Internet Backs 'Depressed and Anxious' Employee Torn Over Six-Figure Salary

Members of a popular internet forum offered advice to one startup employee who recently received a substantial and overwhelming salary hike.

In a viral Reddit post published on r/antiwork, Redditor u/fluffers95 (otherwise referred to as the original poster, or OP) said they ran into a bit of good fortune after struggling for years and were immediately overcome after realizing just how much can change when money is no longer a source of anxiety.

Titled, "My salary increased by x4 in about a year and I am feeling intense dysphoria and depression over the dystopian nightmare," the post has received more than 15,000 upvotes and nearly 1,000 comments in the last day.

Writing that they previously felt "anxious all the time" about bills and making ends meet, the original poster said they and their wife lived paycheck-to-paycheck and were under a "crippling" amount of debt when the pandemic began in 2020.

But after months of applying to new jobs, the original poster said they landed a role at a startup company and were quickly exposed to the realities of higher tax brackets.

"The $40K I started out [at] has turned into $160K as a manager," OP wrote. "We have managed to wipe our debts and save almost $70K because we haven't changed anything about our habits."

"Though my wife is happy and feels like her anxiety is gone, I feel so depressed and anxious," OP continued. "I'm at a loss, all the years of struggling means nothing.

"I shouldn't be making this much while minimum wage literally is stagnant and not allowing people to meet basic needs," OP added.

With the U.S. consumer price index surpassing 9 percent for the first time since the 1980s, skyrocketing inflation rates across all industries have stripped average Americans of every extra nickel and dime for the last year.

And even for those financially secure enough to weather the seemingly-constant stream of universal price hikes, making more money can lead to diminishing returns.

In 2010, a study conducted by Princeton researchers Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton revealed that people feel happier with higher salaries up until $75,000—at which point emotional well-being levels off.

Eight years later, however, another study conducted by researchers at Purdue University indicated that the emotional well-being plateau actually begins around $60,000 per year.

And when people earn more than $105,000 per year, CNBC reports that happiness levels tail off completely, leaving high earners pondering the same issues they did at earlier points in their careers.

"At the end of the day, we're humans and we struggle with existential issues like what's the meaning of life, and who am I?" Brad Klontz, a financial therapist and psychology professor at Creighton University, told CNBC.

"Those sort of questions don't go away when you get a bunch of money," Klontz added.

Stressed out couple
Members of Reddit's r/antiwork forum showed empathy for one employee who lamented over who reaps the benefits of the American financial system, and who doesn't. fizkes/iStock / Getty Images Plus

Throughout the comment section of the viral Reddit post, Redditors echoed this sentiment and reached out to the original poster with encouraging messages and advice for how to navigate the life they didn't think was possible.

"You're experiencing survivor's guilt," Redditor u/judyblue_ wrote in the post's top comment, which has received more than 10,000 upvotes. "It's okay to not be struggling so much anymore. It's okay to get paid significantly more now.

"No one person can fix the whole system, but you are in a position where you can help make it better for people in your orbit," they continued. "Continue living below your means, but don't deny yourself all comforts just because you couldn't afford them before."

Redditor u/Annual_Direction_519, whose comment has received nearly 4,000 upvotes, offered a similar response.

"Hold on to your experience, use your new found privilege to build a better life for those who still live like you did," they wrote. "Take pride in making change."

In a separate comment, which has received more than 1,200 upvotes, Redditor u/Ok_Yogurt_9279 empathized with the original poster and recounted their own experience with a similar and sudden salary increase.

"I know exactly how you feel, I went from around 14k to 64k to 77k in the last 2 years," they wrote. "One of the worst mental health episodes I've had was anxiety over the switch.

"I could absolutely do the job but I couldn't fathom making a livable wage," they continued. "I felt like it was all going to come crashing down on me at any moment."

Newsweek reached out to u/fluffers95 for comment.