This Q&A is the full interview with Dr Jeremiah Weinstock. For our deep dive into cryptocurrency trading addiction, with contribution from the full panel of experts, please see this article.
Below is an interview with Dr. Jeremiah Weinstock, a professor in the Psychology department at Saint Louis University, focusing on addictive behaviors with an emphasis on gambling disorder and exercise as an intervention. This is the full transcript of our interview, quotes from which were published in our main article on the topic here.
For an in-depth deep dive into the topic of cryptocurrency trading addiction, and its links to gambling, please follow that link. As for Dr Weinstock’s full interview, please see below.
CoinJournal (CJ): Do you think there are similarities between crypto trading addiction and gambling addiction? If so, could you please name the most notable ones?
While crypto trading addiction is not an official diagnosis within our classification of psychiatric disorders, individuals who engage in crypto trading can struggle and experience negative consequences from their trading behaviour.
The hallmark of gambling disorder and other addictions are (1) a loss of control, meaning that an individual tries to stop or cut down on their gambling behaviour and is unable to do so, (2) tolerance, needing to do the behaviour at a greater intensity to achieve the desired effect, and (3) withdrawal, experiencing irritableness and moodiness when one tries to stop or cut down.
If individuals who engage in crypto trading experience one or more of these hallmark symptoms then they are potentially addicted the crypto trading. Traders who are thrill-seeking and are trading frequently (i.e., not buy and hold investment strategy) are at increased risk of this behaviour becoming maladaptive.
CJ: In your opinion, what is it that makes activities such as trading so addictive?
The uncertainty and volatility of the crypto markets. An “opportunity” to win money in a short amount of time exists in these markets. Individuals who experience an early big win are more susceptible to crypto trading becoming addictive.
CJ: What are your thoughts on influencers who, in return for a fee from the founders, promote obscure cryptocurrencies to their followers with little knowledge of how it works – do you think this is problematic?
I do not believe influencers are problematic as the general public generally understands they are trying to monetize whatever topics they are highlighting or promoting. Disclosure of their financial relationship with these companies would increase transparency.
Their promotion of these currencies does increase perceived availability. Availability is a necessary component of developing an addictive disorder.
CJ: In your opinion, would the daily volatility of crypto prices impact mental health, as people see their investments go up and down so widely each day?
Yes, the volatility contributes to mental health problems as individuals’ money goes up and down on a daily basis. As individuals tie their crypto investment into their identity it affects self-esteem and contributes to depression and anxiety. For some individuals, the volatility will be exciting and they will chase the thrill of trying to “time” the market.
CJ: Research on crypto trading addiction is still limited, do you think the need for this is likely to grow in future?
Limited research on crypto trading exists to date, and much of it investigates whether crypto trading should be included as part of gambling disorder because the behaviour itself meets the definition of gambling – putting something of value at risk when the outcome is unknown with the hopes of gaining something of greater value.
A need to conduct research in this area exists. How much attention this area receives depends upon both the market and whether consolidation/regulation occurs, whether the negative consequences of crypto trading garner significant headlines, and ultimately if there is funding (i.e., money) directed at this topic area.
Currently, crypto trading is not a topic area funded by the National Institutes of Health, the largest source of research funding in America.
CJ: Do you believe the cryptocurrency industry should be doing more to promote safe investing and addressing the problem of addiction?
The cryptocurrency industry should follow the lead of the NYSE and other stock markets in that they promote the idea that money in the market is an investment, not a get-rich-quick scheme. There is no regulation around gambling in the stock markets.
CJ: Conventional gambling is restricted in many territories to consumers 18 and over. Do you believe there should be a similar rule within cryptocurrency, in order to protect younger, more impressionable minds from potential addiction?
That is a complicated question that requires nuance. Adolescence is a developmental period characterized by risk-taking. Early exposure to an addictive behaviour increases the chance that the behaviour will become problematic. For example, individuals who have their first drink of alcohol before age 13 are at significantly increased risk for developing an alcohol use disorder.
How do adolescents get access to cryptocurrencies? Parental monitoring and supervision are extremely important if cryptocurrency is to be available to adolescents. However, does the NYSE have age limits for investing in companies listed on the exchange?
Both of these questions reveal the shades of grey that are required to answer this question.
CJ: If I can push you for a yes or no answer, do you believe the world would be a happier place without gambling?
Gambling has been a human endeavour since the beginning of time!
Dice were found in the Pharaoh’s tomb. The ancient Hindu text, the Mahabharata contains a story of gambling addiction with a subsequent verse discouraging gambling. For better or worse, it’s in our DNA. We are social creatures who take risks.
Gambling is one expression of our risk-taking. My hope is that the industry becomes serious about gambling disorder prevention and identifying when one’s behaviour becomes problematic.
CJ: What advice can you give people who are interested in trading crypto, who may be predisposed to gambling-related addictions?
A number of years ago we did a study comparing professional gamblers to individuals who have a gambling disorder (Weinstock, Massura, & Petry, 2013). These were two groups of people who both gambled regularly but experienced very different outcomes in terms of financial consequences and mental health.
Both groups endorsed preoccupation with gambling; however, the big difference between the two groups was discipline with their money versus loss of control/chasing losses. Professional gamblers had a bankroll they used to gamble with. Each day professional gamblers only risked 5% of their bankroll.
Once they hit this loss limit they were done for the day. They would not gamble anymore. It prevented chasing their losses. Individuals with gambling disorders were unable to set limits and adhere to them. This idea of setting limits and sticking to them would be the biggest and most important piece of advice.
And if you find you cannot stick to your limits, ask yourself if this is a sign that your trading is getting out of control!