While most individuals can invest in cryptocurrencies without significant distress or detriment to their mental health, a select sum will fall victim to compulsive or pathological cryptocurrency trading and cryptocurrency addiction. A compulsive, pathological or addicted crypto trader is someone who is unable to resist the urge to trade, even at the expense of consequences to their life. Cryptocurrency addiction can be destructive and debilitating well beyond mere financial loss, bringing about impairment to daily functioning including but not limited to problems at work, relationship issues, substance abuse, and deteriorating mental and physical health. In extreme cases individuals may experience suicidal thoughts and engage in self-harm or suicide. Below are 11 reasons why cryptocurrency can be highly addictive, and what you can do about it.
11 Reasons Why Cryptocurrency Is So Addictive
- The Brain
First and foremost, cryptocurrency trading is addictive as a result of a part of the brain that processes rewards and motivates behavior. As with all life pleasures, such as when an individual eats tasty food, spends time with loved ones, sees a beautiful sunset, or engages in other pleasurable experiences, the brain produces “feel good” neurotransmitters such as dopamine, resulting in the feeling of pleasure. The more pleasurable neurotransmitters that are released by an experience, behavior or substance the more susceptible it is to being abused, habit forming, and addictive.
Cryptocurrency trading is one of those behaviors that can release incredible amounts of dopamine as a result of the volatility in the crypto market and the potential for crypto traders to make exorbitant profits. The brain, and subsequently the individual, want to continue to experience this sense of pleasure and therefore will be inclined to return to the stimulus, in this case cryptocurrency trading, and engage in it more frequently and compulsively over time.
Unlike the stock market, cryptocurrency trading is available 24/7 and 365 days a year. Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other alternative coins do not shut-down, and cryptocurrency exchanges such as Coinbase do not close. The availability of crypto trading at all times can lead to psychological urges to trade crypto and habitual use. It is not only the trading itself that can be problematic, but also the constant checking of price-action at any given time of day or night.
Online retail exchanges that take minutes to set up and connect to a bank account coupled with access from mobile devices or other digital devices make cryptocurrency trading extremely easy to access. Cryptocurrency traders can buy or sell crypto from anywhere at any time so long as they have an internet connection. The incessant opportunity to trade crypto increases the risk for repeated use.
- Volatility and Leverage
The volatility of cryptocurrency markets is in large part what attracts many traders to the asset class, which can be further exacerbated by trading with leverage. Volatility, coupled with leverage or not, results in an immense dopamine rush that leaves the trader experiencing an incredible sense of euphoria during a successful trade. The trader becomes conditioned to wanting to experience this sense of pleasure again and again, resulting in obsessive and compulsive trading, as well as taking increased risk.
- Illusion of Control
Cryptocurrency traders often feel that they have an edge or know something that others don’t. They may spend extensive time researching a particular cryptocurrency, or they may be highly skilled at analyzing charts and other speculative measures. This is what is known as the “illusion of control,” and makes traders more willing to take greater risks and participate in trading more often.
Unlike drug use or excessive alcohol use, cryptocurrency has become more mainstream and acceptable, and therefore may be less likely to be questioned by loved ones as being problematic. This is especially true for cryptocurrency traders who have become experts at hiding their investing from others, making the problem difficult for family or friends to detect. Without intervention from loved ones, the problem may persist until it becomes extremely acute and critical.
- Partial Reinforcement
Cryptocurrency traders do not profit on every trade, nor do they lose on every trade. This “partial reinforcement” results in traders continuing to open new positions even after a string of losses, believing that they will take profits in their next trade. This type of reinforcement increases craving and makes it difficult to stop trading.
- Loss Aversion
Cryptocurrency traders are more emotionally attached to their losses than they are to their profits, even when they are of the same value. The individual may obsess over a $5,000 loss but be less emotional to a $5,000 gain. The preoccupation with losses results in “loss aversion” where the trader will endlessly invest time and money to win back a loss. This is what some refer to as “chasing a loss.”
The gamification of cryptocurrency exchanges coupled with the gamification of alt-coins can distort the reality of crypto trading. Many cryptocurrency exchanges have game-like interface features, and many alt-coins have fun and playful graphics and names. The gamification of these platforms and assets can incite traders to invest real money in a trivial way. This is especially true for young traders that may be more susceptible to the influence of game-like features. This is also further compounded by crypto-gaming, play-to-earn games, and NFT’s.
- Availability Heuristic
Cryptocurrency traders may overestimate the probability of coming out on top of a trade due to their past successful trades, or even due to seeing successful trades of others. This mindset is known as “availability heuristic” and leads a cryptocurrency trader to believe that their chances of a successful trade are greater than they actually are.
- Gamblers Fallacy
The “gambler’s fallacy” is the irrational belief that if something happened frequently in the past, it is less likely to happen in the future. For example, if the price of Bitcoin has gone down for six-days in a row, traders might expect for it to go up on the seventh day. This type of thinking can result in a false sense of control that may impact the amount of risk a trader is willing to take.
What You Can Do About A Cryptocurrency Addiction
Cryptocurrency addictions can result in devastating consequences well beyond mere financial loss, including but not limited to the deterioration of mental and physical wellbeing, relationships, and career, among other important life areas. In severe cases, cryptocurrency addiction can result in self-harm, suicidal ideation, and ultimately suicide.
As such, if you or a loved one believe you may be struggling with problematic cryptocurrency investing or cryptocurrency addiction please seek out professional help immediately. The National Problem Gambling Helpline can be reached 24/7 for free confidential support at 1-800-522-4700 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.
If you enjoyed reading this article you may also enjoy reading, “Staring at Charts: Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency,” as well as, “How To Support a Loved One With a Cryptocurrency Addiction.”
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