top of page

Managing Risk through Intense Emotions

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

We've all been there before. A trade gets the best of our emotions. We make an impulsive decision, and then we come to almost instantly regret it. It's a lesson the market teaches, but as students are we receiving that message?

The Problem with Emotions in Trading

Emotions can be a double-edged sword. While they can provide insights into market sentiment and personal risk tolerance when viewed from afar, unmanaged emotions often lead to impulsive and irrational decisions, undermining the effectiveness of trading strategies.

Causing us to, for example, ride losers for far longer than we should and cut winners prematurely. Sound familiar? Read on.

Understanding the Role of Emotions in Trading

  1. Emotional Influence: Emotions significantly impact decision-making in trading. Fear, greed, and euphoria are among the most potent emotions influencing traders. Fear can lead to over-caution, while greed may result in excessive risk-taking. Euphoria, often triggered by successful trades, can create a false sense of invincibility, leading to disproportionate risk-taking​​​​​​.

  2. Impulsive Trading: Emotional trading often results in impulsive decisions, such as buying or selling without proper analysis. This impulsivity can lead to poor risk management, deviating from established trading plans, and ultimately affecting trading performance​​.

  3. Psychological Factors: Various psychological factors, like loss aversion, overconfidence, confirmation bias, fear, and greed, play crucial roles in trading decisions. For instance, loss aversion can cause traders to hold onto losing positions too long, hoping for a turnaround. Overconfidence can lead to underestimating risks, and confirmation bias might make traders ignore contrary evidence to their strategies​​.

Strategies for Effective Risk Management

  1. Technical Approaches: Setting stop losses, using position sizing, diversifying portfolios, and keeping a trading journal are technical strategies that contribute to effective risk management. These practices help in mitigating potential losses and refining decision-making processes​​​​​​.

  2. Systematic Trading: Having a pre-set system to determine entry, exit, and qualifying whether a trade is working or not can remove a lot of emotion from the decision-making process.

  3. Emotional Management: Recognizing and managing emotions is vital for rational decision-making. Strategies include identifying emotions leading to impulsivity, refuting beliefs causing guilt or fear, and practicing self-control to maintain calm and discipline​​. Remember, there's no harm in being wrong, but there's a lot of harm in staying wrong.

Controlling Impulses in Trading

  1. Adherence to Trading Plans: One of the most common impulsive actions is deviating from a trading plan. It's crucial to stick to a predetermined entry and exit strategy, resisting the urge to make premature adjustments based on emotional reactions or market fluctuations​​.

  2. Recognizing Long-term Benefits: Remembering the long-term profitability of sticking to a trading plan helps in controlling impulses. Writing down the reasons for adhering to a plan and frequently reminding oneself can reinforce discipline and self-control​​.

  3. Developing Self-Control Skills: Just like any skill, developing self-control in trading takes time and practice. It's important not to be discouraged by initial setbacks. Persisting through challenges and learning from mistakes gradually enhances self-control abilities​​.

In Closing

Managing risk in trading is not solely about technical analysis or market predictions; it's equally about mastering one's emotions and impulses.

Successful traders distinguish themselves not just by their market knowledge, but by their ability to remain disciplined, rational, and emotionally balanced, especially under intense pressure.

By combining systematic execution and risk management strategies with emotion and impulse control, traders can significantly improve their decision-making process, leading to more consistent and profitable trading outcomes.


bottom of page