Overcoming Unemployment Anxiety, My Patient’s Story

Manny’s problems with anxiety began about five years ago, when he lost his job as a mortgage broker during the recession. His wife, Linda, had just taken early retirement, but Manny was hoping to put in a few more years on the job. When that plan didn’t work out, Manny started getting unemployment while he looked for a new job.

Unfortunately, being over 60 made job-hunting difficult. After more than a dozen interviews that led nowhere, Manny basically gave up. He was still willing, ready, and able to work, but no one was hiring. He continued to go through the motions, but every day it seemed his mood was darker and his outlook bleaker. Linda insisted he see me, because she was concerned that his constant worrying was making his high blood pressure even higher.

According to Linda, losing his job had hit Manny’s self esteem hard.

“He’s lost confidence,” she told me when she came to my clinic with her husband. “All he does is mope around, and worry, worry, worry. And it’s really not over money, because we have plenty of savings from when the real estate market was going strong. He just feels irrelevant, like no one needs him.”

Manny’s exam revealed that his blood pressure was far too high, and so were other health markers, including his blood sugar results. He asked about medicine to lower his blood pressure, but I had to be honest with him.

“Medicine can only do so much,”

I said. “High blood pressure and blood sugar are new problems for you, and, from what Linda says, it looks like they’re both caused by stress from being unemployed. It would be better to deal with that first.”

Manny agreed that he was not himself, but he didn’t know how to overcome his feelings of desperation over his job loss.

“Would you be willing to try doing a few things differently?” I asked. “I’m thinking you would feel better if you spent more time outside, being active and doing something you really enjoy, instead of cooped up in the house, fretting.”

Manny grudgingly agreed to get out more, and Linda offered to make sure he followed through. But I was not prepared for the new, improved Manny who returned to my clinic six months later. His former downcast expression and defeated, slump-shouldered posture were gone. Instead, Manny was smiling, standing up straight, and enthusiastic about the future.

It turns out that my advice to spend more time outside resulted in Manny striking up a friendship with the owner of a fishing boat rental business at a nearby pier. Now Manny had a job repairing the boats.

“It pays well, and I get to ‘test drive’ the boats to make sure they’re working right,” he explained. “But the great thing is that I love what I’m doing. In fact, I should be paying my boss to work there!”

Linda confirmed that Manny’s recovery from months of anxiety was the real deal, and she was thrilled to learn that his blood pressure and glucose levels were both down to normal.

“Now that his mind is occupied with work, he’s back to his old self – joking around, fun to be with – and healthy, too! It just never occurred to him to look outside the mortgage broker field for work. And as soon as he did, he found his dream job!”

Since Manny’s experience, I’ve started telling his story to other patients. It’s a good example of how becoming involved in something other than your own concerns can make a big difference in your emotional – and physical – health.


Last Updated: August 16, 2018
Originally Published: August 27, 2013