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Mental Illness and Trading
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Mental Illness and Trading

  #1 (permalink)
Normal Wizard
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Mental Illness and Trading

Do you think people who have mental illness/certain conditions have a harder (or easier?) time trading? For example, dyslexia, ADHD, bi-polar, depression etc. For example, people with ADHD can be very impulsive and impatient and thats a killer in trading. At the same time its widely cited that they tend to be more creative because of this lack of inhibition. In "A first rate madness" by Nassir Ghaemi (a book about the relationship between mental illness and crisis time leaders), he cites a study in which people with depression were more perceptive about their ability to control the switching on of a light than non-depressed people. The light would switch on 75% of the time, non-depressed people would consistently overrate their control, more so when the duration between pressing the button was increased (every 15 seconds vs 3 seconds) whereas the estimation of depressed people remained constant. This has come to be known as "depressive realism". The results seem counter-intuitive, initially the study thought that depressed people would have been less realistic.

Does anyone know successful traders who have had or have these conditions? It looks like experience with depression should be helpful to traders, as for the rest I am not sure.

Understanding yourself is just as important as understanding markets.
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  #3 (permalink)
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TickedOff View Post
Do you think people who have mental illness/certain conditions have a harder (or easier?) time trading?

My own guess is that overall, they're going to have a harder time, though in some very specific instances (I'm thinking specifically of "mild-to-moderate Asperger's Syndrome" and closely related conditions) it's possible that those who have been attracted to and have seriously taken up trading could actually have a significant advantage when compared with "the average trader" (whoever he is), and that might just be represented in their collective results.

The incidence of mild-to-moderate Asperger's is higher among college professors (especially in math-related subjects) than it is among the general population, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if exactly the same thing were also true of traders. I know of no studies, research or evidence on this specific point (but there might still be some, and I haven't specifically looked for any).

I'm thinking, in other words, more of "certain conditions" than of "mental illness", to take the expressions you've used above. (Asperger's, I would contend, is not a "mental illness", in spite of the term having a home in plenty of psychiatry and neuropsychology textbooks).

With "mental illness", I feel confident that collectively, they can only have a harder time, and some sub-groups may even be unable to control their emotions enough, and/or to concentrate enough, to have much chance at all?

There are, though, some conditions that can confer both intellectual and emotional advantages, some of which could certainly be relevant specifically to traders.

(Wow, I took 5 paragraphs just to say "a few, but collectively the opposite".)

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It depends on the severity of the condition. In my case I would say I am very sick, I have schizoaffective disorder. Every day is a struggle yet I have been with the trading bug for several years now. I learned to program and have developed my own indicators. Right now I am not trading as I am not working because of my illness so I don't have any funds. But in the future I will have funds and plan to trade. I have already blown out a 2k trading account trading Forex. And I learned from my mistakes and I will not repeat them again that was a few years ago. But I am very determined to make it and to be successful in life and trading is my means to accomplish that on the material side of things.

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Trading Apprentice
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I have many so-called "disorders" according to psychiatric reference manuals and I can't say whether any of them help or hurt my trading. I take drugs for one of them. However, I have trading rules that are never deviated from and a few strong edges, that luckily haven't been badly diluted.

In general, I'd say the trader who acts like a bot is better equipped to have success than one who's thought processes are constantly on to make split second decisions in scalp trading, which is my bread and butter.

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That study sounds like junk science IMO.

So if you took the same group of non-depressed people and made them feel bad their ability would increase and vice versa? Doesn't pass the smell test and sounds like an obvious spurious correlation.

There is nothing you do better sick be it physical or mental. As someone who recovered from a long spell of depression in my 20s it sounds like the kind of thing my depressed mind would have made up to keep me there. "It is good for me to be depressed!".

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animalSpiritArb1 View Post
There is nothing you do better sick be it physical or mental.

With apologies for perhaps appearing argumentative, this really isn't so at all.

It's one of those things which one might think "ought to be true", looking at it superficially, but in reality it just turns out not to be.

There are many well-researched, well-documented and fully-understood examples of specific diseases also conferring apparently unrelated advantages and benefits. (The group that springs most readily to mind are all the genetically-mediated diseases which also confer some kind of heterotic advantage, and indeed it seems increasingly proven that without their heterotic advantages, some of those wouldn't even have survived at all as "disease-entities").

Of course, it's a long way from that observation to "trading advantages", but it's surely no stretch of the imagination at all to envisage that if people with conditions like Asperger's Syndrome are more likely to make it as professors of mathematics (which they are), they're also presumably advantaged for successful trading?

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Ticked, thanks for the thread, but it seems to me that you started from a position of complexity. I think that each condition has its own unique effects. The variety of trading tactics, when referenced to each condition adds a layer of complexity.

re Asperger's: There's a trader I know that has a mild case of it. Testing indicates that he ranks in the 97% percentile for technically oriented activities and 17% for social interaction. He's good with charts and the underlying mechanics such as monitoring expectancy and such. He can make high probability predictions of where the other side is likely to come to the market, but he struggles to cope if they show up in sufficient number to turn price agin him. The first part is probably aided by his Asperger's, but it offers him no edge at all if the second thing occurs.

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Leon of Pizza View Post
re Asperger's: There's a trader I know that has a mild case of it.

One of the difficulties with discussions of Asperger's Syndrome is the lack of diagnostic clarity, and some inevitable ambiguity. There are certainly large numbers of people with "mild cases" (and probably far more than any published figures represent). In reality, it's part of a "spectrum".


Leon of Pizza View Post
Testing indicates that he ranks in the 97% percentile for technically oriented activities and 17% for social interaction.

Those are certainly "Aspie-typical" figures.

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@Tymbeline, I agree. My understanding is that the current move in diagnosis is to abandon the Asperger's term and incorporate it into autism. In that model, one could say that all people have a place on the spectrum. It seems to me that it would work well with qualitative clinical methods. And its easy for me to imagine a point in the near future where a brain scan machine could provide a number for each person indicating their place on the spectrum. That would provide info for quantitative study.

A dismal anecdote: I was having this conversation with a relative about a year ago and discovered that the term spectrum was being used pejoratively by grade school teachers. "Oh yeah, THAT ONE is on the spectrum" was the quoted phrase, as if she who uttered it was not. Discussion of the Asperger's/autism consilience didn't find any traction.

Back to the subject, it occurred to me that the least technically capable personality might struggle to block a news bias. If that trader relies on personal interaction to form a perspective, then he might be more prone to thinking in terms of - where will people move their money when they hear this? If true, then the technical trader who is also more socially adept, has to undertake this counter-intuitive (in his eyes) behaviour-mod task. The same principle applies to other situations in his trading. If he found himself in a technically uncertain trade, will he lapse into creating stories about those people on the other side of his trade? If we presume that most traders are technicians and that most people tend to be socially adept, does this explain the high rate of failure?

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