Curing Affluenza

By: Forrest Sanders Email
By: Forrest Sanders Email

It's a disastrous epidemic that's spreading from coast to coast, but this disease isn't harming your health, it's impacting your wallet. The name of the disease is Affluenza, the disease of affluence or the desire to appear wealthy.

You may laugh but doctors are actually getting involved in treating Affluenza.

Overspending is quite different from other addictions. Unlike someone with a gambling disorder or a person who abuses alcohol, a shopaholic can't just stop spending money cold turkey.

With this in mind, some doctors are saying a drug is the only way to cure a shopaholic during a time when Affluenza runs rampant.

Self-professed shopaholic Daniella has a taste for the finer things in life.

"Usually, if I go window shopping, I don't leave empty handed, so I really have to make an effort, to not leave without buying something if I go to the mall," Daniella explained.

And while there's a lot filling the shelves of her closet, Daniella's just one of millions of overspenders across America, living in the society of excess.

So, what are Americans supposed to do, when everyone has to have a bigger TV set, a faster car and a nicer house than the Joneses next door?

Enter, Celexa.

Celexa is an antidepressant that's sometimes taken to treat obsessive compulsive disorder. Now, some doctors are saying it could be effective in treating a different disorder--overspending.

Stanford University researchers have even put Celexa to the test, using two dozen chronic overspenders as guinea pigs.

"In that study, three quarters of people stopped shopping, often in a couple of weeks of starting the drug," explained Dr. Lorrin Koran, of Stanford University.

So, if it works, why isn't this drug already being prescribed to shopaholics? Koran says the medical community has yet to accept the seriousness of an overspending condition.

"The people who come seeking this treatment, frequently, have been divorced. They've quite often had to declare bankruptcy multiple times because they couldn't control their spending," Koran said.

But at Living Hope Baptist Church, financial manager Mark Gilliam says treating money matters with medication, sounds drastic.

"I would think there needs to be a lot of steps between giving someone a prescription and the discovery of their problem," Gilliam explained.

Living Hope has an alternative for managing money, one that doesn't require a prescription.

Every Sunday, church members meet up for small discussion groups.

Here, they discuss how to avoid being taken in by advertising images on TV, while also holding each other accountable for their spending decisions.

"Being in that group confirms that you are not the only one who's done something stupid with money. Then, there's the encouragement of thinking, it's still going to be difficult moving forward, but we can do this together," Gilliam said.

But no matter whether it's better to take your treatment with a sip of water, or just talk out your problems, the solution for overspending is all up to each individual shopaholic.

"Me, personally? I think you can do that with your mind without taking pills. Clothes are not that important," Daniella admitted.

Dr. Koran added that while he fully expects a drug to someday be marketed toward overspenders, it will likely be a decade before a shopaholic pill is taken seriously enough for that to happen.


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