Many people are conditioned to believe that wealthy, powerful people are lucky, self-indulgent individuals enjoying perfect lives, or that wealthy people reside on Easy Street where there are no problems and no worries.
The truth is that money doesn’t eliminate difficulties or heal wounds. Men and women of wealth are susceptible to their share of problems and some may struggle with alcoholism, prescription drug dependence, gambling, eating disorders and other destructive dependencies.
These widely held societal beliefs and stereotypes create an atmosphere of shame and secrecy that can prevent well-to-do people from seeking effective treatment and competent care. In the meantime, problems can escalate and create dramatic consequences and irreparable harm.
Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, PhD is a highly qualified expert who has written extensively about addiction and how cultural attitudes and “wealthism” prevent wealthy, successful people from seeking treatment.
According to Dr. Hokemeyer, even highly qualified treatment professionals may hold these prevailing cultural notions, often unknowingly. If wealthy people are demonized, even on a subconscious level, treatment is unhealthy and can do more harm than good.
People with wealthy lifestyles are often able to deny problems because they consistently operate at full capacity. However, high-functioning executives and wealthy addicts need just as much help as their lower income counterparts, and they are just as deserving.
It’s true that treating people with sizeable savings accounts and stable incomes is different than treating their low- or moderate-income counterparts. People in treatment at outpatient facilities, detox centers or public health clinics are often not in treatment by choice, but because they are mandated to seek treatment by legal agencies or law enforcement in order to avoid time in prison. They may have a variety of mental and physical problems. They may lack adequate health insurance and they may require public assistance.
Addressing the problems of well-to-do men and women requires a specialized approach because wealthy people have a very different set of worries and concerns. For example, influential executives or business leaders may need to juggle work, social, and family responsibilities. It may be difficult to carve out time in their busy schedules for treatment.
Influential people may experience stress and anxiety about meeting perceived expectations from the people around them, or from the public.
They may be worried about their family name, the safety and privacy of their loved ones, or their reputation or standing in the business or political world. This is why wealthy people are often mistrustful and suspicious of people outside their immediate realm, including treatment professionals and clinicians.