The Psychological Effects of Brexit So Far…


On Thursday June 23 Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU). The referendum has divided the nation with those who voted to remain at 48% and those who chose Brexit trumping with 52% of the vote.

The status of our economy, our NHS and political leaders are uncertain and change is inevitable. Already we have encountered many changes since Brexit was announced last Friday. The pound fell to its lowest level since 1985, David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister, and unsurprisingly, promises from the leave campaigners were swiftly backtracked, see for example Nigel Farage on ITV Good Morning Britain

As our country has divided and our economy fluctuates – many worry about future job security and finances. It would not be unexpected that during this time people experience feelings of anxiety. Anxiety can develop from a number of causes, including job stress, financial strain and even change.

There has also been increased cause for distrust of major politicians. Not only those from the leave campaign who have now been called out for ‘lies’, but our Prime Minister who had originally disclosed that he would be staying on whichever way the referendum went. Of course, we can conclude that it was Cameron’s intention to resign if the country decided to leave the EU but to avoid any voters viewing the referendum as an opportunity to do away with his leadership he chose not to divulge this prior to the vote. However, this is further cause for cynicism in public opinion along with the backtracked promises of the leave campaign. In a study on politics and social capital in Europe and the US, researchers found that distrust in politicians and government created a negative consequence on interpersonal trust. This can have an undesirable impact on people’s interactions and relationships with others. It has also been found that people who are high in trust are less likely to be unhappy than those with low interpersonal trust.

In addition, following Brexit, a surge in hate crime and xenophobia has been reported with many feeling the vote to leave the EU has legitimised racism. The negative images of Nigel Farage in front of a poster depicting a hoard of immigrants and the words ‘BREAKING POINT’, ‘The EU has failed us all’, further contribute to discrimination against ethnic minorities through the media. A central focus of the leave campaign was anti-immigration and whilst not all leave voters voted in support of the proposed decline in immigration, much of the discourse has permitted hostility towards immigrants in the UK following a win for Brexit.

Overall, this uncertain, rather worrying time can disrupt a person’s psychological well-being. It is important to know that there are ways you can cope with feelings of unease or anxiety. One of the most effective treatments for tackling a variety of psychological difficulties is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which allows for a tailored approach to therapy based on the needs of the individual. Through working together with your therapist, CBT can offer understanding of complex thoughts and feelings and help address applicable ways in which to combat, for example, things that are making you worry.

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