Living in the 21st century, you have probably heard of the word ‘cryptocurrency,’ especially in the past couple of years, but not everyone who has heard of it knows what it is and how it functions. In order to understand it, we must break the word ‘cryptocurrency’ into two. ‘Crypto’ is a word of Greek origin that means concealed or hidden; meanwhile, the currency is a medium of exchange for goods and services. So, in simpler words, cryptocurrency is digital money except, they aren’t associated or controlled by any government, which allows freedom in transactions. Another essential feature of cryptocurrency that has boosted its popularity is the safety of both identity and money as it uses ‘blockchain,’ a system that is decentralized and spread across many computers, which makes it much more secure than other types of currencies, which makes clients trust in it more.

Three coins: Ripple, Ethereum, and Bitcoin next to a micro SD card.

Bitcoin was the first form of cryptocurrency and is still the one most widely used. It was started by an unknown person or group of people known as Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. Even though it has been used for a long time, it has risen drastically in both popularity and value in recent years.

 Many companies have created their own ‘tokens,’ which can be traded for goods or services offered by the company.  CoinMarketCap.com notes that around 10.000 cryptocurrencies are publicly traded. On 18th August 2021, the total value of all cryptocurrencies was $1.9 trillion. 

Cryptocurrencies appeal to people because most believe it is the currency of the future, and will soon be even more valuable. Some rely on and are impressed by the technology behind the cryptocurrency as it is safer and more securer than traditional payment methods. 

When something is capable of stirring up an extreme feeling of euphoria or utter disappointment in you, it is probably addictive. Both these emotions are experienced by those who invest in cryptocurrency. Introduced in 2009, Bitcoin is still a relatively new phenomenon, and so the evidence and research about its psychological impact are limited. The addiction to cryptocurrency is said to be similar to that of gambling. It is estimated that about 1% of cryptocurrency traders will develop a pathological addiction to it that can be extreme. About 10% could experience problems from cryptocurrency that has nothing to do with finance. 

During the COVID-19 lockdown, more people have developed an interest in cryptocurrencies and are starting to face psychological issues because of their obsession. Many people who invested in Bitcoin earlier have made headlines narrating their rags to riches stories and tales of success. Many red flags of crypto addiction are the same as those for gambling or stock trading. 

The fluctuations in cryptocurrency drive investors to constantly monitor cryptocurrency prices and check the news. Huge swings in cryptocurrency mean investors can make huge profits in very little time. Placing bets with leverage can also be very thrilling but risky at the same time. The feelings of extreme happiness when one makes profits cause the brain to release dopamine, which is the same ‘dopamine rush’ that alcoholics seek, causing them to consume more in order to get that same effect. 

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The euphoric feeling combined with the huge profits and a sense of winning is what makes crypto trading more addictive. In contrast, the lows of crypto trading are equivalent to withdrawal for alcoholics and drug addicts. Any low they suffer makes them want to chase the ‘next high’ with hopes that things will be more profitable, thus entering a vicious cycle of addiction.  

Addicts claim that it is indeed the roller-coaster ride that keeps them want to continue investing and monitoring their progress. A few other reasons behind crypto addiction include that it is easier and more accessible than before. It is legal and accepted by loved ones. Some determined investors keep monitoring the fluctuations and charts before investing and believe they have cracked it all down to the last bullet point, resulting in an “illusion of control.” This illusion makes them believe they have all control, and they eliminate the role played by chance. When the market rises, more people are motivated to invest, and so, the risk-taking rises. 

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency addictions may have catastrophic and far-reaching consequences for the addict and their family. Although research on cryptocurrency addiction is limited, studies and anecdotal data show that it can severely influence a person’s mental health, physical health, relationships, money, profession, and other crucial life areas.

Cryptocurrency addiction, according to current research and findings taken from other compulsive gambling habits, can lead to mental health symptoms such as stress, anxiety, sadness, and mania. It can also cause issues like sleeplessness when people check price activity and their positions in the middle of the night. To stay awake and attentive for lengthy periods of time, some traders may turn to excessive coffee, Adderall, cocaine, or other stimulants. Such behavior can also cause visual or auditory hallucinations, which can resemble the symptoms of more serious mental illnesses. Researchers advise against drawing conclusions about causality or correlation when it comes to the mental health issues that might co-occur with cryptocurrency addictions. In the domain of bitcoin addiction, much more study is needed.

Cryptocurrency addicts are more prone than the general public to face the following financial difficulties:

Inability to pay electricity bills, borrowing money from relatives and friends, even turning to loan sharks, thus, accumulating more debts. Personal belongings are pawned or sold, experiencing eviction or repossession of your house, failure to make monthly payments, doing any unlawful activities, such as theft, embezzlement, or fraud, to fund bitcoin purchases; total bankruptcy.

Family effects of bitcoin addiction

Cryptocurrency users are more likely to have the following familial issues than ordinary people:

  • Preoccupation with bitcoin trading makes it difficult to have a regular family life;
  • Constant squabbles about money and obligations;
  • Emotional and/or physical abuse, neglecting family members, and/or turning aggressive towards his/her spouse/partner and/or children;
  • Relationship issues may arise, leading to separation or divorce.

Addiction to cryptocurrencies has health risks:

Cryptocurrency users are more prone to suffer from the following physical and mental health issues than the general population:

Low self-esteem; stress disorders; anxiety; a continual state of worry or mood swings; little sleep and a poor appetite; drug misuse; manic depression; in severe cases, even try to commit suicide at the least. Low academic achievement in school, college, or at employment; low attendance rates;

Expulsion from school or dismissal from school.

Some argue that crypto trading addiction is not a new form of addiction; it is simply another type of online day trading addiction. For the sake of the present article, we will regard this as a real addiction in need of some form of awareness and a resulting antidote.

Read Also: What is Mental Breakdown?

Despite being a fairly new form of addiction, crypto trading or cryptocurrency addition can be detected through a handful of signs. Just like any other behavioral addiction, for example, gambling, it is important to analyze oneself (or even a friend or family member) and try to work towards its remedy.

The first sign is evident when one wakes up, and the first thought that arises is to check the price of Bitcoin. Has it changed? Increased? Decreased? Or is it the same? Such thoughts resurface throughout the day, preoccupying the person and significantly impacting their lives for the worse. The “addict” keeps the related relevant tabs open, such as the CoinMarketCap, on the home page and has the nagging urge to check its status every few minutes. A related sign of this type of addiction is forgetting and/or ignoring responsibilities like one’s job, family, friendships and relationships, physical and outdoor activities, etc.

Another sign is having mood swings and an unexplained depressive state and anxiety. This may then extend to having physical symptoms such as tremors and sweating. It can also cause restlessness and irritability, especially due to the increasing screen time but low turnover.  

Furthermore, a person is a cryptocurrency addict if he/she has issues regarding his financial status and stability and/or is in debt due to trading. Consequently, they start lying to their friends and family about the cause of the losses they are facing. Worse yet, attempts to stop or reduce crypto trading also fail miserably and help through friends and family is treated with harsh remarks – which is another sign that they have become addicted. Emotional and/or physical abuse to others is also likely, so are unceasing arguments and the potential for separation or divorce (if relevant). 

If the person is school or university going, their attendance greatly suffers, and absenteeism becomes an everyday routine. 

Lastly, despite continuous struggles and incessant fails, the person remains glued to the relevant 

application or tab in order to find a morsel of hope. Even if the person suffers large amounts of monetary losses, he/she still goes back to crypto trading. This unhealthy amount of cryptocurrency usage, similar to some other addictions, causes lowered self-esteem, insomnia and sleep problems, and poor appetite and stress disorders.

How to get help for crypto addiction

People initially begin involved in cryptocurrency in the past time and as a leisure activity. However, this seemingly harmless habit gradually develops into something far more addicting. Thus, the treatment for this is almost as necessary as that for other substance abuse treatments.

The very first step to resolve the addiction is to realize there is one. When this fact is established, the person chooses to either reduce the usage or stop trading completely. If slowing down the activity does not work and he/she still finds themselves spending a majority of their day crypto trading, then they need to consider going cold turkey and exterminating the trade altogether immediately. Once the decision to semi or complete stop is made, he/she can follow a number of strategies to overcome the problem slowly but surely. 

Professional help is the best course of action for obvious reasons, such as having more chances of abstaining from crypto trading. But if this is not an option, due to any other reason like lack of money or time to give to another person, then the person needs to take matters into their own hands and follow the given advice as closely as possible.

1. Limit the amount of time and day/s spent on trading – for example, the person sets aside one, or even two, days of the week to engage in crypto trading. When this day passes, they are not allowed to trade. Even small peeks at the prices are forbidden. A reminder on the phone or laptop can help keep the addict motivated to go the rest of the days without crypto trading. If they have gotten enough experience and willpower to only spend one day of the week on this task, they can and should challenge themselves to set aside a particular time slot on that day so as to not disrupt the rest of the day’s work. 

2. Limit the amount of money spent on trading – keeping a set portion of money for crypto trading and not tipping on top of the determined amount is another useful day to dwindle oneself from the crypto addiction. A week’s spending on cryptocurrency can be put aside only after one’s debts, household requirements, etc., are fulfilled.

3. Engage in other pastime activities – as aforementioned, crypto trading is a way to pass the time and is mostly a leisurely activity. Keeping this in mind, he/she can try and allocate their time to other activities such as exercise, painting, drawing, movie nights with friends, baking, etc. This will not only serve the purposes of leisure but also be far more productive and invigorating. 

4. Look for jobs – many people begin crypto trading as a primary way of earning money. This facet is not quite true as it can cause more loss than actual earning. Crypto trading can result in heavy debts, and so it is not the wisest decision to rely on this for a way to earn bread. It is best to apply for other jobs, even if they are not well paying (at least there will be a steady income). Spending all of one’s investments and savings on cryptocurrency is possibly one of the biggest mistakes one can make, as, within a matter of minutes, everything he/she has earned can go back to zero, and they can lose every penny they ever earned. 

5. Cognitive Behavior Therapy – yet another option for improving this crypto trading addiction is to receive Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This is proven to reduce not only the amount of money and time spent on crypto trading but also aid in staying away from it after breaking the addiction. 

CBT works by impacting how one thinks and, subsequently, how one behaves. The sessions take about an hour, several of which are conducted depending on the intensity of the addiction. Positive cognitions and helpful behaviors are taught, along with keeping track of the client’s progress. Follow-up sessions ensure refrainment from the addiction. 

6. 12 step program – like with rehab for substance abuse addiction, treatment for crypto trading addiction also involves a 12 step program that works in a similar way to that of alcohol addiction. It is a group setting so that each person can influence the other for the better and also have a support system by their side to help them through the entire process. 

Medication is not yet licensed specifically for crypto trading addiction, but the steps mentioned above should be able to massively help the addict.

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