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White Collar Addictions During COVID-19

It’s safe to say that every person in this country has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It doesn’t matter what religion you are, what your ethnic background is or even how wealthy you may be. And on that final note, it is interesting to call out that many professional “white collar” Americans are developing addictions as a consequence to the health crisis; at least according to a new article from The Guardian.


As The Guardian defines it, white collar professionals can include anything from attorneys, doctors, tech leaders and corporate executives (just to name a few). According to their research, people in these positions could easily fall prey to substance abuse; particularly alcoholism and anti-anxiety “benzo” addictions.


Though we often think people with high-level jobs are impenetrable, they too have been greatly impacted by the coronavirus epidemic. For example, The Guardian reported that as many as 1.5 million white collar jobs have been eliminated over the past eight months. One industry hit particularly hard was leisure and hospitality; as executives in that field have lost 4.1 million jobs since February. And though you may think doctors and health professionals have been gainfully employed throughout COVID-19, the article claims that over 1.2 million jobs were lost in that industry.


Nina Vasan, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine, spoke to The Guardian about this latest addiction trend.


“From what we’ve seen, these top 1% sort of folks, which include tech execs, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers and investment bankers, are all struggling in ways we haven’t seen before,” Vasan explained.” The isolation, uncertainty and lack of control are a perfect setup for depression, anxiety drug use and excessive drinking.”


She added that job losses within these fields can take a larger psychological toll than people in blue collar professions. As she explained, people who have gone through years of schooling to earn MBA’s, JD’s, MD’s and PhD’s have very determined career paths and often associate their whole identity with their career. If they lose the jobs they worked so hard to attain, it is very easily to spiral into addictive behavior.


As Vasan added, “These types of circumstances can cause an existential crisis for professionals, as they question their place in the world and their purpose. And that can also be a trigger for self-medication.”


And, believe it or not, people who appear wealthy often have high expenses too. Losing a lucrative job can easily send them into financial turmoil and deep despair. If you know someone, from any career level, who is turning to drugs or alcohol to cope with COVID-19, please do not hesitate to reach out.