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What is wealth addiction?

Paul  Hokemeyer, PhD
Marriage & Family Therapy
The concept of “wealth addiction” as a psychological disorder is not new. The term was coined in 1983 by the late sociologist Philip Slater. In a book simply titled Wealth Addiction, Slater, best known for his influential earlier work, The Pursuit of Loneliness, maintained that our reliance on money and the things it buys becomes an obsession that destroys our lives. This notion has recently been given unexpected publicity by a former hedge-fund trader, Sam Polk, in a much talked-about op-ed in The New York Times (January 19, 2014) and the film The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Wealth addiction is a very real phenomenon and falls under the category of a behavioral addiction. The three key characteristics of wealth addiction are:
  • Tolerance: More and more money is needed to attain a baseline level of satisfaction.
  • Withdrawal: The thought of losing money or not making it fills a person with fear, anxiety and stress.
  • Negative consequences: In their pursuit of money, the person forgoes emotional fulfillment, intimate relationships and peace of mind.

 

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