By Rupert Wolfe Murray, external editor at Castle Craig Hospital
When I started researching into cryptocurrency addiction I came across many discussion forums that take place on Reddit, a vast website.
I wanted to make contact with people who traded in cryptocurrencies and were willing to discuss the risk of addiction, so I set up an account on Reddit and posted the following text:
“I work for a rehab clinic and we’re interested in people who may be addicted to cryptocurrencies (compulsively watching the price online). Would you share your view and experience with me? The name of our clinic is Castle Craig Hospital and it’s in Scotland.”
In order to protect their identities I have removed the names of all respondents.
“Once you get into Bitcoin, it can become an all consuming “hobby”.” ~ Anon
Cryptocurrency users got in touch…
Almost immediately, cryptocurrency users who chat on Reddit started replying to my post:
The first one wrote: ‘Addicted, no. Fascinated, absolutely. Invested, you bet!’
I entered into a short dialogue with the second respondent:
Anon: I’m totally addicted. I spend all my money on it.
Rupert: And what impact is it having on your life?
Anon: Can’t pay bills that are due. Oh man, if the crypto market was doing better, it would have a very positive impact but right now I’m way off the reservation. This is not normal. 20 hours a day staring at these markets.
You can see more replies at the end of this page.
The third respondent became my case study…
We corresponded through secure email on the Reddit site. My anonymous friend admitted to a drink problem in his youth and to having a partner who was a heroin addict.
He is doing an MBA and works as a freelance financial consultant. He admits to having a ‘low income’. One of his clients offered to pay him in Bitcoin, which is the oldest, biggest and best known cryptocurrency.
Having been given some Bitcoin, he started to investigate the cryptocurrency market.
This is what he told me by email:
“I think Bitcoin attracts gamblers and addicts.
Once you get into Bitcoin, it can become an all consuming “hobby”. Watching price movements can be mesmeric, especially at peaks and crashes.
Don’t forget that many came to Bitcoin via the Silk Road [an online black market which was shut down by the FBI and Europol in 2013].
“I’m totally addicted. I spend all my money on it.” ~ Anon
The gambling aspect is very certainly there. You see it in all the Bitcoin gambling sites that firstname.lastname@example.org were the backbone of early Bitcoin, Satoshi dice for example. It pains me to think back to what I gambled away back in the day (although it wasn’t really “real money” then).
You can also see it in the scams that circle around the Bitcoin newbies with dollar signs in their eyes. I fell for one or two in the beginning.
Once you have been in it a while I think the gambling aspect reduces, and the addiction element takes over.
Personally, I would say I was mildly addicted (in the clinical sense). I am sometimes late for things because I have been checking the Bitcoin price or latest news. I check crypto-related things several times a day, and I have some shame around doing so. But I’m not so severely addicted that I don’t see it as a net-positive in my life.
“Bitcoin attracts gamblers and addicts.” ~ Anon
Most of my coin is now stowed away, and I would never think of spending a single Satoshi [the smallest unit of Bitcoin currency] on actual gambling sites. I can spot a scam at 100 paces.
I do keep a small amount (less than 10%) to trade with, and of that about 10% is pure gambling. I make at least one trade most days on whims and fancies just for fun; and keep longer term orders on exchanges [where people buy and sell cryptocurrencies], which I periodically check in on, especially during a time of volatility.
For me, I find the whole space fascinating, the dramas being played out; the new tech coming onstream; the feeling that the future is right here in the making.”
For more information on cryptocurrencies look at our extensive Facts about Addiction to Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
If you have an unhealthy or compulsive relationship with cryptocurrencies, get in touch with Castle Craig Hospital for a pre-assessment with a trained therapist.
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 29, 2020