "It's stressful looking for a new job, but at the same time, I'm glad I don't have to deal with that anymore."

Kristen has plenty of company.

A recent report from Harris, Rothenberg International found that the number of calls workers were making to company-sponsored Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) increased by almost 10 percent in 2008.

"We have had a huge surge in call volume since the recession began," said Dr. Charles Lattarulo, clinical director of Harris, Rothenberg International, which provides EAPs for 2,600 employers and 7 million workers worldwide.

"People are in distress," he said. "They're calling with panic attacks, anxiety and depression. They're working a lot more hours. They're not taking lunch, and they're not taking vacations."

In fact, Lattarulo said, his counselors have experienced a surge in requests for phone sessions, as opposed to face-to-face counseling.

"People don't want to come in to therapy because they don't want to be perceived as slackers," he explained. "Instead they're doing telephone therapy on their way in to work, on their commute. We've never had that happen before."