Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

The Enigma of Demonetization and the Unexplored Consequences

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

The Enigma of Demonetization and the Unexplored Consequences

Article excerpt

Byline: Arun. Enara, Mahesh. Gowda

DISCLAIMER: The economic impact, both positive and negative, for the decision of demonetisation is beyond the scope of this article. The authors lack the expertise to comment on the economic impact of this phenomenon. The purpose of this article is only to explore the possible psychological impact of an economic crisis.

Demonetize is a transitive verb. Merriam Webster defines demonetization as "to stop using (metal) as a monetary standard, to deprive of value for official payment."[1] On November 8, 2016, the Government of India announced the demonetization of all Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi Series. The government claimed that the action would curtail the shadow economy and crack down on the use of illicit and counterfeit cash to fund illegal activity and terrorism. The sudden nature of the announcement-and the prolonged cash shortages in the weeks that followed-created a significant disruption in people's personal, occupational, and social lives.[2] In the official notification sent out by the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, the move was to curb financing of terrorism through the proceeds of fake Indian currency notes and the use of such funds for subversive activities such as espionage, smuggling of arms, drugs, and other contrabands into India and also for eliminating black money.[3] The unearthed black money was also expected to expand the fiscal space of the government.[4]

The issue of demonetization has been discussed and debated by politicians, economists, sociologists, and policy makers alike. They have touched on the economic impact, economic downfall, economic crisis, and so on. There is little available literature regarding the psychological impact of demonetization. The aim of this article is to bring out the psychological impact of demonetization as witnessed by us in our tertiary private psychiatry clinic in Bengaluru. We aim to do this as a series of six cases.

Demonetization - a Stressor, a Crisis, or a Precipitant?

Stressor is defined as any stimulus, internal state, situation, or event with an observable individual reaction, usually in the form of positively adapting or negatively adapting to a new or different situation in one's environment.[5] In general, stressors are events such as daily annoyances, pressures at home or on the job, marital discord and conflicts, emergencies, motor vehicle accidents, illness, and injury. Positive stressful life events and transitions include birth of a newborn, graduation ceremony, a family vacation, or a job promotion.[6]

A crisis, on the other hand, is an acute disruption of psychological homeostasis in which one's usual coping mechanisms fail, and there exists evidence of distress and functional impairment. The subjective reaction to a stressful life experience that compromises the individual's stability and ability to cope or function.[5]

The International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Edition describes the nature of a stressor that would result in an acute stress reaction as an overwhelming traumatic experience involving serious threat to the security or physical integrity of the individual or of a loved person(s) (e.g., natural catastrophe, accident, battle, criminal assault, rape), or an unusually sudden and threatening change in the social position and/or network of the individual, such as multiple bereavement or domestic fire.[7] Demonetization as a stressor has been unusually sudden and threatening to many. Demonetization has been a stressor and a crisis for many. It may have triggered an acute stress reaction or an adjustment disorder, which many psychologists had already anticipated. The nature of psychological consequences that have emerged owing to demonetization is unlike the typical acute stress reactions from the cases we witnessed in our tertiary private psychiatry clinic in Bengaluru. With the wide variety of presentations, we have had in our tertiary private psychiatry clinic, the question we are asking ourselves is: Have we downplayed the effect of such a massive phenomenon? …

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