A lot of money can make you sick

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Symptoms of the affliction are various, according to Jessie O'Neill, founder of the Affluenza Project, a Milwaukee-based organisation which studies and treats sufferers.

People may demonstrate anything from a loss of motivation, low self-esteem and an inability to tolerate frustration, to a false sense of entitlement and a preoccupation with the material world, she says. Many are workaholics or suffer from addictions.

Speaking of Wall Street, O'Neill says: 'The risk is in the pursuit of the money and the never-enough mentality. In addition to making money, affluenza sufferers push aside their families. They work late at night they work at the weekends they tend to leave a wake of human debris behind them.'

Phillip Hodson at the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, treats high-flyers in London for affluenza-type symptoms. 'There is a very strong temptation for people working in financial services to see money as a god,' he says. 'This leads to all kinds of perversions, from shopaholism and rampant materialism, to perversions of perversions in which wealthy individuals postpone expenditure on the grounds that they cannot possibly justify spending the money.'

The recent good years in the financial sector have encouraged people to work harder and harder until they are in danger of becoming mono-focused and megalomanic, says Hodson. Salaries, and to a greater extent, bonuses, can end up integral to identity.

'One of my off-shore clients came to me because he was obsessed with his job and with the money that he was making. He told me very early on that his salary was in excess of 400,000. His wife came with him because his marriage was suffering. He could never leave money behind. He was keeping a daily record of the potential size of his bonus. Money came everywhere, even into the bedroom. He was up at 5.30am dealing his own portfolio and again last thing at night.'

Hodson advises a more measured approach. 'I hate it when the hippies are right, but this is the only life we have. You do not need to be haemorrhaging cash in order to live. All you need is to be able to breathe in and breathe out. Life is about having eight hours at work, eight hours at play, and eight hours at rest.'

However, Hodson himself finds it hard to live by this axiom. Many of his banking clients are only able to see him at six in the morning or eleven at night.

For all the evils of money, it should not, however, be assumed that a small bonus should be taken sitting down. To anyone disappointed with the size of their bonus, Hodson advises a calm assessment of the facts.

In the first place, be thankful that there is a bonus. In the second place, contemplate whether it is right that it is somewhat small (have you been underperforming?). Finally, contemplate whether there is any way in which you can seek redress.

If there is not, then in the medium term you may want to question whether it is worth staying with the outfit for much longer. If you do move on in search of bigger bonuses elsewhere, do not expect to be immediately happier. Unless, that is, your bonus is really big. A study undertaken by US academic Ed Diener in the early 1990s indicated that although riches may not bring joy, super-riches are another matter. It seems that the positive relationship between money and happiness is restored once earnings exceed 10m a year.

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