Background and aims: Crypto-currency trading is a rapidly growing form of behaviour characterised by investing in highly volatile digital assets based largely on blockchain technology. In this paper, we review the particular structural characteristics of this activity and its potential to give rise to excessive or harmful behaviour including over-spending and compulsive checking. We note that there are some similarities between online sports betting and day trading, but also several important differences. These include the continuous 24-hour availability of trading, the global nature of the market, and the strong role of social media, social influence and non-balance sheet related events as determinants of price movements.
Methods: We review the specific psychological mechanisms that we propose to be particular risk factors for excessive crypto trading, including: over-estimations of the role of knowledge or skill, the fear of missing out (FOMO), preoccupation, and anticipated regret. The paper examines potential protective and educational strategies that might be used to prevent harm to inexperienced investors when this new activity expands to attract a greater percentage of retail or community investors.
Discussion and conclusions: The paper suggests the need for more specific research into the psychological effects of regular trading, individual differences and the nature of decision-making that protects people from harm, while allowing them to benefit from developments in blockchain technology and crypto-currency.
Keywords: crypto-currency; harm; protective factors; risk factors; trading.