Men's Health (USA)

MICROAGGRE­SSIONS,

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Passing comment. Harmless question. Stupid joke. Little acts of discrimina­tion, over years, can snowball into very real health consequenc­es. This is how we fight back—and save lives.

BY BEE QUAMMIE

THE MICROAGGRE­SSION

A colleague what you have to say during meetings.

dismisses regularly

THE MICROAGGRE­SSION

Your

employer promotes others at your level,

despite their having underperfo­rmed.

Look elsewhere for help. Are there others on staff who may have suffered similar setbacks? Set up a time to discuss if the issue is worth taking to HR. And check out therapy or support groups to help you process your feelings.

’VE HEARD it all in the past six months—fury over job loss, dismay at a crumbling social life, discomfort about race, frustratio­n induced by the stir-crazies. As I’ve listened to clients at my psychiatri­c practice tell me their struggles, I’ve realized that many have something in common despite how different their stories are.

Take Paul—not his real name, of course—an executive in his late 50s whom everyone knew as the boss. He was focused and responsive, the guy who fed off people’s energy and got stuff done. As COVID-19 cases began to rise, though, he noticed that a new irritabili­ty and lack of concentrat­ion crept in. “My attention is all over the place, sleep has been terrible, and I’m worried about getting sick,” he told me. He started snapping at his wife, and he felt like he was losing his mind.

IPaul wasn’t losing it. Technicall­y, what he was going through is called adjustment disorder, which means that you have a bigger reaction than normal to something stressful. You feel worried, jittery, or hopeless—and you don’t have the necessary coping skills to deal with it.

Typically, adjustment disorder is intense and brief, and you can pinpoint where it’s coming from. Other forms of anxiety can make you feel keyed up for months without your even knowing why. Paul and I recognized that his concerns about the virus had hijacked his ability to focus and function.

Recently, I’ve been seeing so many people like Paul that we as a medical community may need to revisit calling adjustment disorder a disorder. Pandemics can cause this, yes, but so can getting divorced, sending your kid to college, or

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