Alden Cass is a clinical psychologist who specializes in financial-services employees. Below, the “Stock Doc” speaks.
Registered Rep.: In your book, Bullish Thinking, you state there is a problem with depression among financial advisors. Why is that?
Alden Cass: It's a very stressful industry. And many people don't speak up about it until it's too late. That was a qualitative finding that I got from my study, because none of the people in my study had sought help when they were experiencing those symptoms. They may not even know they are depressed.
RR: What is clinical depression?
AC: Clinical depression is the diagnosis that would be given when someone's mood is so drastically low that it impairs him in his social and occupational functioning. We're not talking about a few days here — but two full weeks. It's where a person feels hopeless, suffers a loss of energy, a loss of interest in activities he once enjoyed.
RR: What are warning signs?
AC: Usually you look at changes in sleep patterns all of a sudden. It's an abrupt change in emotion and behavior. So you're going to start to see a little bit more social withdrawal and isolation. The life-of-the-party guy is all of a sudden going to be behind closed doors, and leaving work early or coming to work late.
RR: Explain the concept of “depersonalization.”
AC: Depersonalization is a defense mechanism that happens naturally with people when they're approaching levels of job burnout. It's our mind and body's way of dealing with painful emotions, such as depression, anxiety, emotional exhaustion and anger. In this business, it's when advisors start to treat clients as if they are for monetary gain only.
RR: And this can have negative consequences for even on successful advisors.
AC: In my study, we found that eight months later, 25 percent of those brokers were displaced from their current jobs even though they were making the most money at the time of the study.
RR: So in other words you can be really doing well and really not be healthy at all.
AC: It's almost like a time bomb. Depersonalization can cover the burnout only for so long before it creeps out.