Huge volatility and emerging institutional interest in the cryptocurrency market have made many traders incredibly wealthy, but the dark underbelly rarely discussed is the new wave of crypto trading addiction.
Recently, Castle Craig hospital on the Scottish borders became the first of its kind to offer crypto trading addiction therapy.
“Unlike some forms of gambling, such as horse racing which are, to some extent regulated, and limited by time, the odds and size of stake, cryptocurrency trading can be done 24/7,” says Chris Burn, gambling therapist at the hospital.
“It’s volatile and the stakes can be very large – indeed I have seen it described as a ‘never-ending horse race for high stakes at long odds’. All that is very attractive to compulsive gamblers who tend to seek excitement, escape from reality and the opportunity to repeat the activity exhaustively.”
Burn believes crypto trading poses a particularly deadly cocktail for addicts as opposed to other forms of gambling: “from our observations people may begin trading in cryptocurrencies as a leisure activity, very part time, but they become hooked on the activity because of its addictive nature. By this we mean, it is poorly regulated, often poorly understood, but exciting because of the big fluctuations in price that occur.”
Further to this, crypto trading addiction, when performed at leisure or in private with easy access, is worsened by the fear of missing out (FOMO), a social compulsion to continue checking and obsessing over crypto trading and the market.
Burn has himself experienced a gambling addiction first hand and speaks candidly about it.
“One day I realised that my large number of maxed-out credit cards totalled a debt of over £100k. The train had hit the buffers and Therapy and Gamblers Anonymous was the next step,” says Burn, “happily, I can look back over 30 years recovery, but I still consider myself at risk. Listening to colleagues discussing the latest cryptocurrency mini-bubble yesterday made me decidedly jumpy – the FOMO juices had started running again.”
Part of the problem is that an addict might not even be aware of damaging addictive symptoms, particularly when coupled with phone addiction (constant ritual checking) and especially when the user is making large profits.
But Burn says it doesn’t have to get that far providing the symptoms are widely recognised:
- Spending a great deal of time on the activity of trading in cryptocurrencies, checking prices and constantly thinking about the activity – so that other occupations such as work, socialising and exercise do not get done.
- Becoming irritable and nervous when not engaged in the activity; sleeping badly because of thinking about it.
- Debts and financial problems
- Lying to friends and family or justifying one’s activities/problems
- Mood swings, feelings of hopelessness and depression
- Anxiety, leading to physical symptoms such as sweating and tremors
- Unrealistic views such as being ‘lucky’, chasing losses
- Attempting to control the activity without success.
Castle Craig has offered a Gambling Addiction programme for many years which has treated people for all forms of day trading and spread betting addictions.
Their treatment combines the Twelve Step recovery programme of personal change through self discovery, honest recognition of the problem and the need for help. Patients take personal responsibility for their recovery and share their experience in therapy groups and individual counselling.
In addition, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is used whereby patients face reality and learn practical measures to effect changes and learn new habits.
Further insight into their treatment programme can be gained from their dedicated page about cryptocurrency addiction.