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January 23, 2014

Treating Extreme Wealth As a Disease

By Rob Kall

I'm partially playfully and partially seriously offering some potential diagnostic categories for the very wealthy. I've saved the best diagnosis for last, since it would explain the insane behavior of the largest number of people.

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From http://www.flickr.com/photos/47422005@N04/11810121256/: David Koch & Charles Koch
David Koch & Charles Koch
(Image by DonkeyHotey)
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Psychiatry has been shifting to a model that is designed to identify psychiatric pathologies in most of the population. If there are no biological markers or indicators then the psychiatric diagnostic manual puts together patterns of behavior. Once it's characterized" there's, very conveniently, a drug for that. 

Using this Big-Pharma driven model of diagnosis creation, I'm partially playfully and partially seriously offering some potential diagnostic categories for the very wealthy.  Remember, this is half satire, I am not a mental health expert and I'm not doing serious references to support this exercise. Also, there are absolutely wealthy people who are decent people. The problem is, as Lord Acton observed, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." I would argue that there are so many risks and dangers in giving people the ability to accumulate huge amounts of money and the power that comes with it, that we should put limits on wealth and even tighter limits on inheritance of wealth. 

The article wraps up by discussing the enablers of these "mental illnesses-- call them co-dependents? I've offered another diagnosis as well. 

Hoarding-- In a conversation with Thom Hartmann last sumer, he suggested the idea that billionaires might be hoarders. People with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars are, in some ways like the people we see on the hoarder reality TV shows, with houses so packed with crap that they have to walk sideways or climb over piles. Hoarders can't let go of or throw away anything they've touched or that has their name on it. The other day, a local hoarder died in a house fire because he could not escape through the piles in his house. These people are often stuck in their homes and lose connection with other people. Hoarding is one pathological way to control their lives.  Hoarding might be considered a variant of obsessive compulsive disorder. 

Drugs of choice: Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, possibly mood treatment medications like Abilify. 

Narcissism. Narcissists are a**holes who think the world revolves around them They are similar to psychopaths but they have some, though not much empathy.  Wikipedia (link is bolded) describes some of the characteristics of Narcissists:

Hotchkiss identified what she called the seven deadly sins of narcissism: [7]

  1. Shamelessness : Shame is the feeling that lurks beneath all unhealthy narcissism, and the inability to process shame in healthy ways.
  2. Magical thinking : Narcissists see themselves as perfect, using distortion and illusion known as magical thinking. They also use projection to dump shame onto others.
  3. Arrogance : A narcissist who is feeling deflated may reinflate by diminishing, debasing, or degrading somebody else.
  4. Envy : A narcissist may secure a sense of superiority in the face of another person's ability by using contempt to minimize the other person.
  5. Entitlement : Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority, and the perpetrator is considered an "awkward" or "difficult" person. Defiance of their will is a narcissistic injury that can trigger narcissistic rage .
  6. Exploitation : Can take many forms but always involves the exploitation of others without regard for their feelings or interests. Often the other is in a subservient position where resistance would be difficult or even impossible. Sometimes the subservience is not so much real as assumed.
  7. Bad boundaries : Narcissists do not recognize that they have boundaries and that others are separate and are not extensions of themselves. Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who provide narcissistic supply to the narcissist are treated as if they are part of the narcissist and are expected to live up to those expectations. In the mind of a narcissist there is no boundary between self and other.

    Medications: Medscape states:

    Although no psychiatric medications are specifically approved for the treatment of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), patients often benefit from the use of such medications to help alleviate certain symptoms associated with this disorder or to manage concomitant axis I diagnoses. Medications that may be considered include antidepressants (specifically, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs]), antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers.

      Dynasty Disorder: An NIH/NIMH report on children of the wealthy reported serious, alarming problems. Since many of the wealthy are children of the wealthy-- think Waltons, Kochs, Rockefellers-- to name a few, and American Dynasties are growing, these studies may apply to the adult children of the wealthy too. here's a sample from the report, titled The Culture of Affluence: Psychological Costs of Material Wealth:

      "...affluent youth reported significantly higher levels of anxiety across several domains, and greater depression. They also reported significantly higher substance use than inner-city students, consistently indicating more frequent use of cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and other illicit drugs.

      Appraisal of psychopathology among youth in this sample in relation to national norms yielded more startling findings. Among suburban girls in the 10th grade, one in five reported clinically significant levels of depressive symptoms, reflecting rates 3 times as high as those among normative samples. Incidence of clinically significant anxiety among both girls and boys in the suburban high school was also higher than normative values (22% and 26% vs. 17%). Similar patterns were seen for substance use. Of suburban girls, 72% reported ever having used alcohol, for example, as compared with 61% in normative samples, and parallel values for boys' use of illicit drugs were 59% versus 38%."

      This research suggests a few more diagnoses that could cause or exacerbate wealth mental illness:

      Addiction is a reasonable disorder to consider. These wealthy people are addicted to money. Addicts are never satisfied. They go for more and more dosage, with smaller and lesser high. Addicts usually need to go through withdrawal. They often have to hit rock bottom to face the reality that they are addicts. Perhaps, what that means for the wealthy is to strip them of their wealth and put them in either inner cities or wilderness environments where they have to fend for themselves. Heroin addicts are sometimes put on Naloxone-- a pseudo-opiate that assuages the need without producing the high. Maybe bit coin can do that job. Or a game of monopoly. 

      Depression and or low self esteem: Well, the studies show that children of the wealth have  higher incidences of depression. Perhaps depression becomes tied with narcissism and you end up getting angry, mean, selfish people who don't give a damn about the other 99% of people, or they rationalize that their wealth will inspire others. Wouldn't it be amazing if antidepressant medications could cure these grinches and scrooges. 

      Psychopath/Sociopathy/anti-social personality-- These are similar to narcissists, only with less conscience and empathy. They often base their lives on winning at the expense of others. It just makes sense that some of the smartest, most pathological would show up on lists of billionaires and those in the top fraction of one percent. There is no known treatment for these people. It's been estimated that the predations of average psychopaths hurt over 60 million Americans a year. But that leaves out the toxic behaviors of people like the billionaires who fund lies and disinformation about global warming and climate change-- the ones who fight to have safety regulations cancelled or gutted. They used to build prison islands for people like this. There are no drugs, except maybe ones that do the same thing that lobotomies do-- heavy doses of antipsychotic medications, like thorazine or haldol. Give them enough they will be sitting in a corner drooling-- a much better behavior than their current behavior. 

      I'm sure there are more diagnoses. Help in the comments. I would argue that this partially facetious, partially serious discussion supports the campaign I have been advocating for over two years, that is time for humanity to systematically de-billionairize the planet, which Thom Hartmann has described as the "no billionaires" campaign. 

      We live in times where extremes, with seven billion plus humans, are reaching new degrees of intensity/severity. It is time we begin to question the meaning of success. Humans have a history, including our predecessors, going back millions of years. Success today has morphed massively, by some people's measures, from what it was for most of those millions of years. Mental illness, insanity, craziness-- the idea of what those states mean have also changed. 

      I'm just sayin'. Maybe we need to take another look at how we think about the most wealthy people. It could even be that the more money the more exacerbated the symptoms are for people who do manifest mental dysfunction through their wealth behavior. 

      I would also argue that people who sympathize with and defend and support the interests of the wealthy against their own and their families' interests are suffering from  Münchausen  syndrome  by proxy . In that disorder, parents subject their children to unnecessary surgery and medical treatments. Is it that big a leap to wildly speculate that people who fight for the rights of billionaires to widen the income gap even further are literally hurting their children by voting to protect the ultra wealthy?

      If people suffer from mental illness, they deserve some compassion, but we also have a responsibility to protect the larger whole from their dangerous behavior. It's time we look to solutions to this devastating disease cluster. 



      Submitters Bio:

      Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

      Rob Kall Wikipedia Page

      Rob Kall's Bottom Up Radio Show: Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com

      Rob is, with Opednews.com the first media winner of the Pillar Award for supporting Whistleblowers and the first amendment.

      To learn more about Rob and OpEdNews.com, check out A Voice For Truth - ROB KALL | OM Times Magazine and this article. For Rob's work in non-political realms mostly before 2000, see his C.V..  and here's an article on the Storycon Summit Meeting he founded and organized for eight years. Press coverage in the Wall Street Journal: Party's Left Pushes for a Seat at the Table

      Talk Nation Radio interview by David Swanson:  Rob   Kall  on Bottom-Up Governance June, 2017

      Here is a one hour radio interview where Rob was a guest- on Envision This, and here is the transcript. 

      To watch Rob having a lively conversation with John Conyers, then Chair of the House Judiciary committee, click hereWatch Rob speaking on Bottom up economics at the Occupy G8 Economic Summit, here.

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