Marriam-Webster’s definition of addiction is: “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.”
Just as drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, money, sex, shopping or any other activity can be habit-forming and lead to addiction. Dr. Leon F. Seltzer, a clinical psychologist and author of Paradoxical Strategies in Psychotherapy, elaborates in a recent blog in Psychology Today:
“As addicts progress (or rather, regress) into their addiction, to derive sufficient gratification they must constantly seek more and more of their drug of choice. For “more” is the keyword of addiction. It doesn’t matter whether they’re addicted to a substance, relationship, or activity—the “ante” for getting enough of the object of their craving must continually be raised.”
As drug addict seeks their next fix, a millionaire is likely to continuously seek the next million. Drug addicts can be destructive, manipulative and, at times, dangerous. Can we say the same about individuals addicted to money? Dr. Seltzer thinks so:
“But of all the things one might be addicted to, nothing tops the greed-laden pursuit of wealth in its audacity, manipulativeness, and gross insensitivity to the needs and feelings of others. Not to mention its extreme, short-sighted, irresponsible covetousness. Ask a multi-millionaire or billionaire so afflicted (if you can find one willing to talk to you!), and you’ll discover that their “mega-fortune quest” really has no end point. They won’t be able to name the definitive “millionth” or “billionth” that, finally, will do it for them. They can’t because the means by which they reap their riches has itself become the end.”
As a drug addict constantly seeks a “high”, money addicts seek their next deal or payout in order to satisfy the ego and get a boost of dopamine that, to them, comes with making a “killing.” Dr. Seltzer shares his insight about the reason behind this:
In general, their “money high” has to do not just with feelings of fiscal elation but with a kind of self-inoculation. What perpetual wealth production inoculates them against are underlying, and barely recognized, feelings of distress—such as depression, anxiety, guilt or shame—which stem from a belief that deep, deep down they may not be good enough at all. So greater and greater financial success is required to help them sustain their cherished illusion that they really are superior—in economic terms, vastly superior—to others: a most convenient narcissistic “fix” for whatever subterranean doubts they may yet harbor about themselves.
In our world, there are likely as many money addicts as there are drug addicts, although, it is not yet illegal to crave more money. Quite the opposite. People that focus on growing their monetary fortune are often described as motivated, productive and successful. Yet, just as communities, friends and families suffer due to drug addictions, the world suffers at the hand of greed.
On an ethical level, the worst thing about their pursuits is that their mercenary, ego-driven achievements frequently do considerable damage to others and their prospects. Not always but typically those who might be called “greed addicts” aren’t in the professions or creative Arts, but in business: entrepreneurs, investors, speculators, lenders, CEOs. And most often their successes contribute little or nothing to society. Rather, their undertakings are cunningly contrived to transfer money out of the pockets of others and into their own. Exceedingly competitive and aggressive, they’ll take ruthless advantage of every opportunity to turn a profit—and not shy away from turning against others in the process.
Today, we are surrounded by greed that’s masked in industry, technology, banking, politics… the list goes on. That’s not to say that all wealthy people – or bankers, politicians and industry tycoons – are money addicts, but there are many that continually seek wealth with little regard to the planet or humanity. At what point do we say enough, and start treating money addicts like drug addicts…or better yet criminals?
View Dr. Leon F. Seltzer’s full article on Psychology Today: Greed: The Ultimate Addiction
Read more articles by Anna Hunt.
About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
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