CoinDesk reporter Leigh Cuen is joined by cognitive economist Leigh Caldwell, author of “The Psychology of Price,” to talk about mental health and cryptocurrency in a time of coronavirus crisis.
People who struggle with anxiety, gambling addiction, and a wide array of other other mental health issues may want to develop healthy habits for engaging with financial tools like cryptocurrency.
Most American researchers agree these days that roughly 2 percent of the population is estimated to be at high risk for gambling addiction. Case and point, when Texas Tech University assistant professor Devin Mills surveyed 876 people who had gambled within the previous month, more than half of the respondents traded cryptocurrency.
“Our data suggests that around 40 percent of regular gamblers who traded cryptocurrencies in the past year reported elevated levels of either depression or anxiety, or both,” Mills said.
However, the frequency with which the respondent traded cryptocurrencies was positively associated with most other types of gambling. The data doesn’t suggest bitcoin uniquely causes a gambling addiction, online harassment, or other mental health risks. It may simply be that people who already face these challenges are more likely to trade.
“There is a good Russian saying: The pig will find the dirt,” said New York therapist Yevgenia Mastyayeva, who specializes in gambling addiction. “The technology and society shape your addiction, give it a particular form, but it is you who are predisposed or not to develop addiction in the first place.”
There are also other mental health risks associated with cryptocurrency communities, namely habits that exacerbate anxiety disorders or expose users to anxiety-inducing harassment.
Psychiatrist turned crypto entrepreneur Prash Puspanathan said financial distress can fuel some people’s pre-existing anxiety disorders, which could contribute to suicides. And, regardless of whether someone has an anxiety disorder, routine online harassment is stressful.
Puspanathan also described online harassment related to “women sexually shamed... with occasionally devastating consequences.” According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2017, nearly 20 percent of Americans reported that online harassment damaged their relationships at home, work, or school, sometimes making it more difficult to find housing or employment.
In short, a healthy bitcoiner should strive to find a balance of habits, minimized exposure to online harassers, and watch out for signs of erratic or addictive behavior. Some people might prefer to keep a separate budget for crypto investments versus household spending, plus use multisig wallets for long-term holdings, Mills said.
Mastyayeva agreed bitcoin custody setups and trading platforms that simplify “realization of the impulse” might not be the best choice for those who display signs of addictive behavior. Limiting screen time can be helpful.
What else do doctors suggest? Sleep. According to cognitive economist Leigh Caldwell, author of “The Psychology of Price,” it also might be prudent for people to avoid financial choices based mainly on Crypto Twitter.