Dr. Prash on Crypto Clothesline Podcast
What’s Up Doc?
This week on the Clothesline, we discuss the mental health effects of day trading and being emotionally invested in cryptocurrency with Dr Prash of Caleb & Brown.
Caleb & Brown is currently Australia’s largest cryptocurrency brokerage in terms of client numbers and trading volumes for both the total ‘noob’ right through to the seasoned investor struggling to find a way to invest for example, $300,000 into Bitcoin, without the hassle.
Satoshis and Psychedelics: Philosophical Revolutions in Tandem
We met Dr Prash at the Brisbane BLOCKConscious Summit 2018, where he spoke about a fascinating topic exploring what *satoshis and psychedelics have in common.
*(a Satoshi is the smallest unit of bitcoin currently recorded on the blockchain)
“…[there are] really interesting parallels between people’s experimentation with psychedelics and the way that Satoshi was experimenting with basically breaking the mould with the finance structure.”
How Did You Transition from Psychiatry to Cryptocurrencies?
Dr Prash speaks of journeying down the inevitable rabbit hole in researching one evening for another topic, finding himself face-to-face with the sobering notion that we are not really ‘free’ and that we ARE tied to a faceless inculturated money-machine of consumerism and debt (my words).
“I guess you live in the illusion that your money is yours and yours to spend… Until I read this article where it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps… perhaps I had been living under this illusion of freedom. Every libertarian
would like to convince you of that lesson.”
What’s Happening in The Day Trading Space With Cryptocurrencies And Mental Health?
This relatively new cryptocurrency market goes through highs and lows on a regular basis. Often though, while there’s risk associated with any investment, it’s even more pronounced when trading cryptocurrencies.
“The problem with investing in something is that uneducated investors who jump on quickly and on a whim, are also the ones who are equally likely to jump out on a whim… which is what we saw in that big crash [after December 2017].
“Simplifying the idea that we bet on anything, all you need to do is give them an opportunity and that was as good an opportunity as you will find anywhere when you look at the kind of meteoric rise that we saw.”
For this reason, it’s often reported that those who trade cryptocurrencies experience extreme emotions of stress and sadness on a regular basis. In poker playing and gambling there are emotions of anger or sadness, and it’s known as being on “tilt”, as you’re tilted from playing optimally.
The same thing applies to trading cryptocurrencies. Someone who trades regularly can feel the compounding negative effects on their mental health as one loss leads to a series of losses made from poor judgement based on emotions rather than reason.
Could You Comment On A Connection Between Depression As A Result Of This Addiction And Suicide Rates Amongst Men?
Dr Prash is quick to point out that this question may be based on gender stereotyping, but there may be some commonly observed aspects of the ‘male persona’ that could contribute to such tragic outcomes, or attempted tragic outcomes at least.
Firstly he notes that if we trust the statistical data, then it would appear the attempted suicide numbers in women are actually higher than those of men, it’s just that men tend to succeed at the attempts so the ratio of male to female suicides is deemed higher.
“I think we can all agree that I don’t know what the actual statistics are, but it seems very, very distinctly skewed towards men.”
He maintains there are three possible reasons why there could possibly exist a connection between trading addiction and male suicides:
- involvement in the cryptocurrency sphere is so skewed towards the male population
- men statistically are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviour, with a higher risk-appetite, particularly with things like cryptocurrencies, money and finances
- there tends to be a sort of competitiveness that comes from men where this need to excel (in these particular areas that have been gender stereotyped to be an expression of success like finance) which can lead a tendency to push the limit when engaging in something like trading
“On all those three facets, you’re going to see this skewed majority in the male population trending towards the potential of suicide as a result of an addiction to trading…”
Why Can Trading Be Inherently Stressful And How Can it Potentially Impact Negatively On Family, Finances And Health?
The cryptocurrency market is extremely volatile. Price movements are unlike traditional stocks as they are prone to extreme swings over short periods of time. This can lead to stress as a trader has to deal with a lot of information on a constant basis. Analysing price movements and information can lead to high levels of continuous pressured decision-making.
This deep stress-driven decision-making is exponentially increased when there are large amounts of money at risk in the game.
The combination of high volatility and high stakes decision-making leads a lot of traders to feeling burnt out, even over a short period of time, resulting in a detrimental impact on mental health.
One thing that the cryptocurrency market lacks is certainty. Despite bold predictions by analysts, the truth is that no one will know what prices will be for any given cryptocurrency in any one month or year.
It’s possible that a coin will go to zero or its market value may grow enormously.
While everything in life is uncertain, trading in such a new industry creates tremendous fear, uncertainty and doubt over future earnings.
All of this uncertainty over the future leads to overwhelming anxiety. Trading with anxiety is essentially trading with a fear of what will happen in the future. This dark cloud of uncertainty can lead to further negative mental health consequences.
Despite the warnings to “never invest more than you can afford to lose” there are many unfortunate traders who lose a sizeable chunk of their portfolio, then sinking into resulting depression.
For people whose work is to manage money and investments, identity and happiness can often be directly correlated to coin performance.
This continuous lack of clarity coupled with grave financial responsibility, easily leads to a sense of overwhelm, negativity, doubt in oneself and so the spiral downwards continues. Add to this hours, days, months in front of a computer screen, with no or little reprieve or experience of joy out in the sunshine enjoying the simple delights of life, and it’s no wonder that the dark sense of depression feels like it’s descending for many.
Final Words: What Can We Do?
Dr Prash and the Crypto Clothesline Podcast have joined forces to investigate ways in which we can support those who are impacted by day trading addiction, being either family and friends, or those themselves who cannot seem to climb out of the hole.
It’s clear that traders often invest more than money.
Often, they invest their own emotions into their trades. Even if someone thinks they’re immune from this emotional investment, the mental-health toll it takes can be huge. These stresses steadily accumulate into complex psychological health challenges.
“It can be a benefit in terms of it taking it away from being a moral judgment, bringing it down to being an actual medical problem with physiological biochemical abnormalities that we can point to. That could be one way of engaging that person towards trying to seek help.
“That in itself can be quite an effective strategy rather than these usual sort of finger-pointing and blaming-shaming that comes with seeing someone who’s doing a ‘bad thing’ as opposed to someone who has a disorder, someone who has an illness and the condition that needs to be treated and they can be treated.
Ultimately if not managed correctly these mental health issues can develop into suicidal thoughts. If mental health issues begin to develop, seek feedback from those closest to you who can see what perhaps you can’t, seek medical attention from your GP, and /or contact a gambling and addiction help-line and ultimately step away from day-trading.
“Most of the time the person with the problem has absolutely no insight into the fact that they do have a problem and usually they will live in denial. That’s a very normal human response. We tend to find ways to justify our own behaviour.
“The idea of cognitive dissonance is very strong within all of us. [The idea of cognitive dissonance is that your able to distance yourself from what your logic and reasoning may conventionally point you to.]
“The possibility that an individual identifies this for themselves is very, very slim and it often comes down to the family, for example, to identify this the line that can be drawn in the sand…”
Another issue worth noting is that teenagers or adults can sit in the privacy of their own room: they don’t have to be out of the house. They can be apparently studying or working and this masquerade tends to make these things quite hard to pick out. Their developing addiction may not be something immediately obvious to the outside observer.
What’s more, we give merit and recognition to ‘working hard’ so it can easily go unnoticed that the actual ‘work’ going on isn’t necessarily related to study, research, writing or office work – it may be the guise for an addictive online behaviour like trading.
“I guess the idea is that if you start to see new things on your credit card or you start to see your bank account swindling, or if your husband hasn’t shaved in a while and seems to be getting paler because the amount of time sitting in front of the computer screen and is becoming vitamin D deficient, perhaps ask a few questions about how the cryptocurrency market is going…
“…blame never helps. Anything accusatory never ever helps because it puts people on the back foot and it changes the entire conversation… it’s hard for someone to see you as supportive if you started off by coming across as being accusatory instead.
“If you can be part of their problems rather than being on the other side of the problem, you’re much more likely to have a chance to engage with them.
You’re Joining Me Under The Bus Here
We spoke about the idea of setting up a helpline specifically geared to cryptocurrency trading, with its specific pressures and volatility as noted above.
I certainly think that’s something that needs to exist. It would be the responsible thing to have exist and I am in a prime position of being the person who take a stand towards establishing something like that.
I’m mindful of the amount of work that that will entail, but it’s something that I’m very happy to publicly commit to.
We’ll spend some time looking into who I can scaffold around me establishing something like this: training up psychologists and psychiatrists or counsellors towards providing a service that’s more industry-specific, so that they’re better equipped to cope with potential similar inputs.
Even perhaps a telegram profile available so we can hone in on questions that come in. We at the Clothesline really love the idea because the community is so small and it could be a useful way to bring people together who are dealing with similar issues, and create meaningful community support.
We have an opportunity to help solve a problem its early stages before it just gets silly. Partnering with a gambling help line would be amazing.
Find out more:
Dr Prash Puspanathan LinkedIn
Web Caleb and Brown
Satoshis & Psychadelics: What They Have In Common – Dr Prash at BLOCKConscious 2018
Lee Blackie WALK SAFE LOOK SAFE