Got Bear Market Depressive Syndrome? One shrink is seeing lots of it these days. July 26, 2002: 5:03 PM EDT By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN/Money Staff Writer NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Can't think clearly? Feeling out of control? Weighed down by guilt? And all because you checked your anemic 401(k) balance? If an overwhelming sense of inadequacy, shame and regret wells up every time you see the Dow trend down, you may be suffering from Bear Market Depressive Syndrome (BMDS). So says Dr. John W. Schott, a portfolio manager for Steinberg Global Asset Management and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at MetroWest Hospital in Natick, Mass. The author of the book "Mind Over Money," Schott says he's seeing a lot of cases of BMDS these days. Some of the telltale signs include feeling more worthless than a share of Worldcom and hopeless about your financial future. Less fuzzy symptoms include insomnia, upset stomach, loss of concentration and a screaming urge to throw all your remaining money into bonds or CDs. "You want to sell everything, because you think, 'I'm going to lose it all,'" Schott said. And he's not just talking about folks who were headlong into dot.coms. He's seen plenty of well-diversified investors lose their nerve as well. Of course, it's easy to get emotional about investing, but it's better to be rational. With BMDS, Schott said, "People are acting much more out of fear and anxiety than rationally....The strength of their emotions begins to distort their cognitive processes," he noted. Here is a way to recognize if your thinking has been less than sound -- and some suggestions for getting back your recommended daily dose of reality. You often tell yourself: "What a jerk I was to invest." Well, you may be a jerk. Or not. Who are we to say? But either way, it has nothing to do with your decision to invest in the market. Investing involves risk and it's unrealistic to expect you'll never experience any pain in the market, Schott notes in his book. It's helpful to tell yourself that bear markets do end and the decision to invest won't seem so silly when the bulls punch out the lights on this one. "I knew the market would collapse as soon as I started to invest." Don't take this the wrong way, but despite your best efforts you're still not the center of the universe. You did not move the market up, down or sideways. The market is cyclical, and if you've picked solid companies or mutual funds to invest in, Schott said, chances are good they'll do fine in the long-run. "I've lost money and I've disappointed my family. I'm a failure." [b/] Okay, if your spouse truly hates you for your portfolio, chances are you've got problems in your marriage that no good investing decision can fix. But -- and here's where reality comes in -- what's probably the case is that your family loves you no matter how much money you lost, Schott notes. You're just too busy beating yourself up to see that. "I'm a lousy investor. No wonder I messed up." Mmmm, it seems what you may be lousy at is seeing the forest for the trees. This bear market has left few unscathed -- and probably no one you know, so no need to wake your envy gremlins. What's more, Schott says, no one is smart enough to predict market declines, and there is no such thing as the perfect investor. "This bear market will never end. I'm going to lose every single cent I have invested." Ever been on a car trip with a 5-year-old? They think it's never going to end, either. But, of course, you know better. And as for the poverty thing, we don't know. We haven't seen your brokerage statements. But 10 bucks says if you show us, we could make the case why that's not really going to happen. Schott suggests if you take a close look at your losses, you'll see you're far from risking a zero-balance. And you can make a promise to yourself that when the market does recover, you'll make up for some or most of those losses. When you find you're berating yourself over your investments, you'll do much to combat BMDS by reminding yourself of these counter arguments, not only because they're reasonable but because studies have shown that reality-based thinking of the kind cognitive therapy promotes can positively alter the way the brain functions, Schott said. And lastly, recognize there may be an upside to your losses. You just might become a better investor. When it comes to the market, Schott said, "There's no substitute for experience."