The compulsive trader
by Van K. Tharp, Ph.D.
"When water passes over your head, it makes no difference if it does so by an inch or afoot. You're
drowning. You don't want to admit that it is easier to get out of a $100,000 debt than a million dollar
debt. You just go for it. When you get to that point, it really starts accelerating. Nothing matters
anymore. Nothing matters."
—A compulsive trader, Stocks & Commodities, January 1988.
Compulsiveness, as illustrated by this quote, is deadly to investment success. Yet many traders have to
deal with it. In this second article on compulsiveness, we will delve into the characteristics of the
compulsive trader and some suggestions for help.
Prior to the discussion, rate yourself on your own tendency to be a compulsive trader by completing the
brief yes-no questionnaire in Figure 1.
The 20 questions were taken from the questionnaire developed by Gambler's Anonymous for their
members. I have simply changed the word "gambling" to "trading." In a few instances I also have
changed other words to make the question fit speculative activity, without changing the nature of the