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Is Cryptocurrency Addictive? What to Do if Your Trading is Getting Out of Control

It’s probably a safe assumption to say that, given the numbers of people getting involved in cryptocurrency trading, it can often be an enjoyable and entertaining (as well as risky) pastime. However, what happens when it becomes too enjoyable and entertaining? That is, what happens when it turns into an addiction?

While cryptocurrency trading addiction hasn’t received too much attention up until now, at least a few experts and organizations are beginning to sit up and take notice, with a rehab clinic in Scotland proudly receiving media attention last year as the world’s first to treat the problem. However, for anyone who doesn’t live in the UK, or who simply wants to monitor their own trading behavior, this article provides a breakdown of the signs of crypto trading addiction, as well as advice on what can be done to confront it.

It's possible to have an addiction to crypto trading

Castle Craig: the ‘World’s First’ Rehab Clinic for Bitcoin Addiction

Last October, readers may have encountered news about Castle Craig, a rehab clinic in Scotland. Having long dealt with gambling, gaming and other forms of addiction, it has recently turned to helping patients overcome problematic cryptocurrency trading, with numerous media outlets covering it last year for the first time.

However, Castle Craig first launched its rehabilitation program for cryptocurrency trading addiction back in 2018, and has encountered patients suffering from the addiction since 2017. This coincides with the first major cryptocurrency bull market, and testifies to the fact that crypto-trading has long had the potential to consume the lives of people who get too heavily involved in it.

In fact, it’s almost no surprise that cryptocurrency trading has the potential to lead to addiction, given that the link between (stock) day-trading and addiction has been established for several years now. And with studies also showing that the brain’s response to making money is uncannily similar to its response when using cocaine, it really does come as no surprise that some people end up taking ‘traditional’ and cryptocurrency trading a little too far.

Indeed, on its website, Castle Craig writes that it treats cryptocurrency addictions “as forms of gambling addiction,” with both providing a rush that can lead to some people becoming hooked. It also compares cryptocurrency trading to day-trading, and it’s often the day-trading of cryptocurrencies that can lead to problems for those who take things too far.

Speaking in interviews, Castle Craig’s Tony Marini has said that cryptocurrency trading addiction can often grow out of other addictions. “The biggest problem is this cross addiction [with crypto] starting — through drugs and alcohol,” he told Decrypt.

How Can I Tell If I Have a Crypto Trading Addiction?

The problem with many addicts is that too few realize they have an addiction, with such obliviousness (or denial) being a major obstacle to treatment. However, here is a list of common signs of cryptocurrency trading addiction, adapted largely from Castle Craig’s own material on the subject:

  • Spending (nearly) all of your time and money on crypto-trading

  • Repeatedly chasing losses, which may increase in size, and experiencing financial difficulties as a result

  • Regularly borrowing from friends or family, or selling/pawning belongings, in order to fund cryptocurrency trading. In severe cases, addicted traders may even steal

  • Driven by a constant belief that a ‘big win’ is only just around the corner

  • Understating or lying about the extent of trading activity to friends, family and acquaintances

  • Experiencing mood swings, including depression and feelings of hopelessness

  • Always thinking about trading; rarely able to concentrate on anything else

  • A tendency to become irritable, restless or anxious when attempting to reduce trading, or when prevented from trading by some other commitment or activity.

  • (Strong) denial there’s any problem

  • Repeated failure to stop or significantly reduce trading activity, indicating a lack of self-control

Such symptoms coincide to a large extent with the signs of day-trading addiction, as summarized by the New York-based Family Addiction Specialist, for instance. These also include such symptoms as a loss of interest in other activities (especially those a trader used to find engaging), as well as an increasing willingness to take risks in order to maintain the same level of excitement. Such symptoms also overlap with those for gambling addiction, with the UK-based Priory Group writing that the latter can also lead to physical symptoms, such as headaches and gastrointestinal issues.

On its website, Castle Craig also explains that certain factors tend to make it likelier that a cryptocurrency trading addiction emerges. Here are the most significant:

  • Wanting an escape from stress or boredom, or from feelings of sadness or loneliness; wanting any kind of ‘escape’

  • The presence of other addictions, which can feed into crypto trading addiction (or be replaced by it)

Again, such factors tend to crop up in other addictions: a highly cited 2015 study of gaming addiction found that psychological factors — including ADHD, depression, anxiety, and impulsivity — are the biggest predictors of problematic behavior.

What to Do If You’re Worried About Your Trading

If you’re worried about your cryptocurrency trading and suspect that you have a problem, the first thing to do is seek help. For some people, this could mean confiding with a friend or family member they trust, and asking them to help you overcome your problems (if they feel able to do so). For others, it could mean seeking professional help.

In the latter case, not every town or country in the world has its own Castle Craig, but there are many mental health clinics and professionals that are equipped to deal with addictions. As such, it’s always worth inquiring with a nearby or accessible clinic as to whether they can help you.

Given the stigma of addiction, it may often be tempting to try ‘going it alone’ and ending your addiction yourself. However, it’s arguable that if you were able to control your own trading, you would have done so already, and wouldn’t have developed an addiction. Of course, every case of problematic trading is different, and those who may notice a problem early may have a better chance of resolving things (largely) by themselves.

One thing that most traders can do alone, however, is take pre-emptive steps to reduce the chances of an addiction ever emerging in the first place. As we’ve argued in the context of day trading, the best trading strategy for 99% of people is a simple buy-and-hold strategy, where traders identify a fundamentally sound cryptocurrency and stick with it for the long-term. That way, you can simply make an investment and get on with your life.

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CryptoVantage Author Simon Chandler

About the Author

Simon Chandler

Simon Chandler is a journalist based in London. He writes about technology, markets and politics, and has bylines for Forbes, Digital Trends, CCN, Wired, TechCrunch, the Verge, the Sun, the New Internationalist, and TruthOut, among many others. His Twitter handle is @_simonchandler_

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