The economic downturn is hurting many Americans' mental health: Anxiety, depression, sleep problems and money-rooted marital conflicts are growing, say experts around the United States.

Requests for therapists increased 15 percent to 20 percent in the last three months, "primarily driven by concerns about the financial situation," says Richard Chaifetz, chairman and chief executive officer of Chicago-based ComPsych, the nation's largest employee-assistance mental-health program, with more than 24 million members.

There's been a surge in people online talking about how economic woes are triggering stress, says John Grohol, a psychologist and publisher of PsychCentral.com. "It's rare to see one topic so infiltrating the concerns of people who otherwise seem to have nothing in common," he says.

Joy Browne, a New York psychologist whose WOR radio network talk show airs on 200 stations, says that for about a year, she has been hearing from working-class listeners beset by breadwinner layoffs and hair-trigger tempers at home. But now even upper-middle-class people are taking a big hit to their emotional well-being. "They expected to retire, and now they can't. They're being asked to take care of their grandchildren's education. They have homes they can't sell and they can't travel."

In Plantation, Fla., Priscilla Marotta says: "People are more agitated, anxious and angry. You wouldn't believe how much the economy is talked about in therapy these days. It's the first time I've seen it in 20 years of practice, and I'm hearing the same thing from colleagues across the country."

More than half of clients in her middle-class practice talk about economic fears, and about a quarter to a third say money-related stress was the main reason they came for therapy. Both were rare occurrences until the last six months, Marotta says.