02/01/2013 10:24 pm ET Updated Feb 03, 2013

Janna Malamud Smith, Psychotherapist: Income Inequality Is Affecting Our Mental Health

America's income inequality could be impacting more than just our bottom lines.

Psychotherapist Janna Malamud Smith told HuffPost Live that as the wealth gap increases in the United States, it's actually affecting our mental health. Smith said that families and friend circles that have an unusually wealthy person in their group often find the disparity straining their relationships and that it sometimes leads them to grow apart.

"Never before have we had a possibility that people in the middle class or upper middle class will know some of those people in the 1 percent," Smith told HuffPost Live's Alyona Minkovski. "The disparity will be so big that it will seem absolutely matter of fact for one person to go for a $50 dinner while the other person really hurts if they go out for a $15 dinner. I don't think we know how to have that conversation yet."

The psychotherapist noted that people are much more comfortable with those who have achieved similar status. In an essay for The Daily Beast, Smith writes that large differences of status often breed "envy or resentment, and then shame."

A report in the British Journal of Psychiatry goes as far as asserting that "greater income inequality is associated with higher prevalence of mental illness and drug misuse in rich societies." Over the last three decades, the wealth gap has widened in nearly every state in the country.

Smith told HuffPost Live that she's experienced feelings of resentment even amongst her own group of friends.

"There's a little shame voice that looks at my friends who earn more and is always just asking, 'Are you sure this was the right choice?'" Smith said.

Watch the Full Segment on HuffPost Live.