Thursday, November 02, 2006

Addictive Trading: Getting Your Life Back

My recent post on out-of-control trading brought many email inquiries and insightful comments on the blog. One of the common questions voiced was: How can you tell when a trader is passionate about trading vs. addicted to it?

The first step in dealing with any addictive pattern is identifying it--and identifying it as a problem. Here are a few questions that you might ask yourself:

* Have there been times when I told myself to stop trading, but still found myself placing trades any way?

* Do I find myself overtrading by putting on positions with too large size or by trading during periods when nothing is happening?

* Have my trading losses created problems for me in my relationship(s), or have they caused financial problems for me?

* Have people close to me told me that I need to stop trading?

* Is the pain from losing more extreme than the satisfaction from winning?

* Do I find my moods fluctuating with my P/L?

* Do I trade simply out of boredom sometimes?

* Do I find myself preoccupied with trading outside of market hours at the cost of other work and relationships?

Notice that, for many of these questions, you could substitute the word "drinking" or "gambling" for "trading". The dynamics of addictions are the same across the board. If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, I would suggest that trading has become a problem for you.

How does one deal with addictive trading? The first step is to identify it, but the second--and harder--step is to acknowledge that you need help for it. It's pride that tells us we can handle it on our own through will power, but addictions wouldn't occur in the first place if will power were sufficient to prevent consequences.

Telling yourself you can manage your own addiction is itself a form of denial.

That is why a key step in Alcoholics Anonymous is acknowledging that you are powerless against alcohol.

That is why AA substitutes mutual support for drinking and advocates abstinence as a goal.

Through books, self-help groups, and counseling, you learn to identify the thought and behavior patterns that drive your addictive behaviors. You also learn to identify cravings in advance and channel these in productive directions.

Most of all, you regain a measure of control over your life and end the negative consequences of the addiction.

If you find yourself unable to control your trading and you find the emotional, financial, and social consequences mounting, that's not a passion for trading. It's an addiction.

Do the right things:

1) Close your account.

2) Get help.

I do not provide private counseling myself, but will be happy to assist with a referral in your region. If these posts help just one person turn his or her life around, that will be one of the best returns on investment I've ever achieved.