Castle Craig Hospital in Peeblesshire, Scotland has created the first rehab program for people who are addicted to trading cryptocurrencies. The hospital’s West Linton facility is basing the treatment of this new addiction on techniques used in the rehabilitation of gambling addicts.
Experts told that the trading of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin can lead to obsessive behaviors characteristic of and similar to addictions such as online gambling. Traders can find themselves glued to “minute-by-minute” market fluctuations, said the experts.
A classic bubble situation
"The high risk, fluctuating cryptocurrency market appeals to the problem gambler. It provides excitement and an escape from reality. Bitcoin, for example, has been heavily traded and huge gains and losses were made. It's a classic bubble situation," said gambling therapist at Castle Craig Hospital Chris Burn.
There are no statistics yet for crypto addicts, however, Castle Craig said there are a reported 13 million people worldwide trading cryptocurrencies. If the impacts are similar to gambling there may be reason to worry.
The British Gambling Commission revealed in August of 2017 that the number of people whose lives were damaged by their gambling had risen by more than 53% between 2012 and 2015, from 280,000 to 430,000. If crypto gambling reveals similar figures in a few years, additional treatment resources will be required.
Led by recovered addicts
For now, the center’s new and only treatment facility is being led by former gambling and cocaine addict Tony Marini. He told the Evening Standard that as a former addict himself he has “insight and empathy” towards the other patients.
"I see cryptocurrency trading as a way for people to escape from themselves, into another world, because they don't like the world they're in. The first stage of treatment is to join other addicts in group therapy and share their life stories. This helps them identify with each other and realise that they're not alone," said Marini.
Castle Craig Hospital has a webpage dedicated to explaining cryptocurrency trading addiction and its treatment. The page sites the following symptoms as indicative of a crypto trading problem: "feeling muscle tension and anxiety, constantly checking the prices online (even in the middle of the night) and thinking about cryptocurrency trading when doing other things."
The site also features a questionnaire to help identify potential crypto addicts as well as a variety of other resources for recovery options. Treatment of the addiction used by the center includes the 12 step approach combined with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Although the concept of crypto addiction is still new, crypto blogs have been discussing the potential of a problem for a while now. Crypto Briefing posted an opinion piece on the matter just last month and self-proclaimed crypto addicts have been sharing their concerns on threads with their peers.
Last February saw Moscow-based company Blockchain Fund launch a hotline to help support traders with rising cryptocurrency anxiety. The reasons cited were concerns that large fluctuating changes in crypto markets could induce severe stress and even lead to investor suicides.