Don used to invest up to $200,000 (£164,700) every week in bitcoin exchanges.
He slept fitfully and would wake up in the middle of the night to check on pricing and his portfolio balance. “I’d break out in a cold sweat before long-haul trips because I wouldn’t be able to access the internet,” he added.
Don works for a business that handles transactions involving central bank digital currency (CBDC). He does not want to reveal his true name and prefers to stay anonymous because he is concerned that his views may trigger a reaction from investors.
He claims to have gone on a “downward spiral” in the middle of 2022, which is when he decided to seek treatment.
The cure was a four-week stay at The Balance, a huge rehabilitation center on the Spanish island of Majorca with hundreds of workers.
Don lived in a luxury villa and had his own butler and cook. His treatment included counselling as well as massages, yoga, and bike rides, all at a steep price tag of up to $75,000.
Founded in Zurich, with buildings in London and Majorca, The Balance advertises itself as a “safe zone promoting health and satisfaction”. The landing page features images of a seaside property, a spa, and wonderful testimonials from previous customers. Treatment programs for anxiety, burnout, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders are available at the center.
Don believes it helped him “wean off crypto”.
The epidemic, along with a volatile cryptocurrency market, has fueled a trading frenzy in digital currencies. And now, luxurious treatment centers professing to treat “crypto addiction” are springing up all over the world.
The majority of the rehab centers reported by the BBC appear to be of the upscale sort, and they also provide treatment for other addictions such as opioids, alcohol, and eating disorders. Three rehab centers and two addiction clinics contacted by the BBC claimed they had received hundreds of such inquiries over the last two years.
However, addiction specialists are skeptical that crypto trading deserves such a costly solution.
“The therapy for crypto addiction is comparable to other addictions,” says Anna Lembke, a Stanford University psychiatry professor and director of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic.
“Because it is a biopsychosocial disease, it necessitates a biopsychosocial intervention, which may include drugs in certain situations, individual and group counseling, modifying behaviors and surroundings, (or) introducing healthy alternative activities.”
However, she says, the price is not always warranted. According to experts like her, it is similar to gambling and should be addressed as such.
“They make money from desperate individuals,” says Lia Nower, head of the Rutgers School of Social Work’s Centre for Gambling Studies. “Whether you’re ‘addicted’ to cryptocurrency trading, sports betting, or lottery play, your symptoms and treatment will be virtually the same.”
Treatment for crypto addiction, like other addictions, should begin with abstinence and management of withdrawal symptoms, which may include anxiety, irritability, and sleeplessness, according to Ms Lembke. “No cryptocurrency trading or watching for at least four weeks to allow the brain to reestablish reward circuits. The [withdrawal] symptoms are typically temporary and may be treated with mental support and confidence that they will pass.”
In the long run, rehab will involve better financial investing alternatives, she suggested.
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Because treating cryptocurrency addiction is a new business, no official credentials are required. The majority of the therapists and treatment center executives interviewed by the BBC present themselves as licensed counsellors for mental health and a range of addictions, ranging from alcohol to substance misuse, gaming, and gambling.
While crypto addiction has many parallels with gambling, the centers claim that it is also more addictive – for one thing, it is more thrilling since it is so volatile, and transactions may happen around the clock.
“Crypto trading has an aura of legitimacy, whereas gambling is frequently talked about as possibly dangerous,” Jan Geber, CEO of Zurich-based recovery center Paracelsus Recovery, said.
Seeking assistance is also less usual, he says, because cryptocurrency trading is mostly unregulated. In contrast, several nations regulate gambling platforms and casinos to detect and reject problem gamblers on a proactive basis, or to give information and tools on how to manage indications of addiction.
The symptoms of a crypto addiction are not dissimilar.
Those who become addicted to cryptocurrency trading begin to use it as a source of “excitement and enjoyment in their life,” according to Aaron Sternlicht, who operates the New York-based Family Addiction Specialist with his wife, Lin.
He claims that tell-tale indications include lying, stealing, and incurring debt; having difficulty relaxing or sleeping; constantly watching cryptocurrency values; and trading at the expense of relationships, employment, and educational possibilities.
Don, for example, sought therapy after his girlfriend broke up with him after discovering the significant losses he had incurred during the 2022 crypto slump.
Jane, a 32-year-old Londoner whose name has been altered at her request, claimed she would go on three- or four-day “trading benders,” which convinced her spouse that she was having an affair.
“The fact that I couldn’t tell him what I was doing made matters worse. Even though the truth has finally been out, our relationship has never entirely recovered.”
Jane began purchasing cryptocurrency in 2014. “At first, I was just putting a few thousand dollars, but towards the end, I could put hundreds of thousands of dollars down on just one deal,” she explains.
She ultimately sought therapy from Paracelsus Recovery, which offers four to six-week crypto addiction programs for $104,000 (£85,000) every week. An hour of online counselling costs $650. Blood testing, customized nutrition programs, yoga, acupuncture, and medication if needed are all part of the treatment, which she describes as a “360-degree approach” to mental wellness.
To protect investors from excessive losses, crypto junkies frequently require assistance in setting restrictions, such as time limits for trading and stop-loss limits, orders with instructions to sell out a position when it hits a specific price.
According to Abdullah Boulad, chief executive officer and creator of The Balance, therapists at the center assist clients in establishing such limits. However, he emphasized that they do not demand customers to go cold turkey or to entirely withdraw from their gadgets.
According to doctors, crypto addiction is frequently identified as a result of other disorders.
Keith, who did not want to use his true name, claimed he went to Paracelsus Recovery for sleep pharmaceutical addiction but subsequently discovered crypto addiction was the core problem.
During the Covid-19 shutdown, the 51-year-old says he became addicted to cryptocurrency trading.
“We were all alone. This made it simple to conduct covert transactions “he claims.
“It wasn’t until my children came to see me during the holidays that I realized how irregular I had become. I was antagonistic to them, and they were concerned that I was sleeping for days on end. Despite this, none of us suspected that my trading was contributing to the situation.”