Matt Danzico realized that he had a problem in the store after he started seeing cryptocurrency logos in the packaging of grocery store items.
Danzico was swept up by the worldwide craze to trade digital currencies during the pandemic. It quickly became an obsession.
The visual journalist and designer from Barcelona said that “I would have these sleepless nights where I’d be turning and tossing, trying to get these charts out my head.” “I thought that I was losing my head.”
Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum, are well-known for their volatility. The 39-year old saw “years worth” of money being won and lost in a short time.
His emotions were similar to a rollercoaster ride, made worse by the fact he was thinking about Covid-19 lockdown. His wife noticed that he was becoming anxious and angry.
Danzico declined to give details about the financial damage that the experiment caused to his finances. We can say, however, that it was “bad for our bank account”.
The cheerful American, who was able to reflect on his trip back home months later, feels relieved that he had nipped his addiction in its tracks.
However, cryptocurrencies have become more mainstream than a niche interest. Danzico believes that experiences far darker than his own are being shared worldwide as cryptocurrencies grow in popularity.
He said, “We’re talking about tens of million of people who trade cryptocurrencies.”
“If a small percentage of those people become hooked, then we’re talking a potential mental health crisis that is unprecedented in the history of the world.”
The Dark Side Of Crypto Twitter
Danzico points out the need to look no further than Twitter for an understanding of the mental health implications of tokens’ chronic instability.
Tweets from “people discussing deep depression and really extreme thoughts about isolation and suicide” are often accompanied by plunges in value.
A story about a Czech man trying to make it big with crypto, which involved spiraling debts and trying to recover his losses, went viral on Twitter in September 2021.
He was homeless and depressed, but he was too embarrassed to ask for help. “I just told my mom that I had a job and a place to sleep”. Jirka wrote that he was actually starving and has since begun rebuilding his life.
Danzico was disturbed by the stories of others and his own experiences, so he began to research crypto addiction. He wrote an article for Cointelegraph.
He only found one small-scale study on crypto addiction in Turkey and a handful of therapists who offer professional help from Thailand to the US.
Experts consider the phenomenon a gambling addiction. They point out similarities to Wall Street traders who have lost control of their investments.
Castle Craig, a Scottish rehab center, refers to crypto addiction as “modern day epidemic”.
According to the clinic’s website, this problem is more prevalent in men than it is for women. However, this could just be because women trade cryptocurrency less frequently than men.
Art As Therapy
Danzico finds it alarming that no more specialist help is available. He believes that part of the problem is that people don’t realize how widespread crypto speculation has become.
Crypto.com, a trading platform, estimated that there were 221 million traders worldwide in July 2021. This number has more than doubled over six months, as millions of people began trading while they were at home during the pandemic.
Danzico only began trading after he had started his own trades. He began to notice signs that other traders were all around him.
One neighbor would yell every time ethereum spiked. He’d see young men on the streets fretting about a crypto chart on their phones.
Danzico began to kick his own addiction by putting his obsession into photography. He used a light projector with which he superimposed images of charts and logos from cryptocurrencies onto the world around.
He said that finding a way to express the all-consuming nature of trading “somehow allowed him to move past it”.
With self-confessed irony, he now sells digital images of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) for which he receives ethereum.
Danzico has some crypto assets and believes decentralized finance holds a bright future. He wants society to confront what he calls “an immense mental health crisis.”
He said, “You have children who literally become millionaires in the basements of their parents and then lose it all before they go out for dinner.”
“What we can do, is start talking about it.”