Skyrocketing interest in cryptocurrency and stock trading has also brought a rise in people experiencing cryptocurrency addiction, a form of gambling addiction.
We spoke with Lauren Jessell, Ph.D., a New York City-based psychotherapist and expert in treating addictive behaviors, to learn more about cryptocurrency addiction and what you can do if you or a loved one is experiencing it.
Cryptocurrency addiction is like any other addiction. In this case, it is the act of buying and selling crypto to the point where it becomes compulsive and hurts important aspects of your life like your sleep, relationships, financial wellbeing, or maybe just your peace of mind.
In most ways, crypto addiction and trading addiction are the same but when people talk to me about “trading” or “day trading” addictions, they’re usually referring to compulsive behaviors around the stock market. Crypto addiction refers to the trading of bitcoin or altcoins, which can be bought 24/7 on any number of exchanges.
Cryptocurrency trading can be much riskier and addictive than trading on the market (except for Bitcoin ETFs) because the potential for reward-- and loss--is massive.
It depends. Time Magazine recently came out with an article about how much to invest (or not) in cryptocurrency. The general rule of thumb is to never invest more than you can afford to lose because crypto (especially the random altcoins out there) can be incredibly risky and volatile.
I’d say if you’re buying a new altcoin or otherwise trying to make money by timing the market, that’s gambling. But, if you invest in, for example, Bitcoin or Etherium and leave it in your portfolio for a set number of months or years, and it’s an amount you can afford to lose, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s certainly an interesting social experiment in economics, to say the least.
Crypto addiction is the opposite of investing what you can afford to lose. It’s taking big risks in exchange for the chance of a big reward.
By “risk,” I mean putting your financial wellbeing on the line, and potentially your mental health and relationships. You can be “up” and making money and still have a trade or crypto addiction. Plenty of people suffer from addictions that they haven’t experienced a lot of negative consequences from yet. Maybe your sleep is suffering, you have trouble focusing on less exciting activities, or you keep your trading a secret from family or friends. Those are all common warning signs of a crypto addiction.
The first thing I’d advise is to simply talk to someone you trust about it. Addictions feed on secrecy and shame—if you can talk to someone you trust about what’s going on, about the money or time or sense of control you’ve lost, that’s a major step.
I also recommend reaching out to a therapist who specializes in treating addiction.
For people who work in finance or don’t want to stop trading cold turkey, an addiction therapist who specializes in harm reduction specifically could be beneficial. Harm reduction is an approach to addiction treatment that focuses on reducing the harms associated with a behavior or drug, but not necessarily on eliminating it completely.
Again, getting can start by just talking to someone who cares about you.
Crypto addiction is becoming a really common problem. I have seen people become too ashamed of the money they’ve lost or the loss of control they’re experiencing, and start to isolate themselves from the people who love them. Reach out to someone you trust.
You can also check out a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting for support—these groups are starting to have more and more attendees who are facing crypto addiction. The groups are modeled off 12-step groups for alcohol and other substances.
Finally, a therapist who specializes in treating addiction is always a good option to turn to—they will have the tools and training to help you get back on track.
Lauren Jessell, Ph.D. is a psychodynamic therapist with a collaborative, warm, and relational style. What that means is she doesn’t just sit back and listen; rather, she will work with you to provide support and feedback to help you address your unique challenges. She specializes in treating trauma, anxiety and addictive behaviors and also works with individuals navigating a variety of sexual and relationship issues.
Professionally, Dr. Jessell has an MSW from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. from New York University. In addition to her work as a therapist, she is a behavioral health researcher with expertise in trauma, mental health and addiction. Her dual background in research and practice means the work she does is current and evidence-based.