Rising Number of Medical Experts Concerned About Cryptocurrency Addiction

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jul 28, 2021
GettyImages-876844722 Bitcoin Cryptocurrency Blockchain

A growing number of mental health professionals are raising concerns that the mainstream embrace of cryptocurrency is leading to compulsive behavior that highly resembles gambling addiction, Fortune reported.

While the full extent is still difficult to grasp, both anecdotal reports from practicing psychologists and academic papers from addiction researchers are saying that such behavior has been on the rise due to growing ease of access, as well as outsized success stories in the media. In South Korea, for instance, those seeking treatment for compulsive cryptocurrency or stock trading has risen from 1,008 in 2019 to 1,732 in 2020 (though it is unknown whether this jump comes entirely from cryptocurrency cases). Meanwhile, in Turkey, a study of 300 adult cryptocurrency investors who had traded for at least six months found that 2 percent, a statistically significant amount, display signs of gambling addiction.

Fortune said that cryptocurrency trading hits many of the same trigger points as gambling, including the dramatic ups and downs that provide the intensity that addicts crave. Much like traditional gambling addicts, compulsive cryptocurrency traders have a perception that certain strategies or rituals increase “wins"; discount the role that luck plays; use compulsive behavior to distract from anxiety or emotional distress; lie and hide losses from friends and family; constantly relive and regret bad decisions; and fear missing out on a huge opportunity. 

The market's 24/7 nature can make such issues especially trying for addicts, who generally also sleep poorly and neglect everyday activities. Further, unlike other gambling addicts, compulsive crypto traders often use social media and comments by influencers to reinforce their habits and feed the feeling that they’re in the know.

This last part is actually a major hook, as the illusion of control is a big factor in why people get addicted in the first place. Just as some gamblers may believe that they've finally figured out a foolproof system for blackjack (anyone who truly does will probably be kicked out by the casino), compulsive crypto traders discount the role of luck in their investments. This can lead them to take even more risks because they're overconfident in their skills as a trader. 

Fortune said that specialized treatments have already arisen, ranging from a one-hour Zoom session for $120 to a stay at a luxury in-patient facility in Switzerland that costs up to $90,000 per week. 

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