Alternet's new series on "job insecurity" opens with a frightening and infuriating piece from Lynn Parramore, who paints a picture of a nation where the new normal is to be marginally employed, in terror of a coming layoff, haunted by unshakable student debt, and in a continuous, panicked search for work, all at once:
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Our capitalist endeavor was supposed to make us safe from the vagaries of weather conditions and arbitrary events that harassed our ancestors. But somehow we’ve ended up more worried than ever.
Anxiety disorders now plague 18 percent of the U.S. adult population –- a whopping 40 million people. Only half that number are affected by mood disorders. The drug alprazolam — familiar by its brand name, Xanax — was prescribed 46.3 million times in 2010, making it that year’s bestselling psychiatric drug. Prozac, the happiness-and-optimism pill, has been pushed aside by a medication meant to just help you get through the day without collapsing in a puddle of anxiety.
It’s easy to see the appeal of popping a Xanax. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association paints a picture of workers on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
* Sixty-two percent say work has a significant impact on their stress levels.
* Almost 50 percent indicate their stress levels have increased between 2007 and 2008.
* Forty-five percent of workers say job insecurity has a significant impact on stress levels.
...When we fear the hatchet will fall, when the future is a fog, when we’re paralyzed by powerlessness, we start to flip out. We pile on more work than we can handle. We don’t take sick days when we need them. We start fueling up on coffee and cigarettes, and dropping the things that are good for us, like leisure activities and trips to the gym. Under chronic stress, our immune systems start to buckle from “overresponsivity.”