Depression and addiction plague crypto traders

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When Joanna Garzilli was in Venice, California, for a holiday party in 2017, the bikini-clad dancers were on stilts, the drinks flowed, and the conversation was about one thing: cryptocurrency. It seemed so sexy, she remembered thinking. Enticed by the glamorous audience, she later invested and hit it big: a $ 85,000 profit from a cryptocurrency called GRT that brings out the dreams of life at the Ritz-Carlton Residences.

But soon her actions became ruthless, she said. Garzilli bet 90 percent of her life savings on a coin that lost her tens of thousands in days. She made risky investments in viral meme currency and constantly checked her trading apps to see how much money she had earned or lost. Her nights became sleepless, but Garzilli kept chasing the next big payday.

“Crypto is like going into Hades,” she said. “Crypto can bring out the darkest parts of ourselves if we have an addictive personality; and I have a very addictive personality. ”

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As the cryptocurrency boom has increased the number of ordinary investors chasing a life of mansions and yachts, mental health experts say it triggers an increase in addiction. Price rises and falls provide a level of tension that is difficult to copy through the most volatile stocks and bonds. The very volatile nature of cryptocurrency can quickly reduce profits to zero, leaving investors with mountains of debt, broken relationships and thoughts of suicide, addiction experts said.

Therapists, such as Aaron Sternlicht of New York, say they are experiencing an influx of people seeking help for crypto-dependence, even though treatment is only available to a few privileged people.

“A lot of people will not end up getting treatment that needs treatment,” he said.

Over the past decade, cryptocurrency has gone from a peculiarity to a core segment of financial markets and popular culture, and its market value has risen from $ 5.4 billion to $ 1.8 trillion, according to Coin Market Cap, a website that tracks cryptocurrency statistics. Meanwhile, celebrity approvals provide a lavish billboard for the lifestyle that cryptocurrency can provide.

In recent months, Matt Damon has been promoting, an app that can help you trade cryptocurrencies. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and his wife, Gisele Bündchen, advertise for cryptocurrency exchange FTX. Influencers on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter showcase life filled with first-class flights and luxury rooftop pools, indicating that crypto is the best way to make it rich.

Cryptocurrency has properties that make it more prone to addiction than sports betting, gambling and traditional financial investments, according to addiction researchers. Crypto can be traded around the clock, unlike most stocks. People do not have to drive to a casino to invest in a coin. The volatility of cryptocurrencies, especially alternative currencies like meme coins, can be fast and give the brain quick feelings of reward. And given the decentralized nature of crypto, it may be easier to hide the economic consequences of dependency.

Lia Nower, director of gambling studies at Rutgers University, said slim investment apps are increasing the number of addictions. With colorful real-time charts, trading apps like Robinhood make buying cryptocurrencies seem like a video game.

“They know what it’s like to get people more engrossed in something – the high action, the fast turnover with the positive reward,” she said. “That’s why people like lottery tickets because they can scrape crazy and they get their reward in that second and it gives you a burst of dopamine. These people are doing something similar. “

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Although research is still under development, several recent studies document links between cryptocurrency trading and dependency. In April, a team of Finnish researchers found that cryptocurrency traders also had high rates of gambling, video games and Internet addiction. Crypto-traders, who were more likely to be immigrants, also had higher levels of psychological distress and loneliness compared to stock traders, they found.

Ashwin Manicka, a spokesman for Robinhood, strongly disagreed that the app gamifies investment.

“It is our view that such claims are an elitist attack on ordinary people who have been empowered by intuitively designed financial products to enter the stock and cryptocurrency markets for the first time,” he said in a statement. “We have not yet seen any hard evidence to support these anecdotal claims, and the data paints a different picture.”

Manicka added that most Robinhood customers hold currency, like Bitcoin, in the long run.

Sternlicht and his wife, Lin, a husband-and-wife therapist team in New York that deals with cryptocurrency addiction, said they have seen an increase of about 40 percent in people from around the world calling to get their crypto-tailored therapy services. Their services cost $ 2,500 for a consultation and $ 25,000 for a 45-day therapy treatment plan that is more intensive than traditional forms of talk therapy. To treat the addiction, they meet with family members, have access to bank accounts and meet with patients several times a week.

Most of their clients come for help when they are over six figures in debt, have ruined their relationship, are facing significant bouts of depression and have other addictions, especially to alcohol, cocaine and Adderall. Aaron Sternlicht added that people who come to their practice usually have a significant wealth, but for those without many funds, it can be difficult to seek treatment.

The American Psychological Association has not classified cryptocurrency addiction as a subgroup of gambling addiction, Sternlicht said, creating a gray area that allows many insurers to reject coverage for crypto-related addiction therapy.

“There’s not enough research in it to really be able to diagnose it yet,” he said.

Despite that, Nower said, people suffering from crypto-dependence do not need to seek out specifically tailored services and can get treatment from a gambling addiction counselor. “What you really depend on is the act of taking the risk,” she said. “Anyone who is a good gambling treatment provider can treat cryptocurrency addiction.”

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Drew Vosk, a 30-year-old cryptocurrency investor living near Northern Virginia, was hooked on cryptocurrency investments around 2017 when he started putting money into Ethereum. From there, he became interested in extracting cryptocurrency and utilized his credit cards to purchase the necessary equipment. “I spent all the money I had on buying cryptocurrency and building crypto-mining rigs,” he said. “I was addicted. I was obsessed.”

At several points, he has turned an investment of $ 1,000 into $ 100,000, only to see the profits disappear. When the fluctuations occur, the impacts are significant. “I wake up, I’m depressed,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Wow, I can not believe this. Like, it’s just gone. ‘”

And for Garzilli, 49, living with cryptocurrency addiction is a daily struggle. When a new investment opportunity comes on her radar, the urge to invest and chase the top of another payday is strong. So is the fear of missing something. “It’s like a pulling sensation in my stomach,” she said. “It’s like my whole body is being dragged towards ‘Go, do it. Go and do the deal.'”

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To cope, Garzilli has signed up for a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. She forces herself to take the plug out of her screen during the day. She walks, meditates and drives the car if the urge to invest in a coin becomes too great. Today, she invests in less risky cryptocurrency, and she tells herself that she needs to build up her portfolio with a view to retirement.

Still, Garzilli said government action is needed to curb the scammers who prey on cryptocurrency investors and restrict low-value projects.

“People will still be murdered,” she said. “Until we’ve got stronger regulation in.”

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