Cryptocurrency is finance’s newest frontier, and its vast potential for gains – as well as losses – has grabbed headlines and gained international attention. But for some, trading cryptocurrency could lead to a devastating addiction similar to problem gambling.
For many people, there is a distinctive thrill associated with a big risk. Whether it is skydiving, fast driving or betting it all on a new investment, the potential for gain – and loss – sends the brain into an elevated state that can lead to an addiction. For those exploring investments in volatile cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, investing and trading have the potential to become addictive in the same ways that people can become addicted to day trading on stock markets or gambling. Understanding the new phenomena of cryptocurrency or Bitcoin addiction is important in identifying warning signs of compulsive behaviour, and seeking help if necessary.
The Rise of Cryptocurrency Use and Investment
The rise of cryptocurrencies, a decentralised subtype of digital currency, began with the inception of Bitcoin in the mid 00’s. Cryptocurrency is a unit of money that can be used to make payments via an online system. Similar to other currency or stocks, holding cryptocurrency can make money by accruing interest or dividends, and the value of cryptocurrencies can rise or decrease over time based on a variety of factors.
Crypto investors are typically attracted by the initially low price of a cryptocurrency, and the potential for high investment returns due to frequent price fluctuations. However, it’s the volatile nature of crypto that triggers neural processes that are also present in day-traders with day-trading addiction and problem gambling, and can lead to a cryptocurrency gambling addiction.
What is Cryptocurrency Addiction?
Crypto addiction is a type of behavioural addiction that occurs when there is an ongoing and compulsive need to engage in activities around crypto investment or trading, in spite of negative personal, professional, or financial consequences. This behaviour isn’t only limited to buying and selling cryptocurrency, and may also involve obsessive research on markets, investor sentiment, chart analysis, and other data related to crypto.
The neuroscience of crypto addiction
The frequent fluctuations in the price of cryptocurrencies can result in significant financial gains for investors. Finding success on the crypto market triggers a release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, which brings about a feeling of excitement and pleasure that stems from the brain’s reward centre. For some people, the thrill of a big win in the crypto market can compel further engagement with it, to the point where the brain will become dependent on the related rush of dopamine to feel enjoyment. This kind of addiction is very similar to gambling addiction or day trading addiction, and can have similar impacts on people’s lives.
Risk factors for crypto addiction
It’s important to note that while many people who buy and sell cryptocurrencies do not experience addiction, a small percentage will develop a problematic habit around crypto investment and trading, underscoring the need for awareness of this disorder. Some other factors that can increase the risk for crypto addiction include:
- Personal or family history of other addictions, including substance addictions or behavioural addictions like gambling
- Personal tendency towards risk-taking or thrill-seeking
- Other underlying mental health issues
How has social media fueled crypto addiction?
The potential for addiction increases when there’s an accompanying ease of access. The 24-7 availability of social media through our phones or other personal devices can foster problematic habits also seen in those with internet addiction. For those with crypto addiction, these habits can include things like compulsively checking social media feeds to monitor cryptocurrency prices or excessive internet research on cryptocurrency, leading to regular disruption in professional or personal interactions.
Signs of Cryptocurrency Addiction
Sure, you or a loved one are serious about crypto – but does that mean you have an addiction? Being able to spot the warning signs can help alert you to when regular use may be crossing the line into addiction. Some key indicators of crypto addiction include:
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, with an accompanying increased focus on crypto-related activities
- Taking increasing risks with trades, including making trades without well-defined strategies
- Feeling like you need to downplay your crypto activities to others
- Continuing to trade despite facing significant financial consequences (similar to “chasing losses” in gambling)
- Experiencing a “high” or “rush” when making higher-risk trades
- Feeling depression, anxiety, irritability, stress or other negative mental health impacts when you’re unable to engage with crypto-related activities
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide as a result of cryptocurrency-related activities
- Being unable to successfully cut back or stop engaging in cryptocurrency trading
Impacts of Crypto Addiction
Like with any addiction, crypto addicts experience wide-ranging consequences as a result of their dependency. Recognising the impacts of crypto addiction is often an important step in understanding this disorder as a problem, and propelling a person to seek help.
As people become addicted to cryptocurrency trading, they tend to make riskier trades with less strategy, increasing the potential for significant financial losses. This can then lead to further problematic financial behaviour, such as taking out loans, selling off assets, or even stealing from friends or family in an attempt to recover lost funds and continue trading.
Addiction is an isolating disease that can fully command an individual’s attention, often at the expense of their engagement in other important relationships. This can be devastating to interpersonal relationships at home and at work, as loved ones and colleagues may be ignored in favour of an unyielding focus on the crypto market. As people try to hide the extent of their activities around cryptocurrency, channels of communication may further break down, resulting in serious problems in their relationships.
The stress of cryptocurrency addiction can be overwhelming, particularly if an individual is sustaining losses, or if they are temporarily unable to participate in cryptocurrency-related activities due to familial or professional intervention, technical difficulties, or other reasons. The resulting loss of sleep, mood swings, anger, and irritability can impact one’s own mental well-being, as well as disturb the state of emotion of those close to them.
Some people may develop unhealthy habits in order to cope with this stress, including substance abuse, which can then result in other health problems. The impact of cryptocurrency to drug addiction can be significant, as drug addiction can cloud judgement regarding trades, or continued stress over losses can fuel increased levels of substance abuse. Others may find themselves struggling with symptoms of anxiety or major depressive disorder as they try to maintain financial success or manage losses.
How to Stop Cryptocurrency Addiction
If you or a loved one has noted problematic habits around cryptocurrency, it is important to take immediate steps to try and redirect these patterns of behaviour. Some possible ways to help bring balance back to cryptocurrency-related activities include the following:
1. Set hard and fast rules about engagement with cryptocurrency
If you are worried that your crypto trading may be spiralling out of control, define the parameters needed for you to successfully manage it. Some possible personal rules may include:
- Only engaging in crypto-related activities for certain time periods during the day
- Having a clear financial strategy that you do not deviate from
- Never trading or investing money that you do not have, or is not yours
- Ensuring that you fully understand what you’re investing in before you trade or invest
As an extra safeguard, sharing these rules and your crypto strategy with a trusted loved one or colleague can help hold you accountable in case you deviate from your plan.
2. Look beyond cryptocurrency
What did your life pre-crypto look like? What were things you enjoyed doing? What were hobbies you were interested in pursuing further? Recalling these can provide an important starting point for diversifying your interests beyond crypto, and accessing other ways to entertain yourself and cope with stress.
3. Seek professional cryptocurrency addiction counselling
Some people may recognise early on that they will need additional support in overcoming a crypto addiction, especially if they have already tried to stop on their own without success, or are facing significant personal or financial consequences from their crypto-related activities. Fortunately, there are many professional treatment options available for people struggling with crypto addiction, which include things like:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – a popular form of talk therapy used to help people overcome a cryptocurrency addiction. CBT identifies the root causes of cryptocurrency addiction, explores problematic patterns of thought and behaviour, and elicits ways in which to constructively address and shift these patterns
- Group therapy – this type of interpersonal therapy (similar to groups like Gamblers Anonymous) offers a unique and affirming experience to those recovering from cryptocurrency addiction. Surrounded by people with similar challenges and life experiences, participants benefit from informed support, knowledge, and advice from their peers and a skilled, compassionate facilitator.
- Motivational interviewing – another therapeutic technique used to treat those with gambling addiction, motivational interviewing can also be helpful for those with crypto addiction. This process helps people move past ambivalence or insecurity about their issues and discover their own motivation towards change.
How do I support a loved one living with a crypto addiction?
Addiction is a disorder that impacts an entire family, not just the individual experiencing it. This underscores the importance of education and treatment for families as well as individuals for all to truly heal from the addiction. Some ways to support a full recovery for the individual and the family include:
- Setting boundaries – establishing firm expectations around a loved one’s behaviour that are supportive but aren’t enabling is the general goal for boundaries. In extreme cases, this could include ceasing contact until the person seeks professional help.
- Being mindful of and reducing addiction triggers – if your loved one is engaged in treatment, they’ll need support from family and friends to help create an environment that is healthy and balanced. For those with crypto addiction, this will likely initially include one that is not screen-focused, and perhaps with limited financial involvement.
- Listen compassionately – addiction erodes channels of communication and isolates people from the ones they love. Helping break this cycle by listening and engaging can be critical in providing the support necessary to address and overcome the addiction.
- Seek knowledge – getting educated about addiction and how it works will help you better understand what your loved one is going through, and what is needed to break the cycle. This will also reinforce the message that loved ones also need and deserve support and treatment during the recovery process, as this will help all parties affected by the addiction heal and move forward.
Freeing Yourself from Crypto Addiction at The Dawn
At The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab, our compassionate team of professional addiction specialists have spent years guiding people through successful, lasting recoveries. We understand that an addiction to cryptocurrency is behavioural and affects a person in many different ways, and so our holistic, residential treatment approach combines the most effective psychotherapeutic techniques with a variety of proven wellness practices to heal both the mind and body.
At The Dawn, we also identify and treat co-occurring disorders that may be happening alongside or are fuelled by the cryptocurrency addiction. This could include issues like substance-use disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Ensuring the treatment and management of any co-occurring disorders is critical in achieving a lasting recovery from crypto addiction.
Crypto Addiction Treatment in Thailand
The Dawn is internationally accredited by the American Accreditation Commission International, and nationally licensed by the Thai Ministry of Health. Located in beautiful northern Thailand, our peaceful riverside facility offers a wide range of amenities to help you relax, recharge, and heal. Far away from the triggers and stressors of home, you’ll be able to fully focus on your recovery at The Dawn.
Call us today to learn more about how we can help you reclaim your life from cryptocurrency addiction.