Sudden wealth syndrome (SWS) used to be a rare phenomenon, reserved for those with an inheritance, overnight fame, or lottery winnings. However, the cryptocurrency market is making it much more widespread. Read on for some expert-driven tips on how to cope with SWS.
A sudden and extreme financial windfall may seem like a dream come true. But, in reality, it can lead to an identity crisis. Money is a highly emotional object, and our financial well-being is a part of who we are. When that changes overnight, it can be challenging to navigate the transition period. Known as Sudden Wealth Syndrome, emotions like guilt over your changed circumstance or fear of losing money can become overbearing. These are stressful states of mind to live with day in and day out. Unfortunately, that stress can sow the seeds for countless mental health conditions.
What is Sudden Wealth Syndrome?
SWS was coined by Stephen Goldbart, co-founder of the Money, Meaning, and Choices Institute. He noticed that when someone comes into an abrupt fortune, it creates newfound and unexpected pressures. SWS occurs when that stress becomes so overwhelming it leads to emotional or behavioural difficulties.
When we are not accustomed to wealth, it can be hard to reckon with the idea that we ‘deserve it.’ As a result, guilt is a common symptom of SWS. Unfortunately, that kind of misplaced guilt can wreak havoc on our health.
For example, chronic guilt can lead to depression, characterised by feelings of emptiness, pessimism, and detachment from those around us. That, in turn, can be highly confusing as acquiring financial security should make us feel happy. As a result, we feel even guiltier about our wealth, mistakenly believing that we are not grateful enough.
Although your immediate response to acquiring sudden wealth will depend heavily on your background and financial circumstance, shock is common. When you come into wealth, you go through a myriad of changes in your lifestyle, responsibility, and how you are perceived by others. These are significant alterations in your life, and it takes time to adapt to them. However, if that shock persists over weeks and months, it becomes a symptom of SWS.
When this happens, that constant shock makes us numb, detached, and confused. These reactions can then make us feel paralysed, and we can begin to struggle with even small financial decisions.
As a result, we might start to feel so uncomfortable in our new financial skin that we unconsciously spend that money in an attempt to ‘feel more like ourselves’ again. Those purchases could include risky investments, excessive spending, or promises to loved ones.
As we struggle more and more to identify with our financial situation, we can start to feel paranoid about losing money as it is so hard to believe that it is truly ours. In the case of cryptocurrency, it is common for that paranoia to trigger a state known as Ticker Shock, which is when we obsessively watch the stock market volatility to make sure our new fortune or investments are not losing value.
However, paranoia can also be caused by changes in your relationships with loved ones. Becoming suddenly wealthy can impact how our former loved ones perceive us. It could make them envious or resentful, which in turn might make you feel guilty. To cope, you might then isolate yourself from those loved ones, which is painful and hard-hitting on your self-esteem.
Strategies for Managing Sudden Wealth Syndrome
1. Be Compassionate with Yourself.
It is common to think that abundant financial security should make us feel happy and grateful. While those feelings are there, so too are confusion, fear, guilt, and others. Do not punish yourself when you feel something besides pure joy and relief. Going through change — even if it is for the better — will always be wrought with complications. Instead, try to let yourself feel whatever comes up. If you are struggling, try reaching out to someone you know you can trust with these feelings. If that is not an option, try speaking with a professional.
2. Take it Very Slowly.
Try to ease into your new financial situation. In the first few months, avoid any immediate purchases and only share the news with those closest to you. Once people become aware of your changing circumstances, difficult emotions like envy, greed, or resentment can start to emerge. While it can be alienating to keep something like this from people, it is vital that you first find your footing before sharing it with others and having to navigate negativity in return.
However, that being said, it is important to find a financial team as soon as possible that includes a financial planner, tax professional and estate-planning attorney. Rest assured, they cannot disclose any details to a third party. The same is true for mental health professionals.
3. Watch Your Neurochemicals.
Substance abuse is highly common in those battling SWS. This is because coming into a large sum of money seemingly overnight will release unfathomable amounts of feel-good chemicals in our brains.
For instance, imagine a young entrepreneur who starts making millions. This experience of immediate success can trigger vast quantities of dopamine and serotonin. Yet, when millions in the bank become your new normal, they no longer provide those feel-good chemicals which essentially sets the neurochemical stage for issues like addiction.
To combat that, it is crucial to be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and cravings in the early days of sudden wealth. Try to have stress-management techniques in place that you can lean on to deal with the highs and lows. Exercise, meditation, good sleep hygiene, and time with loved ones are excellent methods of coping with stress.
Finally, above all else, if you are struggling to cope with SWS, seek professional help as soon as possible. SWS can be a root cause of many mental health issues, so it is vital to address it as soon as possible. Although SWS is not a psychological diagnosis, it is a common term used by those of us working with UHNW clients. It is akin to an identity crisis, so treatment will focus on helping you construct a new sense of self that can incorporate your financial situation.
At Paracelsus Recovery, we have helped numerous clients overcome SWS, and we can help you too. Referrals have increased in recent years, largely because of how much can be made in such a short period of time in cryptocurrency markets. We are one of the few clinics in the world that understand the complexities surrounding cryptocurrency, including its addictive potential and negative impact on our mental health.
Our treatment programmes focus on each client and their unique health needs. We use a multidisciplinary approach (our 360-degree treatment model) to address all the underlying issues, not just the symptoms. A thorough assessment is carried out to determine the exact treatment and therapies required. We will design an individual treatment plan based on the results of these assessments.
We work exclusively with UHNW individuals whose mental health challenges often go unnoticed due to the misconception that financial security ensures mental stability. We only treat one client at any time and provide the strictest confidentiality. Our international team of highly qualified professionals will work with you around the clock to assist your recovery, seven days a week.
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