12/05/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Money-rexia: Do you Know Anyone With this Disorder?

Do you know someone who suffers from money-rexia?

"Money-rexia" is characterized by the belief that one can never be rich enough and the concurrent and irrational fear that one will become destitute, notwithstanding substantial evidence to the contrary. Money-rexics tend to be individuals who have amassed enough wealth to live quite comfortably but who nevertheless fear that there will never be enough money to keep them from some unnamed, vague suffering that is yet to come.

Money-rexics tend to obsess over the stock market, experiencing paper losses as something palpable, or as physical pain. They tend to review the real estate classifieds on a regular basis, calculating and recalculating the worth of their homes, even if they have no intention of selling anytime soon.

Money-rexics are known to control their net worth through voluntary luxury-starvation. This could mean abstention from travel, from eating out, from shopping, all of which could seem like just plain old good sense in a busted economy such as ours. However, just as anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder, can be mistaken for careful eating habits, money-rexia can be easily confused with good old conservative spending habits. It is often difficult to see the distinction, and those with money-rexia will often be incapable of recognizing that a problem exists. One tell-tale sign (I am told by my secret sources....I hereby disavow having had any personal experience with a money-rexic) is a refusal to spend money on replacing underwear that has gone threadbare. Of course, since this is a private matter, many money-rexics can be identified only by their spouses.

And speaking of spouses...

I am sure that it comes as no surprise that spouses of money-rexics tend to suffer from the effects of being married to a money-rexic. But it's not just enforced thriftiness that is at the heart of said suffering: some spouses of money-rexics may be characterized as "money-rexic by proxy".

We see "money-rexia by proxy" when there has been an unconscious transfer of symptoms to the "non-money-rexic spouse". For example, some spouses who suffer from "money-rexia by proxy" may begin actually to shun spending money, themselves, because every time the credit card bill arrives, there is considerable backlash from the money-rexic spouse. This is also known, albeit less widely, as the "Clockwork Orange Effect". Some "money-rexics by proxy" actually forget that they once enjoyed spending money on luxuries like vacations and entertainment, believing that it was their own idea to stop visiting family and going to the theater.

But there is hope for money-rexics. And that hope is the actual loss of money. When real money is lost, the money-rexic has a chance to understand and appreciate what it is to actually have had enough money. So, perhaps there is a silver lining to an impending long cold season of recession.