‘I have affluenza. And it’s a real psychological condition.’

Do you live in a constant state of chaos?

Are you forever thinking, “I want it, and I want it NOW!”

Are you tormented by nightmares of waste, overload and debt?

Well, the good news is, that your end is not nigh but the bad news is that you may have contracted a nasty case of affluenza! Fear not friend, affluenza is not a mutated strain of the Zika virus, (Lord knows, we don’t need any further mosquito-related infections threatening our borders!) it is in fact a social disorder arising from our desire to be wealthy, successful and to ‘Keep up with the Joneses.’

Before you dismiss this term as just another silly portmanteau (that is, two words mashed together to make a new and sometimes absurd word such as, Masterdate; the act of dating oneself or Sexting; the act of sending sexy and/or nude photos of oneself to other people), it must be noted that affluenza (affluent + influenza) is actually considered to be a diagnosable condition which manifests itself in a range of unpleasant symptoms.

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According to the holy grail of lexicons, the Concise Oxford Dictionary, affluenza is defined as “a psychological malaise supposedly affecting young and wealthy people. Symptoms include a lack of motivation, feelings of guilt, and a sense of isolation.”

Still not sold? Well, earlier this year a Texas teenager by the name of Ethan Couch was criticized for attempting to employ the defence of affluenza in a deadly drink-driving case that left four people dead. A psychiatrist testifying on his behalf said, “He had affluenza as his family’s wealth has left him so spoiled that it impaired his judgement to tell right from wrong.” Not surprisingly, this defence failed to have the desired effect and perhaps a more effective legal armament would have been to plead ‘spoiled-bratism.’ LOL!

I must confess that I have experienced mild forms of affluenza but on a much smaller and thankfully less criminal scale. My symptoms usually begin to flare up when I’m traipsing the cavernous halls of my local department store. I know I’m in trouble when my ego takes over and I begin to justify unnecessary spending. It normally starts off a little bit like this…

“Oooh I really DO need a new outfit for this weekend.”

“I could just wear my Camilla kaftan, but I wore that last weekend and there’s photographic evidence on Facebook!”

After not too much ‘umming & ahhing’ at all, I quickly succumb to temptation.

“OK, I’ll just buy this one dress and then I’ll be set for the rest of the season…but wait a minute, I had better take that clutch to coordinate my look!”

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As the retail-induced high quickly wears off, it’s replaced by feelings of angst and guilt and ultimately, emptiness. I’m annoyed at myself that I fed the beast, that cunning voice inside my head that always screams for more!

So, how do we stop this insidious worm?

Clinical Psychologist Heather Irvine-Rundle suggests that “Children need to learn the value of working towards goals, and what we put in has an impact on what we get out. Effort is key.”

And as for us so called adults? Perhaps the answer lies not so much in mindless consumerism and the acquisition of things, but in our ability to recognise that the best things in life are actually free.

You can hear Ilaria on Hot FM FNQ’s Breakfast Show, Illy & Shad.

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