Shrink Rap: Myth of Sex, Drugs, Money on Wall Street

Shrink Rap: Myth of Sex, Drugs, Money on Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in "The Wolf of Wall Street," Red Granite Pictures

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Red Granite Pictures

By now it’s a well known fact that the “haves” have more than the rest of us. A lot more. But does all that money buy happiness? Part-time Telluride local and Manhattan therapist to the wealthy and famous weighs in on an article written by David Weidner in MarketWatch.

This Oscar season, voters are considering two movies that tackle the dark side of Wall Street life: addiction to substances, sex and the biggest one of all: money.

Both “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which I’ve written about previously, and “Blue Jasmine” take very different views. “Wolf” glorifies excess and passes it off as entertainment. “Jasmine” is less enamored, but Woody Allen’s look at how money and power corrupt isn’t entirely accurate either. Comparisons have been made between the main characters and the Madoffs.

If you think that’s a typical Wall Street story, you probably think “The Croods” was a documentary on cavemen.

Today, the excess, addiction and poor behavior reflected by Hollywood is not only less extreme, it’s less prevalent.

On today’s post-scandal Wall Street, it’s the feeling bankers and brokers are “working harder for less,” said Alden Cass, a clinical psychologist who works with financial professionals. Cass said many of his clients have seen “Wolf” and said they feel that they missed the fun.

“You’re seeing a lot of people adjusting to a new normal that isn’t like it used to be,” Cass said. His clients who have seen the movies say “‘Boy, I missed the good times.’”

It was Cass’s study a decade ago that came to some startling conclusions about addiction, depression and how they interact with a Wall Street career and a life.

Cass found that a quarter of the 26 stockbrokers he studied suffered from depression — more than three times the rate in the general population. Cass also told me another finding from the study: the depressed brokers were the ones earning the most money.

That disconnect between material success and personal happiness is something that isn’t fully illustrated in the big screen version. Moreover, it doesn’t reflect today’s personal struggles on Wall Street.

And before you roll your eyes, consider that for most of these people the belief was that money, power and success was a means to happiness for them and their loved ones. If you can’t feel sorry for them, feel sorry at least for the innocents, friends and loves ones, they hurt along the way.

Despite what you see at the movies, financial professionals actually have a lower rate of divorce and substance abuse compared to many other professions.

The problem, mental health professionals who work with such cases say, is that financial success often works in covering up the emptiness. It’s only when the quantitative, superficial rewards stop that the ruse is up: They get fired from the law firm, laid off from trading floor or a wife leaves them. If substance abuse is front and center, the pivot point could be an intervention.

And since the financial crisis, 20,000 jobs on Wall Street have been lost. Bonuses for 2013 are expected to drop as much as 20% from the previous year. Therapy practices on Wall Street are bustling.

“They come to a point in their life,” said Paul Hokemeyer, Manhattan-based therapist and psychologist who specializes in the treatment of the wealthy and famous, “where they say ‘My kids don’t like me. My wife doesn’t like me. I don’t like myself.’ Maybe they say ‘my parents are sick and dying,’ and they’re saying ‘is that all there is?’”

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Editor’s Note: Dr. Paul Hokemeyer is a nationally recognized expert on Eastern philosophies, relationships, and emotional healing. A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, he holds a PhD in psychology, as well as a doctorate in the law. The part-time Telluride resident is based in the New York City office of the Caron Treatment Center. He is also a contributor to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, “The Dr. Oz Show,”  Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN’s Prime News, Fox News, Oprah Radio and more.

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