Cryptocurrency addiction and stock market investing: is it real?

Although addiction was initially thought to be fundamentally synonymous with substance abuse, over time, based on multiple lines of evidence from scientific research, we have found that not all addictive disorders are based on drug use: there are also behavioral addictions.

In the latter, the person who develops the disease does not create an imbalance in the functioning of his brain by introducing psychoactive substances into his body, but by patterns of behavior that cause the body to release neurotransmitters and hormones (those produced by any healthy person) abnormally.

This discovery has opened the door to examining many types of behavioral addictions beyond the most well-known, namely gambling or pathological gambling. It is therefore inevitable to look with another eye at a world characterized by its volatility and its facility to generate very intense emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant: investments in the stock market and, more recently, in crypto-currencies.

Is there a cryptocurrency addiction? What mental health issues can addiction dynamics bring to this type of investing? Let’s see.

What do we know about addictive dynamics versus high-risk investments?

First of all, it should be noted that officially it is recognized as a behavioral addiction only a gambling addiction, and a heated debate has recently erupted over whether to recognize the existence of video game addiction so that this concept is reflected in the most widely used diagnostic manuals. However, this does not mean that other forms of addiction will be recognized over time. And, on the other hand, as new technologies advance, it becomes more and more difficult to delineate the types of behaviors that can lead to gambling addiction.

For example, in some online video games, game mechanics have appeared that have even been banned by several countries because they were based on the game (for example, obtaining digital collectibles through actual payments).

In particular, it should be noted that currently It is possible to make risky investments almost at any time and with very few limitations, thanks to the popularization of the Internet and certain platforms for trading, buying cryptocurrencies, etc. By simply having a smartphone with certain applications connected to our bank or our digital crypto wallet, we can lose large amounts of capital in a very short time (or gain a lot in a relatively short time). And we can also track the value of those investments in real time, which “clings” to unsuspected limits.

This leads to the generalization of behaviors such as constantly checking the value of our investments; For example, the video of a man who, as his wife walked towards him dressed as a bride during her wedding ceremony, recently went viral and decided to look at his cell phone to check the evolution of the value of your favorite cryptocurrency.

There is a significant fear of losing things because of not paying attention “when it hits”: it’s called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), a phenomenon that was thought to be limited to the world of social media and chat and messaging services. But can it lead to addiction? Partly yes and partly no, as we shall see.

So… Is there an addiction to cryptocurrencies?

One of the characteristics of addictions is the phenomenon of tolerance: the person must become more and more involved in satisfying the addiction to stop feeling bad and “to be satiated”. As a result, people who have developed alcoholism take longer to get drunk and drink more alcohol to mitigate abstinence.

Good; Today, there is no evidence that this is the case with the tendency to invest in cryptocurrencies or other relatively high risk assets, unlike gambling.

Therefore, it is considered that we can talk about investment addiction as a metaphor, not like what is technically an addiction; Even so, owning one is still out of reach for the average person. However, these experiences will not technically be addictive, but rather addiction of another kind.

It is believed that part of the reason there is a difference between true addictions and the fact that we are “addicted” to investments is that in the latter case there is no emotionally powerful consequence that hits us. immediately when we take the action of investing. This is what happens with bets: either you lose or you win, you know it right away. But when we invest, we simply have strong incentives to keep an eye on the evolution of the value, but this or that has the same effects on our brain and our behavior. And even this can cause problems as:

  • Excessive stress and anxiety (which in turn can trigger other mental health issues: insomnia, propensity to use drugs).

  • Problems concentrating on important tasks and meaningful relationships

  • Tendency to try to solve all our problems by trying to make successful investments (for thinking about it all day), as an escape which is also very risky.

  • Related article: “How does an addiction affect the brain?”

Would you like to benefit from professional psychological support?

If you are interested in psychological help, I invite you to contact me.

My name is Tomas Santa Cecilia and I am a psychologist specializing in intervention using the cognitive-behavioral model. I offer my services in person at my office located in Madrid and also through the online mode by video call.

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