If we don’t like the way we feel we have the potential to get addicted to anything that changes the way we feel. This includes money for the status, sense of superiority and material things it can give us.
A good definition of addiction is not being able to stop and stay stopped from taking or doing something that is detrimental to you and/or others. The word detrimental derives from Latin deterere meaning “wear away”.
That is perfectly apt as a way to describe what many addictions do to the person who is the addict. But as well to those around them – whether that’s their partner, family, friends, colleagues or very often all of these people.
Addiction is an illness
Understanding addiction is very complex. Both the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Medical Association say that addiction is an illness.
Just as with illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, addiction is believed to be caused by environmental, behavioral and biological factors.
One thing all addictions have in common is that they change the way we feel. They release “feel-good” chemicals such as dopamine into the body.
The attraction of distraction
There is also the distraction that an addiction causes. It’s created this way unknowingly – so that the person doesn’t have time to look at or even think for a second about any pain or re-feel it from the life experiences that might be behind why they are addicted to something.
So it’s not just the taking or doing, but also the planning and preparation. Then coping with the hangover, comedown or dealing with any damage caused by the addictive behavior.
It becomes a vicious cycle. If left untreated – as with most serious diseases – it will get progressively worse.
For those addicted to something – as well as many people and the community around them – it’s bewildering, agonizing and causes immense despair. Many addicts don’t even know why they can’t seem to stop.
They continue with the addiction, even when the damage it is causing is obvious. It can even seem to be against their own will.
Why the pain?
Addiction expert Dr Gabor Maté says: “I’d say that an addiction manifests in any behavior that a person finds temporary pleasure or relief in and therefore craves, suffers negative consequences from, and has trouble giving up.
Dr Maté’s mantra for all addictions is: “The question is not why the addiction, but why the pain.”
He says the source of pain is always to be found in a person’s lived experience. This usually starts in childhood.
“All addictions are attempts to escape the deep pain of the hurt child. These are attempts that are temporarily soothing but ultimately futile.”
It is one reason why other mental health conditions are associated with addiction – especially depression, anxiety and stress.
For some people the love of money is definitely an addiction. For a clear reason, workaholism can often be connected.
Workaholism is an extremely difficult addiction to realize. This is due to the fact that we live in a system where excessive hard work is not only encouraged but frequently praised.
It’s not unusual to hear someone praised for working 60-plus hours every week. Yet many people who do this will over time develop stress-related physical illnesses as a result, sometimes that prove fatal.
Another thing connected to workaholism is that many people working addictively will be rewarded financially well. They get to love the status that money can give them.
As well as the material things it can buy, which in themselves can create a short-term high and be a distraction as well, there is the feeling of superiority many people get and crave from having lots of money.
It might also be because they have another addiction. This could be such as an addiction to drugs, shopping, plastic surgery, sex (they pay for) and/or gambling.
Craving external validation
It’s the love of money rather than money itself that is the problem. Even when some people are millionaires they cannot stop fixating on money and all it can get and give them.
A great deal of this is to do with the desperate need for external validation. A money addict craves love and approval from outside of themselves because it is not coming from their insides.
This goes back to what Dr Maté says about childhood issues. It most often is to do with childhood trauma, toxic shame and a failure of love to some level.
Every child needs to be valued and validated. They need to feel loved.
Many people addicted to money had their needs unmet as a child. It could be that their parents were always absent due to their own addictive behavior, that may or may not have been due to the love of money.
If this sense of worth is not given to a child by their parents, it will not be within. For instance, a child who is frequently criticized by their parents will not stop loving their parents – but they will most likely stop loving themselves.
So as an adult they will desperately seek ways to prove they really are lovable. They will not even consciously know they are doing this.
Wealthy from the inside
One way some people think makes them lovable is through having lots of money. This is why for some people it can become an addiction.
But with that comes the fear of losing what they have – the material things, the status, the bank balance… So they live in a continually anxious state.
They are usually always extremely busy doing things. This is to keep the money they have got and to make more of it.
But also, unknowingly to them, it makes for the perfect distraction from painful memories and emotions that they are trying to push away or push down.
Even though they are financially rich, they might not like spending money. This is because they need it not so much for the things it can get them, but for their insides not to feel utterly empty and unlovable.
Some people who have grown spiritually can be equally financially wealthy. But they do not have such an emphasis on having money and material things.
They have realized that their true value comes from within. They know that the most important things in life are not things at all.
Consequently they live a much more serene and content life. They are more likely to be generous with their money.
Consider that the word “wealth” was originally connected to the words “well” and “health”, and the word “health” is related to the word “whole”. So if someone gets cracked, broken or shattered in some way as a child they are extremely unlikely to be undamaged (that is, whole) as an adult. That is, unless they seek professional help from someone who understands these things.
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