Affluenza: When Too Much Is Not Enough!

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates
Volume 10, Number 3

March heralds the onset of Spring, a time when the Earth increases the tilt of its axis toward the sun. Our climate begins to warm significantly causing flowers to “spring forth”. It is a time for rebirth and growth. Spring is also a reminder that we as people need to also grow and “spring forth”. We encourage you to be active, to learn a new skill, to make new friends and to be of help to others.

This month’s E-letter focuses on Affluenza: When Too Much Is Not Enough! Our email of the month is for pun lovers and Our Ask the Doc question is about aging. We hope you find the enclosed information helpful. We also thank you for the many comments we have received through the years to our E-Letters.

Practice News

Testings. If you are concerned about your child’s school placement for the next school year, this would be a good time to have them evaluated. Recent questions from parents have ranged from should their child be retained to whether they are gifted to whether they have a disability that can qualify for accommodations at school. Our practice does different types of evaluations to help answer those questions and information about these evaluations can be found on our website. If you have more specific questions, please contact Dr. Kimmel.

Depression groups. Ongoing weekly depression therapy groups meet regularly in our office. A men’s support group and a women’s support group are run by Dr. Jim Kaikobad and meets for one and one-half hours. The group is educational, supportive, and confidential and is limited to 8 people. If you are interested in attending, please contact Jillian at 954 755-2885.

Research Study. If you are overweight, you might consider participating in a research study. Our practice has been asked by Life Extension Institute to participate in research assessing the effects of cognitive therapy, nutritional supplements, and medications on weight management in overweight individuals. Early results show continued weight loss for those subjects who are in the study. For more information about the study, contact Jillian, at 954 755-2885.

Handouts from previous E-Letters can be found on our website, We invite you to read and download them if desired.


Our E-Letter this month focuses on Affluenza which is a combination of the terms Affluence and Influenza. It reflects a societal condition of overconsumption and materialism. Affluenza refers to the pursuit of more and more, especially money, despite overload, debt, workaholism, anxiety, waste, and guilt. It has also been used in the legal literature, most recently, in the defense of Ethan Couch, who as a 16 year old drunk driver killed four and injured 11 pedestrians. His legal team used the defense of affluenza and he was given probation. In this case, affluenza referred to the inability of the wealthy to understand the consequences of their actions because of financial privilege.

Affluenza arises from the desire to be more wealthy, successful or to “keep up with the Joneses”. It reflects a culture where success is measured by financial achievement and flaunting of one’s possessions. However, often, in the pursuit of economic success, people overwork, get burned out, and feel unfulfilled wishing for more wealth.

Affluenza or “luxury fever” causes people to buy more and to finance their purchases through reduced savings, increased debt, and working two or more jobs. Did you know that many of today’s three-car garages occupy 900 square feet which was the average size of a home in the 1950s and that often, the extra garage space is used to store things that are seldom used? Did you know that the percentage of Americans calling themselves very happy peaked in 1957 even though we consume twice as much as we did then? Did you also know that 86 percent of Americans in 1995 who voluntarily cut back their consumption said that they were happier as a result? The ‘urge to splurge” has been greatly reinforced by almost non-stop advertising messages which convince you that you need things you really don’t. Affluence can’t buy you happiness but that is not the message transmitted from television, radio, movies, newspapers, and internet ads. Think Black Friday sales. This is what happens when too much is just not enough. Ironically, affluenza is the one condition we can cure by spending less money not more.

The term affluenza was coined by author Paul Comstock to also describe a common condition of children of affluent families. These children have a distorted view of money, a lack of self discipline, a lack of motivation, low self esteem, no understanding of the connection between work and reward, and feelings of incompetence. It is not that children choose to be irresponsible, they just never learned these values. Having been given anything and everything they wanted, they never learned to value what they do have. In her book the Golden Ghetto, Jessie O’Neill, a psychotherapist, describes these individuals as separated from society. They grow up isolated and marginalized and envied by others because of their wealth.

Truly, money doesn’t buy happiness. It is a myth to believe that the pursuit of money leads to happiness. Many individuals who acquire sudden wealth such as lottery winners, inheritors, or celebrity figures have great difficulty in finding happiness. They can buy pretty much what they want but often feel empty. In the past few decades, our society seems to have idolized these individuals and set them up as role models. We have developed a false sense of entitlement as well as a difficulty in delaying gratification. For most of society, affluenza will cause epidemic overconsumption including compulsive shopping, high debt, overwork, wastefulness, stress, and an obsession with having it all.

So what should we do? The cure for affluenza is simple but difficult to put into practice. Basically, one must be honest with oneself about their values and what they want from life. Having more doesn’t make you more personally fulfilled. Pursuing financial success doesn’t make you a better person. Spending more money to buy advertised products does not make us feel more powerful, happy, secure, successful or worthy. Rather, overworking to make more money leaves little time for family and friends, community involvement, or self nurturance.

To combat affluenza, live more simply, save more money, spend less, do not keep up with the Joneses, appreciate what you have, avoid impulse shopping, and don’t use credit cards unless you can pay off the monthly balance. Ask yourself before you buy, whether you really need it or just want it and why. Rather than pursuing financial success, pursue personal success. Develop your personal values. Improve your health through exercise and mindfulness. Volunteer and help others who are less fortunate. Learn more and avoid numbing yourself with alcohol and drugs. Basically, participate in any activities that give you a sense of satisfaction and personal fulfillment.

We offer the following information on Affluenza: When Too Much Is Not Enough:

We could have had it all…
Rolling in the deep… Adele


  • Affluenza is the combination of the words affluence and influenza and has been defined as a contagious and socially transmitted condition of overconsumption
  • It is not a mental disorder but an attitude of a society that will overload itself with debt while wanting to consume more
  • Affluenza also refers to the inability to understand the consequences of one’s actions because of being financially privileged such as trust fund babies
  • Affluenza was recently used in the defense of Ethan Couch, a 16 year old privileged drunk driver, who killed four people and injured another 11; he was given probation
  • As a legal defense, affluenza has been used to excuse the wealthy from crimes committed because of living a life of little responsibility and accountability; consequently they are unequipped and unable to control their actions
  • Affluenza can also be the societal placing of a high value on money, possessions, physical appearance, and fame with the attitude that too much is never enough
  • Some theorists believe that affluenza leads to excess materialism, overconsumption, “luxury fever”, consumer debt, overwork, waste and personal alienation and distress
  • Paul Comstock coined the term affluenza which can be characterized by:
  • a distorted view of money and its importance
  • a false sense of entitlement
  • a lack of self-discipline
  • a lack of motivation
  • an inability to delay gratification or tolerate frustration
  • guilt and depression
  • low self esteem
  • feelings of incompetence
  • workaholism to constantly earn enough to spend
  • Affluenza is promoted by advertisers and others who condition us to want more to feel happy, secure, accepted, successful, and valuable
  • Those who buy into the advertisers’ messages often work long hours in jobs they dislike to have enough money to buy products they don’t need or want and then don’t have enough time for family or personal development
  • Affluenza has sometimes been referred to as Sudden-Wealth Syndrome where people have made or inherited large amounts of money and have a lack of guilt or motivation


  • Change your attitude from materialism to what is truly important in life
  • Live more simply and save money; ask yourself if you really need the purchase
  • Avoid malls and online shopping; don’t spend impulsively
  • Consciously live within your means and do not try to “keep up with the Jones’”
  • Criticize commercials and advertising media so as not to feel inadequate
  • Plan your luxuries and enjoy them when you can afford them
  • Volunteer for community service to help those less fortunate than you
  • Exercise and don’t escape into alcohol or drug abuse to numb your feelings
  • See professional help to assist you in eliminating affluenza

We Can Help!

Call us at (954) 755-2885 or email us at

Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates 5571 N. University Drive, Suite 101 Coral Springs, Florida 33067

Copyright © 2015; by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D.

As always, we would like to welcome new readers to our e-Letter. We hope that you find it informational and enjoyable. We invite you to share this e-Letter with others. If you have received this from a fellow reader, please send us your email address to include you on our list.

Ask The Doc

SS writes: My husband and I have reached a “senior” age. We are happily married and healthy. He has retired and I work part-time. In the past few years, some of our friends have gotten sick and passed. Our circle has been decreasing and we are finding it difficult to deal with this. We know that this is a natural progression yet we have few friends to see and visit and even less who want to travel with us. We feel a little guilty that we are healthy and able to still do many things. We do spend a lot of time by ourselves and worry a lot about our future. Can you give me some advice?

        Dr. Joel Kimmel replies: Thank you for your question. As you probably know, you are not alone in this situation. As healthcare has increased our longevity, people are healthier and living longer and are capable of more and more activities. In fact, the question arises should people retire in their sixties as they are still healthy and productive. Our society does not really prepare us for getting older. Sure, we may have financially planned but few of us plan for what we’ll do when we are not working. In addition to this lack of education about retirement, we need to deal with life passages such as friends getting older and passing and body and mental changes. In short, we need to accept, adapt, and be active.

We need to recognize that our society and our world have changed. What may have been a science fiction fantasy when we were younger (the Dick Tracy 2-way wrist radios) are now real and commonplace (cell phones and iWatches). We can’t live in a world thinking that it should be like it was when we were younger or we will be disappointed and depressed. We need to accept and adapt to change. And this gets more difficult as we get older and set in our ways. We need to accept that there are new ways of doing things that may even be better than what we learned earlier in our lives. There are revolutionary products from technology that we will need to learn how to operate or else be frustrated. We need to adapt to changing morals of society so that we don’t remain constantly angry about the permissive society we live in. We need to also accept the loss of certain values such as honesty and respect. I am not saying to become dishonest or disrespectful but not to necessarily expect it from our politicians, salesmen, and others.

It is also important for us to stay active and engaged in activities with others so we don’t deteriorate. We need to face the questions of how do we age, that is, how do we spend our days and how do we deal with other losses. What plans do we have for our future?

We have a lot of knowledge and experience and can certainly make contributions to organizations and other groups. As long as we can do, we should do. Just because we’re senior doesn’t mean we can’t make new friends or become involved with others. I believe that keeping active will keep you healthier.

If you think of yourself as old, you will be.

Accept and adapt to change and be active.

Email of the Month

We would like to thank Larry S. for the following email:

For the Pun Lover

  • England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
  • I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.
  • They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a Type-O.
  • I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.
  • Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
  • I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.
  • I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.
  • This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I’d never met herbivore.
  • When chemists die, they barium.
  • How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.
  • Venison for dinner again? Oh deer.
  • A cartoonist was found dead in his home. Details are sketchy.
  • I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.
  • Haunted French pancakes give me the crêpes.
  • I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.
  • I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.
  • Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.
  • We’re going on a class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope there’s no pop quiz.
  • I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
  • Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?
  • When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.
  • Broken pencils are pointless.
  • What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.
  • I dropped out of communism class because of lousy Marx.
  • I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.
  • Velcro – what a rip off!
  • Please continue to send us your comments, questions, and favorite emails for our E-Letter.

    Till April…

    The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

    If you no longer wish to receive future E-Letter reminders, please send an email to requesting to be removed from this list.

    If you find this information interesting or helpful, please forward this E-Letter to your contacts and friends. Copyright © 2015 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D. P.A. and Associates.