The Psychology of Risk in Crypto Trading

Behind the allure of potential profits from crypto trading lies a complex landscape of risks that require a deep understanding of human psychology. Traders’ actions in the crypto market are nothing more than a reflection of their decisions based on a combination of emotions and strategy. 

The intricate relationship between psychology and risk focuses on two aspects:

  1. recognizing these psychological patterns and their direct impact on price movements
  2. learning to control your emotions, so you avoid impulsive decisions that could lead to losses

Here’s a comprehensive guide about the psychology of risk and how you can make decisions based on facts and achieve long-term success in your trading journey.

The Role of Psychology in Trading Decisions

Psychological biases are an intrinsic part of decision-making and they’re even stronger when it comes to decisions where money is at stake. 

While there’s some rational thinking along with these biases, add in crypto whales, socio-economic factors, and the inherent volatility plus the 24/7 open markets, and you get a complicated puzzle image. Imagine a cumulative sea of biases from different types of traders all fighting to influence the crypto market and cryptocurrencies’ prices.

Hence, if you want to correctly anticipate market movements, you need to get inside the heads of the majority of crypto traders and anticipate their decisions.

Overcoming Fear and Greed

Two dominant emotions – fear and greed – often dictate traders’ actions in the crypto market. Fear of missing out (FOMO) drives investors to enter positions hastily during bull markets, while fear of loss prompts panic selling during downturns. 

Conversely, greed can lead traders to hold onto losing positions in the hope of a reversal, disregarding rational analysis. Furthermore, 'overconfidence bias' can make traders underestimate risks and overvalue their own skills.

For instance, extreme greed can sometimes be a signal that the market is overbought, which could potentially lead to a price correction. A market dominated by greed often means that traders are buying in excess, which can drive prices up to unsustainable levels.

However, the Crypto Fear and Greed Index isn’t a definitive predictor of future price movements; market news and broader economic trends, can also significantly influence cryptocurrency prices. Thus, extreme greed is not a guarantee of a market correction.

psychology of crypto investing fear and greed.png


Source: Thomas Fuller, Medium

Cognitive Biases and Hypotheses

Human cognition is susceptible to various cognitive biases and hypotheses that can distort perception and decision-making in the crypto market. Confirmation bias, for instance, leads traders to seek information that validates their existing beliefs, potentially overlooking contrary evidence. Similarly, the availability of hypotheses or gut reactions causes individuals to overestimate the significance of recent events, leading to irrational trading decisions. 

Let’s take the example of the illusion of control. The illusion of control is a phenomenon where traders mistakenly believe that their actions directly influence positive outcomes, particularly when the likelihood of success is high. This effect is more pronounced when there's a high probability of reinforcement (likelihood of a trading strategy). 

Consequently, traders may develop a false sense of invulnerability, leading to increased risk-taking behaviors. This could manifest in actions like heavy speculation on a single coin, neglecting to plan exit strategies effectively, or reallocating funds from a balanced portfolio to invest in riskier altcoins.

Recognizing and mitigating these biases is essential for making informed and objective trading choices.

Dealing with Regrets

A common occurrence, especially among novice crypto traders is the role of minimizing anticipated regret in decision-making. They believe they could easily make peace with the thought of deciding to not invest in a coin that will have 100x in value in 6 months or if they sell coins too early. 

A common mistake is selling a coin, observing its price increase, and then feeling the need to buy back at a higher price because you still desire exposure to that coin. Many traders, even those with more experience, have found themselves caught in this trap.

One significant finding is that actions taken (commission) often result in stronger feelings of regret compared to actions not taken (omission). In crypto trading, commission-related regrets might involve selling a coin that then rapidly appreciates in value, whereas omission-related regrets involve missing out on potentially successful investments.

Best Practices to Control Emotions in Crypto Trading 

Set clear goals and boundaries

One of the most effective ways to control emotions in crypto trading is to set clear goals and boundaries. Ensure these goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). For example, establish realistic profit targets and stop-loss levels and specific time frames for achieving trading objectives.

With a well-defined plan in place, you can maintain discipline and prevent impulsive decision-making based on emotions even in the face of market volatility.

Identify your trading style

It’s important that you identify your trading style and strategy and stick to them. You can include technical analysis, fundamental analysis, or ideally, both. You should also choose crypto markets and which coins you want to trade, plus set entry and exit points based on market analysis.

For instance, if you want to become a day trader, that means buying and selling on the same day and never leaving positions open overnight.

Diversify your portfolio

Diversification is another effective strategy for managing emotions in crypto trading. By spreading your investments across different assets and market sectors, you can reduce the impact of individual market fluctuations on your overall portfolio. This can help mitigate the urge to make impulsive decisions based on the performance of a single asset.

Apply risk management

Risk management is an essential part of any trading plan. You should set a risk management strategy that includes maximum risk exposure per trade, stop-loss orders, and profit targets. This way, you limit losses and protect your profits.

Apply protective strategies like buying before prices peak, purchasing during market downturns to minimize risk, and focusing on positive outcomes rather than missed opportunities. 

Stay informed and educated

Staying informed about market trends, industry news, and regulatory developments can help empower traders to make informed decisions based on fundamental analysis rather than emotional impulses. Continuous learning and education are essential for adapting to the ever-changing crypto landscape.

It's equally vital to acknowledge the influence of news and social media on trader sentiment, distinguishing between hype and substantial information.

Practice patience and discipline

Patience and discipline are virtues that every successful trader must cultivate. Resist the urge to pursue rapid profits or hastily sell when the market dips. Instead, stay committed to your strategy and trust the process. Consistency and discipline are key to long-term success in crypto trading.

Practice mindfulness and self-awareness

Mindfulness and self-awareness are crucial skills for crypto traders looking to master their emotions. Taking the time to observe and acknowledge your emotions without reacting impulsively can help you make more rational decisions. Techniques such as meditation and deep breathing exercises can also help calm the mind and reduce stress during volatile market conditions.

The Bottom Line

The psychology of risk in crypto trading is a multifaceted phenomenon that encompasses a myriad of psychological factors, biases, and emotions. If you understand the interplay between psychology and risk, you can develop robust strategies, cultivate discipline, and enhance your chances of success.

Keep in mind that you also have to master your own psychology and make rational, well-informed decisions.