Understanding Cryptocurrency Addiction
Addiction to Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Trading
Castle Craig Hospital treats cryptocurrency addiction for people addicted to trading, spread betting, and the trading of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple & Litecoin. We treat these as forms of gambling addiction.
Some of the symptoms of cryptocurrency addiction that cryptocurrency users should look out for are: feeling muscle tension and anxiety, constantly checking the prices online (even in the middle of the night), and thinking about cryptocurrency trading when doing other things.
What Is Cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that are not backed up by a central bank like the Bank of England. They are bought and sold like shares and traded globally. Their value also fluctuates like shares.
The first cryptocurrency was Bitcoin and, with an estimated 72% share of the market at the time of writing (April 2018), it is currently the biggest.
For many people, they seem like an easy way to get rich. Like all forms of gambling, it can be highly addictive. At Castle Craig, we have observed very close similarities between cryptocurrency addiction and gambling addiction in our clients.
What Is Day-Trading?
Day trading is the buying and selling of stocks, shares, and other financial instruments within the same day. Day traders (also known as speculators) take advantage of small price moves and constantly monitor changes via the Internet.
Some years ago, day trading was only done by financial companies and investment experts. But now, these types of transactions are open to anyone with an internet connection.
Another type of addictive trading is known as Spread Betting. This is when someone makes a bet on a share, currency, or other financial instruments, going up or down. The difference between day trading is that it doesn’t involve actually buying a share (or security), but simply betting on which way the price will go.
According to Janice Dorn, one in ten-day traders in the USA are addicted to it:
“Sometimes they get lucky and win. Most of the time, they lose. Often, they lose big but keep going because they are in a vicious downward cycle, doing what is called “revenge trading” to try to recoup their losses. This is a recipe for complete disaster.”Janice Dorn
Such activities involve constantly fluctuating prices and monitoring these, on the internet, can be compelling and exciting. Some people have made a lot of money in this way.
Why Do People Begin Trading in Cryptocurrency?
Investing Rather Than Gambling
Many people justify gambling on the cryptocurrency markets as ‘investing’. It isn’t seen as a one-off bet on a horse, or a night spent playing online poker, if it’s an investment it is a sensible thing to do. Or is it? Cryptocurrency markets are incredibly volatile, with thousands of different cryptocurrencies available to choose from, it is easy to get sucked into a cycle of speculation, wins and losses.
Access Through Your Mobile
The internet allows anyone with a smartphone instant access to global markets, where prices are updated every few seconds. Watching price fluctuations can be compelling and, in some cases, addictive.
Chris Burn, a gambling therapist at Castle Craig Hospital says, “the high risk, fluctuating cryptocurrency market appeals to the problem gambler. It provides excitement and an escape from reality. Bitcoin, for example, has been heavily traded and huge gains & losses were made. It’s a classic bubble situation.”
There are many people on video platforms like Tiktok and Youtube posing as experts who can educate consumers about the emerging cryptocurrency markets. Even though Tiktok has imposed restrictions on posting financial advice on the platform there is still a lot of material out there giving investment ‘advice’ on trading with cryptocurrencies. Many of these video profiles have a huge amount of followers. Many people use WhatsApp Groups as a way of swapping cryptocurrency trading tips.
The Promise of Big Wins
The internet is flooded with stories documenting the huge financial gains that some lucky people have made with cryptocurrency trading. However the losses are rarely reported, and many people have lost millions.
Recognising a Cryptocurrency Addiction
Not all day traders or investors in cryptocurrencies are addicted to gambling and it can be difficult to tell the difference between a passion and an addiction.
Castle Craig’s experienced therapists use various diagnostic questionnaires and therapeutic assessments to help recognise an addiction to gambling, including cryptocurrency trading.
We treat the addiction to day trading, including cryptocurrency trading as a gambling addiction. We create it alongside any alcohol or drug addiction the patient may have.
Very often another addiction such as alcohol dependence may co-exist along with gambling and it is essential that these other addictions are also treated.
Why Would Someone Get Addicted to Crypto Trading?
Let’s examine the reasons why a cryptocurrency addiction would develop.
- Trading in cryptocurrencies can produce feelings of excitement, euphoria, and thrill, which is one of the reasons it is so appealing. Some people can develop a psychological dependency on these feelings and emotions because our brain is wired to crave the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Repeated exposure to dopamine through gambling can result in changes in the brain’s reward circuit.
- They consider it an escape from stress or a way to cope with anxiety or boredom.
- It gives temporary relief from feelings of sadness and loneliness, thus encouraging a cycle of seeking relief from negative emotions through cryptocurrency gambling.
- Social and environmental factors: The influence of family and friends can fan the flames of a behavioural addiction such as cryptocurrency gambling. Repeated exposure to social media posts and videos makes cryptocurrencies seem exciting and rewarding.
- Cognitive distortions: Some people develop cognitive distortions related to crypto gambling, such as an illusion of control or a belief in chance and luck. They may think that they have special skills or knowledge that can influence the outcome of their cryptocurrency trading activities, which can lead to excessive gambling, erratic bets and ultimately huge financial losses.
- Making a loss on a cryptocurrency trade can drive people to gamble in the hope of solving their financial problems, leading to a cycle of chasing losses and accumulating more debt, worsening the addiction.
- It can replace or appear alongside other addictions (known as ‘cross-addiction‘).
Signs and Symptoms of Cryptocurrency Addiction
- Spend all their time and money on online trading;
- Experience financial problems;
- Chase their losses (they spend more to recoup their losses)
- Constantly borrow from family and friends, or steal to fund their habit;
- Believe a big win is about to happen;
- Pawn their belongings to raise funds;
- Lie to friends and family about the extent of their losses;
- Experience mood swings, depression and hopelessness;
- Constantly think about the next investment;
- Become restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop;
- Deny the problem;
- Try many times to control, cut back or stop.
How Is an Addiction to Day-Trading and Cryptocurrencies Treated
At Castle Craig Hospital, we treat addiction to day trading and cryptocurrencies as a form of gambling addiction, which we have been treating for many years.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Version 5 (DSM-5) recognises gambling (Gambling Disorder) as a diagnosable addiction subject to certain criteria.
We use the 12-step approach, with CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and help patients to:
- Understand their addiction
- Recognise the consequences (and the denial)
- Identify what they want in place of gambling
- Build self-esteem
- Learn assertiveness and impulse control
- Learn to manage debts and finances.
Online Cryptocurrency Addiction Therapy
Our outpatient clinic, CATCH Recovery, offers online therapy for the treatment of cryptocurrency addiction. CATCH Recovery operates a 28-day programme of addiction therapy and recovery coaching and group therapy.
Cryptocurrency Addiction FAQ
Read more about addiction to cryptocurrency trading in our detailed FAQ,
Real-Life Stories on Crypto Addiction
Read these real-life statements of compulsive cryptocurrency traders.
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Addiction to Cryptocurrencies (Transcription)
Tony Marini, Addiction Therapist:
So, if we’re betting on the stock market, we’re betting on stocks going up or down, and so the bitcoin is very similar. If you become compulsive about it, then you’re going to be wondering, right, what is the price now? What is the price now? Am I going to put more money into it? Or am I gonna sell? So they’re constantly looking at the price. Are they going to bet money or take their money out?
It’s very similar to day trading. Is it going up, is it going down, should I put money on this side or on this one? I mean, all of the stock market, for me, is gambling. Some people will do it as a business and they can do it as a business. Some people will get compulsive about it and lose everything they have. There are so many suicides in the stock market. Same as gambling.
There are three times as many people who commit suicide through gambling as any other addiction.
Jose Pereira, former Head Therapist:
Cryptocurrency addiction takes your life away from you. You become really obsessed all the time. You start neglecting yourself, neglecting your family, your friends, and your other activities. Neglecting the joy of life because you are just focused, obsessed. And the compulsion to look and to find out every five minutes, ten minutes, and half an hour becomes a completely new addiction.
You need to go to the roots of the problem. One thing is behaviour. You need to put some rules, some boundaries on that, to stop it. Of course, if they come here, they don’t have access to iPhones or iPads. It’s the first thing. So, the drug itself is taken away…the paraphernalia. Then you start looking at what makes you do that. What are you trying to get from it? What are you avoiding by doing that? So then you go to the roots of the problems that are similar to drug addiction, chemical or alcohol addiction. It’s the same factors that contribute to that.
Now, we have to remember, when coming into rehab for cryptocurrency addiction you have to want to get well. I mean, if you do not if you’re doing it for someone else and not yourself, this will not work. We, as addicts, have to want to get well ourselves.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction at Nottingham Trent University, recently told Castle Craig: “Addiction to cryptocurrencies is really just a sub-type of online day-trading addiction. I see these as akin to gambling addiction.”
For how they can be addictive more information by Dr Griffiths on cryptocurrency addiction please click here.
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