Spring is the season when the cherry trees and cottonwoods bloom. For
Barbara Halpern, spring is also the season when her workweek blooms to 80 hours
or more. Accompanying those long work hours are the colds, migraines,
dizziness, and weight swings that plague Halpern and her colleagues at her
small accounting firm in suburban Connecticut.
"Everyone is rundown and susceptible," Halpern, owner of Halpern
& Associates, tells WebMD. "We hate the spring and nice weather. It's
not supposed to get warm until April 16."
If you knew that frequent anger might raise your risk of heart disease
significantly, would you continue to blow off steam by yelling and smashing
things during an argument or getting furious if the office email crashes during
a rushed, stressful day?
It's time for hot heads to take heed: Increasingly, the negative, irritable,
raging, and intimidating personality type worries heart researchers and doctors
alike. "You're talking about people who seem to experience high levels of anger
Tax preparers like Halpern may bear the brunt of tax-time stress. But nearly
everyone has a reason to dread the 1040 tango. Some hate the math; some hate
the feds. And yet others hate having to grapple with one of the great mysteries
of life: Where did the money go?
Money and Stress
"Money is a major source of stress on people, and what tax season does
is shine a great big spotlight on the issue," Michael McKee, a Cleveland
Clinic psychologist and president of the U.S. branch of the International
Stress Management Association, tells WebMD. "Money takes center stage at
tax time, even if you might have been able to push it to the wings the rest of
A 2004 survey sponsored by the American Psychological Association found that
nearly three-quarters of Americans cited money as a significant source of
stress. Money is also consistently among the top causes of marital contention,
says Olivia Mellan, a psychotherapist and financial self-help author based in
The Emotional Toll of Taxes
Often, one partner in a marriage is a spender who avoids any discussion of
money, while the other partner is a saver and a worrier, Mellan tells WebMD.
The result is resentment at tax time, when both partners must examine how their
habits are affecting progress toward their financial goals.
Fear of the government also emerges at tax time. Some clients of financial
counselor Karen McCall are so afraid of the IRS that they won't take even the
most innocuous deduction. "They're paralyzed because the IRS is an
authority figure, and if they have unresolved issues around authority figures
in their lives, that can cause a lot of fear."
For some unlucky taxpayers that fear is understandable. McKee says people
who have been through audits can suffer from posttraumatic stress syndrome for
years afterward during tax season.