Sunday, 12 July 2015

The medical side-effects of China's stockmarket crash

by MICHAEL WOODHEAD

Headaches, irritability, depression and most of all insomnia are the most common medical side effects of China's stockmarket crash, doctors say.

Mental health specialists at Guangzhou's prestigious Sun Yat Sen Hospital say they have seen a stream of unwell patients this week suffering from the mental effects of severe stress from the stockmarket collapse.

"Some people can not sleep at night, have difficulty falling asleep or wake up in the early hours three or four times a night.
Many people have overt physical symptoms such as palpitations, chest tightness, aches and pains, stupor and confusion," says psychiatrist Dr Wei Qinling.

Dr Wei says the worst affected people are those with a casino mentality towards the stockmarket and those with little mental resilience, who are most at risk of severe depression, mental confusion and possible suicide risk. Other common reactions are despair, alcohol abuse and loss of motivation. Some workers in the finance industry say there is nothing to work for anymore, and they have lost a reason to work. Others have lost their livelihoods altogether. Dr Wei says some have gone on extreme drunken binges to try wipe out the stress.

And in what some are calling "stocks syndrome", people suffers from sever stress from the sudden reversal from riches to destitution. This is a mix of severe anxiety, guilt, frustration and mental paralysis. Dr Wei says some people have symptoms that are so severe they may require hospital admission and antidepressant treatment.

However, at the Beijing Union Medical College Hospital Department of Psychological Medicine, Dr Li Jianzhong says some people are looking for a quick fix for symptoms such as insomnia. Some of the most difficult to treat are those who were most greedy when the market was good and became obsessed with the stockmarket. After making large gains they are now in denial and are unable to accept that they have made losses and cannot adjust to reality. Counselling may be needed, but it requires people to learn about "spiritual wealth" as well as financial wealth, he says.

Dr Li says there are two steps to treating "stock syndrome". Firstly, people must identify the cause of their symptoms and learn to manage the stressors through activities such as deep breathing and findings distractive activities such as walking or sport. Secondly, people must find an alternative to obsession with the stockmarket and focus on that.

In Shanghai, psychologist Dr Chen Gong says there has been an increase in patients with 'financial stress' but it would be an exaggeration to say his department has been overwhelmed. For him, two of the most serious consequences of mental stress from the stockmarket are cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. These may be triggered by severe stress, and people must learn to change their habits and behaviour to have a more balanced life, he suggests. Another problem with financial stress is its effect on the family,and relationships, he adds. He recommends that people talk openly with their family and focus more on family activities rather than being preoccupied with speculating on shares.

Dr Wei, however, warns that for some people the stockmarket has become a form of addiction, just like gambling. He warns family members to look out for signs of addiction and to recommend counselling and treatment for those who have become addicted to the stocks - and are at risk of withdrawal symptoms.

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