Wealthy people suffering delusions of poverty

This is for real according to the New York Times today. As the economy dips precariously, people who still have a lot of means are freaking out. Again another piece that will hopefully spark discussion. What do you all think about this? I don’t want to minimize anyone’s suffering, but what does this say about our grossly materialistic insanely disproportionate wealth in this country?? And the people who seem to measure their sense of self only from what they own and their social status??

moneyOne woman whose husband had lost his job on Wall Street began to shrink from friends and neighbors in her Long Island suburb, mortified by what she perceived as her drop in social status.

Another wealthy woman, worried about whether she would have enough money to buy groceries, refused to eat.

A Manhattan real estate investor grew so paralyzed by financial fear that he asked his wife — who had hardly paid a bill in her life — to take over the family finances.

They are among a stream of executives — or ex-executives — and their spouses who have kept the beds filled in a revolving wheel of 10-day stays at the Haven, an exclusive clinic on a pastoral Victorian-era campus here, with what might be called recession psychosis: symptoms, including severe anxiety and suicidal tendencies, set off by the economy….

….Many of these new patients spent years enjoying not just an ordinary measure of prosperity but the often-outsize financial, emotional and social rewards that accompanied the boom.

Dr. Kotbi said they often suffer “delusions of poverty” — which is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, associated with psychotic depression — and despite retaining millions of dollars in assets, are crippled by self-doubt, loss of power, and sometimes guilt….. (rest of the article here)

Okay, I’m really posting too much. I’m going to try and stop and go to bed. Maybe I’ll wake up to some interesting comments on the five things I just posted!

11 thoughts on “Wealthy people suffering delusions of poverty

  1. my 401K disappeared and I’m not even of average means in that department…maybe that is why I didn’t even care.

    I suppose I should be worried about my future but I have enough to worry about now and I have good food on my table and a roof over my head…NOW.


  2. Too many people think money is the end goal. It’s not… all it does is allow for options.

    When I read about someone who is thinking “oh, god, my social status” I have no emotion for them. When I read about people (be it average or of means) who see their money/holding get cut in half simply because their 401K or investments fell, then I feel bad.


  3. Thanks Gianna,

    Yes, When I look at rich people trying to get more, especially anyone old enough to have grandchildren I am often astonished. I think, “How much is going to be enough.”

    Don’t they realize that they are okay, they had there children and grandchildren…enough already. When I see our former vice president…I wonder…how much is “enough” for him?


  4. Mark and Diane,
    it’s good to see you….it’s been awhile since I’ve heard from either of you and you both had such salient things to say.

    thank you.


  5. There is a book recently published called ENOUGH and the author was on the radio. He said he took the title from an anecdote relayed to him by Kurt Vonnegut. Anyway, Mr Vonnegut and Joseph Heller were going to a party at a superrich person’s mansion and Joseph Heller said “I have something these people will never have…enough.” That is the real psych disease for many people and the cause of so much pain in this world.


  6. I don’t know what to think of this on the grand scale. On the individual scale of a single confused person maybe. Maybe the grand scale doesn’t exist as a problem, as it is the single individual that adds up to be the problem when there are many singles.

    The single grain of sand on a beach you can see. A single tree in a forest.
    The expression “can’t see the forest for the trees”, how about “can’t see the sand for the beach?”
    Def:An expression used of someone who is too involved in the details of a problem to look at the situation as a whole.

    I’m not smart enough lol.

    How about its the human-animal condition to be greedy and perceive physical wealth as an indication of ones importance and thereby boost or lower self esteem with how much-many things one has. And these people lost or don’t have the right internal gauges to judge what is enough money.


  7. Well, I can really see this as a true event happening to them.

    Years ago I probably was actually”in poverty” but I was not starving and I had a place to live…. anyway I too became depressed when I thought I had lost “social status” and “economic status.” I had spent the last 7 years getting a bachelors and graduate degree. As I got closer to graduating, I could not find a job. I began to get depressed. Even though my parents told me it would be okay to take a job doing anything while I waited for the economy to get better…so jobs would open up, I just couldn’t help but see myself as a huge failure.

    I just could not imagine that I had spent the last 7 years in school, only to be working fast food or as a nursing assistant. I actually visualized myself doing this for the rest of my life…and I would get an upset stomach and feel horribly doomed. (So this proves to me that visualization is a powerful phenomena.)

    Sweat would run down my back and I had suicidal thoughts.

    I had not lived up to my own standards. I was a failure. I spiraled into a terrible depression.

    It was my introduction to the mental health industry as a patient.


  8. Laura,
    I certainly understand your feeling that way and I know I’ve lived at poverty level at times and had the insight and capacity to realize that I was still very wealthy compared to most of the people in the world and I felt grateful for what I had.

    That being said I set up this piece with some questions about our society because I do believe these people are really suffering. We can scoff at them but I have no doubt their misperceptions are painful…and it’s a symptom of societal insanity, just like much of the other suffering that happens on the other side of the economic continuum…

    we live in a crazy, messed up, world…most people’s values, rich or poor are very skewed, and we’re all effected by it, again whether we are rich or poor…

    it’s said again and again, money does not buy happiness….


  9. I get really peeved when I read about people like this. I’m barely able to survive pay to pay while bringing up three kids. I’m certain that if some of these people were forced to live as I live they would succumb to suicide.


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