Some of my clients are addicted to trading. Yes, addicted. Addicted in the same sense as alcohol, gambling, sex or nicotine addiction. Some of my traders have come to me after they have lost their spouse, their retirement and their work; and they’re hoping to make enough profits to pay next month’s rent.
They hold on to the dream with white knuckles. With one thousand dollars in their trading account, they still hope to become rich in spite of their history of destructive trading behaviors. They see no other alternative to trading to make it big. To give up the dream is unthinkable. There are no alternatives. They are terrified each trade will put them out of business, so they can’t pull the trigger. If a trade goes negative, they hold on…they have to believe it will come back. And if they have a couple of ticks profit…they take it immediately.
Trading has taken over their life. They have ignored friends and family. They have lost motivation at work, or quit or lost their job. Their drive is fueled by a fear of failure on one hand and the excitement of calling a profitable trade on the other. They no longer find joy or connection in other aspects of their life. It is trading that supplies the adrenaline that keeps them going.
The medical definition is: Addiction is a psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, activity, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm.
The Mind Muscles definition is: The attempt to fill an empty hole in our hearts with a substitute for our heart’s desire – connection, love, purpose and meaning. The addiction has less to do with the drug or behavior…than what we are missing in our lives as human beings.
Addiction can range on a scale. I know that most of you are not full blown addicts. Most of you manage to live full lives outside of trading. And, we all may have bits of ourselves that use trading to fulfill a dream and the hole in our hearts. However, the more that trading is a substitute for our core human needs, the more it can be an addiction.
Is every tick a referendum on your self worth? Do you get a thrill when a trade moves in your direction? What does that thrill mean? Does it mean you are a worthwhile person? Does it mean you can prove to your dad you are smart? Does it mean that you are right and the dummies are wrong? What is that thrill about?
Are you in a profitable trade? When you are in a trade that is going your way, and it feels really good…what deeper meaning does it have? What does it say about you as a person? Capture that wonderful feeling, then ask several times, drill down…what does that great feeling say about you?
Is the trade going against you? What does that feel like? What does it say about you as a person? What deeper meaning does it have? Ask these questions several times, drill down. What does that feeling say about you?
We all have some form of addiction. The question is, to what degree does our addictive behavior impact our life? How badly do you need to succeed at trading? What happens if you don’t? How severe will that experience be?
Ask yourself these questions:
Awareness and acceptance of our current state of mind can feel really good. It takes a lot of energy to hide from ourselves, and it can be a huge relief to acknowledge our experience and accept ourselves as we are right now. Then we can ask, what do we want instead?
1. Do you hide your trading results?
2. Do you have wide mood swings depending on recent trading results?
3. Do you trade from your phone?
4. Do you feel the markets are manipulated against you?
5. Have you blown up more than one account?
6. Have you disconnected from other parts of your life?
7. Do you feel compelled to check the charts from your first waking moment?
8. Do you brag about your profitable trades and not mention your losses?
9. Do you feel restless if you are not trading?
10. Do you try to convince your family that this time you will make money?
11. Does your trading impact your restful sleep?
12. Do you experience a reduction of your libido?
13. Do you believe there is no alternative for your life if you can’t make it trading?
14. Are you experiencing more frequent and longer times feeling depressed?
15. If you have a losing or series of losing trades, do you try to “make it back?”
16. Do you trade impulsively out of emotional reaction?
How big is the hole in YOUR heart? How do you experience your life? Just like a drug that substitutes for a full and rich experience of life, trading can provide the same distraction. If the hole in our hearts is big enough, trading can feel like it will fill that hole. Profitable trades can become like a hit of heroin and a delicious moment of joy. In that moment, in that microsecond, all life’s issues are resolved. And, it feels so very good.
Recall times that you felt good about yourself. Your world was full of connection and you had a meaning in your life that was bigger than yourself. If you can find that time in your life now, you can create it again. If it is a challenge to find that time in your life, it can be created. The good news is, that once you see what is missing to keep you from experiencing a rich and meaningful life, you can start to create new behaviors that step by step give you the experience you are longing for.
From the fullness of our lives, trading can now become a viable profession. The markets are now a joy to watch and are not out to get us. In fact, they pay us to succeed!
We can enjoy our profits as THEY are, rather than demanding they provide validation for who WE are.
Can we help? If you find yourself anywhere along the spectrum, I want to help you create a vision of yourself and the markets that feels better, honors your values and gets you to your goals. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to set a time to talk.
A veteran broker and floor trader, Rich went from the "worst trainee trader ever", to building one of the most consistently profitable options trading firms on the Pacific Exchange by training his traders using neuroscience. Rich also holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology, a B.A. in Philosophy, and is a graduate of the Gestalt Institute in San Francisco along with Master’s training in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).
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Hi, I read your article about trading addiction, it felt like you were talking to me.
This sure sounds familiar.
My dad had a trading addiction for much of his life, and his brother’s addictions were similar, although showed up in gambling, venture capital, and unhealthy sexual behavior.
Although my uncle continued his habits as secretly as he could until the end of his life. my father became more and more open over time. Through my Dad’s examples (not all positive) and his teachings, I’ve been able to gain a healthier relationship with money and stuff. He showed me it’s possible to have and create abundance in many ways. He demonstrated to me that people can get past the allure that surrounds and infuses some financial communities, and can go on to help many.
Great post Rich! I was able to give the question of addiction a honest look with regards to my own trading. I find many traders saying to one another that it is the “game” that brings the adrenaline rush and also the crushing feelings of defeat. Not sure that this would then be translated towards having an addiction. Your thoughts?