Isn't Crypto Bad for Your Mental Health?
How to stay sane in a crypto world.
If there’s at least one thing mental health and money have in common, it’s their controversial and touchy nature.
“Even though we pretend our money decisions are purely logical or motivated by math, actually, we’re coming to those decisions with our personal histories and behaviours,” — Therapist Aja Evans
In my opinion, there’s an interesting dynamic between these two that isn't explored often enough.
Let’s take a look today.
Much ado about crypto
Smelly clothes strewn across the bedroom floor. Unwashed dishes from the meal, at least 5 nights ago. 57 missed calls from work (and Mum). Time of last shower: unknown.
While extreme, this might well be the typical life of a chronic gambler.
Now, philosophically, perhaps everything in life is a gamble. After all, we can’t accurately always predict what’s to come. But with crypto and without restraint, the consequences can be dire.
Thanks to smartphones and 24/7 access to the internet, trading doesn't have to stop. No longer do we need to hop on a flight to Las Vegas or visit the Lotto Man down the street.
Gamblers often talk about the high of big wins and quick cashouts.
But that’s the point:
Trading becomes problematic when it becomes obsessive.
Although not officially recognised as a condition—not to mention the lack of significant scientific literature—we can draw from a known concept that’s eerily familiar: addiction.
Research shows that addiction works in the brain by stimulating reward neural networks which are involved in memory, pleasure and motivation. When activated, a chemical messenger called dopamine is released, giving a sense of euphoria. This is nice every once in a while.
The problem arises when this is done repeatedly.
These dopamine receptors get oversaturated and can no longer give a similar effect. This creates a never-ending hamster wheel that requires more to get the same level of high as before.
The essential elements that form an addiction are: the compelling need for more than one initially did, unsuccessful efforts to stop or cut down, the inability to think about anything else in-between and it getting in the way of daily activities.
“Tolerance includes needing to take larger financial risk in order to produce the same sense of excitement and pleasure, and withdrawal when not trading may include symptoms such as depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings and insomnia, among many others.” — Aaron Sternlicht, co-founder of Family Addiction Specialist
Addiction, if left untreated, doesn’t just rewire the brain. It can lead to other conditions, such as insomnia at best and depression at worst.
“What happened could have happened to anyone, but not everyone could have carried on.” — Marcus Aurelius
Loss is a universal occurrence most can relate to, regardless of circumstance. And those who have known the sting of losing their entire life savings can understand this on a different level.
Depression, with or without suicidal tendencies, can set in.
It’s an entire vicious cycle. At least for those who are prone.
So what’s the deal, anyway?
Why can one person take their first sip of alcohol and never go back, yet the other person goes on to become an alcoholic?
Studies have shown that some responsible factors are: genetics, previous history of addiction (to other substances), the right amount of peer pressure, and a noticed predisposition for impulsivity.
So while there’s no actual thing as a full-blown addictive personality, some personality traits are more predisposed to this extreme. And although personality is complex, it’s not impossible to change.
It goes to show that whether its effect is as intense as an obsession or more minimal as the FOMO that partially fueled the NFT rave, psychology underlies every discipline.
But how can it also help?
Staying sane & safe
Maybe this all sounds abstract to you.
Or maybe you can relate, directly or vicariously through someone you know. Regardless, these three strategies are worth considering.
1. See as a longer-term plan
The appeal of gambling is its short-term and rapid gains. While the promise of 10x one’s profit within 10 minutes (or hours, or days) is tempting—such as with viral meme coins—the complete story isn't often told. Particularly for individuals with a higher penchant for addiction, the better strategy is to view crypto-investing as a longer-term plan.
Easier said than done, set aside a specific time to review, make adjustments and then leave it be. Better yet, utilise features that passively accrue interest for you on crypto savings, like these.
2. Diversify your portfolio
There’s a reason some experts advise keeping your investments at up to 5% of your total worth, especially as a newcomer. Crypto is a great investment asset for gaining financial ground but should be done armed with knowledge and caution.
Simply, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
3. Pick your battles
For the minority with extremely susceptible-to-addiction personalities, quitting cold turkey is the best defence. Even better if one never ventures into that battleground in the first place. In life, it’s important to choose one’s battles. And while some might happen to us, there are others we can evaluate before they ever begin.
Indeed, self-control comes more easily to some, but to those who are severely lacking, perhaps the best option is to opt out entirely.
At the end of the day, self-awareness is a life skill necessary to navigate adulthood.
We need to do the honest work of constant self-discovery, in this case, to determine our risk appetite. Because the fact remains that with great risk comes the potential for great reward, but we need to gauge how we would also react if it pans out negatively.
Can you simply let it go?
If you can, by all means, go ahead.
Truth be told, any form of risk can be anxiety-inducing — whether it’s making a radical career change, choosing who to spend the rest of our lives with or buying some crypto. We can do everything right but still be hit over the head with the uncertainty that is the “future”.
That said, check on your crypto-investor friends, seriously.