Cryptocurrency Addiction: Look for Warning Signs & Possible Treatments

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The lure of making a fortune online can prove an irresistible proposition for even the most level-headed among us. It requires a strong constitution to watch those little green percentages rise higher and higher every day without throwing at least some of your money at them.

Trading in cryptocurrency has become more widespread, and more concentrated in the past year, as the market skyrocketed towards the end of 2017.  And now we’re starting to see the side-effects of having an accessible, volatile, but possibly immensely profitable source of market speculation that even the average internet user can get involved in.

Cryptocurrency Addiction

An Obsession

Occurrences of cryptocurrency addiction are becoming so widespread that the medical industry is now starting to take notice.

Earlier this week, The Castle Craig Hospital in Scotland launched an initiative aimed at treating people who have become addicted to cryptocurrency trading.

Castle Craig

Castlecraig Hospital in Scotland

Chris Burn, the resident gambling therapist at Castle Craig, equated trading in cryptocurrencies to a form of gambling, he told

“It is a form of gambling. People gamble on all kinds of things, which makes cryptocurrency trading exciting. Compulsive gamblers like it – it’s mysterious, not really regulated and you can make huge gains – and huge losses – in a single day.

“People dive in because they don’t want to miss out on a good thing and they start putting money in without thinking about the consequences. But the reality is (cryptocurrency) trading is a fascinating idea, but it can do a great deal of harm.”

Perhaps it’s the accessibility of cryptocurrency which makes it so dangerous. A quick glance as the NASDAQ market index is enough to discourage anyone from investing in stocks. However, the infrastructure for crypto trading is a lot more welcoming.

First of all, it’s all just a click away at all times. Then you have easily found market statistics on sites like CoinMarketCap. At the same time there’s an internet subculture where fellow traders can unite and discuss their strategies on forums like BitcoinTalk and Reddit.

Gambling therapist Burn proposed that crypto gambling follows the same patterns as any other type of gambling, and is used as an escape mechanism. He said:

“It provides excitement and an escape from reality…It’s a classic bubble situation and the way we see that developing, it could well get worse quite soon A lot of people hear about something like this and they go for a gamble because they don’t want to miss out on the next good thing – a lot of addictive behavior comes from computers and the internet. This is another specific example that is really, really dangerous.”

A Guide for Cryptocurrency Addiction

The Castle Craig clinic has released an in-depth guide on their website, where they pose ten questions to determine whether or not you may be addicted to cryptocurrency trading.

Cryptocurrency Addiction Questions, Image from Castlecraig

If you answered ‘yes’ to just one of those questions, the clinicians say that this could be enough of a sign that you may need help.

Giving three ‘yes’ answers is considered a clear sign of cryptocurrency addiction and you should seek medical help before your addiction gets out of control.

Answering in the affirmative five times or more is classed as a sign that your crypto addiction has reached “pathological” levels, and you should seek help immediately.

Seeking Help Online

While Reddit might not be a dedicated psychological therapy website, sometimes its users do use it in that way.

Cryptocurrency sub-reddits are filled with posters voicing concern about their trading addiction.

One post was typical among the self-confessed addicts on the forum, it said:

“Hi fellow addicts… On this lovely Christmas, I am just sitting and refreshing my bank account information to find out if my salary has arrived or not.  I just can’t wait to input 70% of the income money in here.  I am also smiling at the absurdity of this situation since I have always been the guy who is very careful with money, but look at me now.”

Another typical comment concerned how cryptocurrency seemed to take priority over other things in life:

“My wife and I make good money but I’ve never been the guy to part with his money easily. I’ll debate for weeks on whether or not I want to spend $50 bucks on a pair of shoes. With crypto it’s quite scary how quickly I’ll throw $1000 at something without batting an eye.”

The vast majority of these posts have come in the last year, and it’s no coincidence why. There were almost no stories of cryptocurrency addiction prior to 2017 – ‘the year of cryptocurrency’.

What about Stock-Market Trading?

Online gambling has been around in some form for as long as the internet has existed. But just what is the difference between gambling and trading?

Stock traders will say that the defining difference between trading stocks and cryptocurrency is that with stocks you actually gain a stake in a physical company, whereas with cryptocurrency you’re merely hoping that your coins might be worth something some day.

However this is to neglect an important aspect about cryptocurrency – namely that many of the most profitable crypto platforms actually offer a real-world service, and often launch with a minimum viable product (MVP) already in place.

In this sense, a typical stock market IPO is no different from an ICO. Investors choose the project which they think has market potential, and they back that project with their money in the hope of making a profit down the line.

The gambling aspect is just as prevalent on the trading floor as it is on the crypto exchange. Companies rise and fall every day and there’s no sure-fire way of knowing which is going to be successful. There’s a reason why jumping out the top floor of their New York office building is not an uncommon way for stock speculators to meet their end.

Possible Treatment Methods

The Castle Craig addiction guide recommends direct medical treatment for cryptocurrency addiction, but if for some reason this is not an option for you then they recommend the following steps.

  1. Set a limit on your crypto expenditure and stick to it– many exchanges allow you to set limits on your investments, and this may help curb your spending.
  2. Specify a set time when you’re going to engage in crypto trading – instead of checking your phone constantly and moving coins around every day, give yourself a defined time for crypto trading activities.
  3. Don’t rely on cryptocurrency as your main source of income – get out of the habit of thinking of cryptocurrency as the primary source of your future earnings. Invest time in job skills or a career, as these have more chance of paying off than crypto investments.
  4. Find other activities to take up your time – if you don’t get away from the computer then you’re likely to fall back in the trap. Find new hobbies to occupy your mind.

Crypto addiction was always going to rear its ugly head, not least because 10-15% of the population naturally have what’s called an ‘addictive personality’, which makes them particularly susceptible to all forms of addiction. Likewise, the NHS states that 1 in 3 people in the U.K alone are addicted to some kind of substance or negative behavior.

Crypto addiction will undoubtedly fuel another round of media furor targeted at the crypto industry and the problem can only increase as more people become involved in this new sector of finance.

If you feel like you may be developing an addiction to cryptocurrency trading, please seek help from family, friends or a professional as soon as possible.

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Greg is a philanthropist, part-time juggler, and full-time crypto writer. He is a digital nomad, and wherever he lays his public key is his home.

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