What Is Volatility?


Cryptocurrency volatility is notoriously dramatic on both the upside and downside, but what is it that contributes to such large swings in price?

In this post we break down the mystery of cryptocurrency price fluctuations in order to make you the most knowledgeable person in any room when it comes to understanding cryptocurrency volatility.

What is Volatility?

At its core, volatility is the financial world’s heartbeat, measuring how wildly prices swing over a period.

In the realm of cryptocurrency, it’s the rollercoaster that makes your assets soar to dizzying heights or plummet into the depths, often without warning.

Volatility reflects the rate of price changes: high volatility means the price can change dramatically within a short timeframe, either up or down, while low volatility indicates that prices remain relatively stable.

Generally speaking, a higher level of volatility suggests a greater risk associated with investing in that particular asset itself.

In the context of digital currencies, volatility in crypto points to the extent of fluctuation or sudden and unpredictable price changes in cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, within a specific timeframe.

The crypto market experiences significantly greater volatility compared to traditional financial markets, and as a consequence, leading cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have their volatility indices, with the Bitcoin Volatility Index (BVOL) being a prominent example that tracks the price movements of Bitcoin.

Within the cryptocurrency sphere, there are three main types of volatility:

Historical Volatility

This type evaluates the extent of price variation of a cryptocurrency in the past, usually over 30, 60, or 90 days, to forecast future fluctuations.

It’s calculated by determining the standard deviation of the logarithmic returns of a crypto for the specified timeframe.

Being a retrospective measure, historical volatility aids in predicting future price movements of a cryptocurrency.

Implied Volatility

Implied volatility offers a forward-looking perspective on the market’s expectations of price variation in the future, derived from the pricing of options contracts.

These contracts allow the buyer the choice (but not the obligation) to buy or sell crypto at a predetermined price by or before a certain date.

Higher prices for these options indicate greater implied volatility.

Realized Volatility

This measures the actual price fluctuation of a cryptocurrency over a certain period, calculated through the standard deviation of the logarithmic returns for that timeframe.

Realized volatility is beneficial for evaluating the precision of historical volatility predictions and for analyzing the effectiveness of trading strategies based on volatility forecasts.

How is Volatility Measured?

To keep it simple, think of the volatility of cryptocurrency measurement as trying to predict the weather.

Just as meteorologists use various tools and indicators to forecast storms or sunshine, investors use several metrics to gauge market volatility.

The most common way to simply measure volatility is the standard deviation, which tells us how much the price of an asset varies from its average over a specific period.

Another tool is the Bitcoin Volatility Index, often referred to as the market’s “fear gauge,” which measures the market’s expectation of volatility in the near term.

Perhaps the best tool of all however, is the Average True Range (ATR), which is a volatility indicator depicted as a line at the bottom of the chart.

As it begins to climb, it signals a rise in market volatility, whereas a lower volatility level keeps it nearer to the baseline.

The Average True Range (ATR) is determined by comparing the current price range with its historical range, typically involving a high and a low for a designated timeframe.

Whenever the price extends beyond its previous range, the ATR value goes up, signifying increased volatility.

On the flip side, if the price stays within its established range, the ATR tends to remain close to the baseline.

Put simply, wider movements in the price range lead to higher ATR values, offering a measure for assessing the degree of market fluctuations.

Why is Volatility Important to Understand?

Understanding cryptocurrency volatility is crucial for several reasons, especially if you’re dipping your toes into the fast-paced world of digital currencies.

Here’s the scoop on why getting a handle on volatility is a big deal:


Volatility is like the weather of the financial world and like weather it can change from calm to stormy in the blink of an eye.

For cryptocurrencies, these fluctuations can be especially severe.

By understanding volatility, investors and traders can better gauge the risk associated with their crypto investments. It’s about knowing whether you’re packing for sunny days or preparing for potential storms.


Knowledge of volatility helps in crafting strategies that align with your risk tolerance and investment goals.

For the thrill-seekers looking for rapid gains, high volatility can provide opportunities for significant returns.

Meanwhile, more conservative investors might seek strategies to minimize risk during turbulent times, such as diversifying their portfolio or using stablecoins.


Volatility often reflects the market’s emotional state. High volatility can indicate uncertainty or major market events, while low volatility might suggest stability or lack of interest.

By understanding these patterns, investors can read between the lines of market movements and make more informed decisions.


In the crypto world, timing can be everything. Knowing when volatility is likely to increase can help traders decide the best moments to enter or exit the market.

This can mean the difference between capitalizing on a trend or getting caught in a downturn.


While predicting the exact future price of cryptocurrencies is notoriously difficult, understanding volatility trends can provide clues about potential price movements.

High volatility might signal upcoming price swings, whereas low volatility could indicate a period of consolidation before the next big move.


Since cryptocurrencies are extremely sensitive to any regulatory news and market developments, by monitoring volatility, investors can become more attuned to how such external factors affect the market, enabling them to react swiftly to news and updates.

In essence, wrapping your head around crypto volatility isn’t just about avoiding potential losses; it’s also about spotting opportunities in a landscape where fortunes can be made or lost in the blink of an eye.

Factors Contributing to Cryptocurrency Volatility

Now that we know why it’s important to understand cryptocurrency volatility, let’s take a look at what causes it in the first place:

Market Sentiment:

The crypto world is highly influenced by investor sentiment, which can shift rapidly based on news, rumors, or social media trends.

Positive news can send prices soaring, while negative news can lead to swift declines. This emotional trading can cause significant price fluctuations.


Cryptocurrencies vary widely in their liquidity. Some, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, are relatively liquid, meaning they can be bought or sold in large quantities without causing much price impact.

However, smaller cryptocurrencies may have limited liquidity, making them more susceptible to volatility as even small trades can lead to large price changes.

Regulatory News:

Announcements of new regulations, bans, or support for cryptocurrencies by governments or financial institutions can cause prices to swing wildly.

Investors may rush to buy or sell based on their interpretation of how these regulations will affect the market.

Technological Changes and Innovations:

Developments within the crypto space, such as forks, updates, or the launch of new technologies, can lead to uncertainty and speculation, driving volatility.

For instance, a significant upgrade in a blockchain network can lead to positive price movements if the community views it favorably.

Market Manipulation:

The crypto market is susceptible to manipulation by large holders of cryptocurrencies, known as “whales,” who can move the market by buying or selling in large volumes.

Pump-and-dump schemes and other manipulative practices can lead to artificial price inflation followed by rapid declines.


Much of the crypto market is driven by speculation rather than fundamental value.

Traders looking to make quick profits can flock to a volatile cryptocurrency, inflating its price, only to sell off, causing a crash. This speculative trading contributes significantly to volatility.

Adoption and Integration:

The rate at which cryptocurrencies are adopted by consumers, businesses, and governments can influence their volatility.

Increased adoption can lead to price stability, while uncertainty about adoption rates can contribute to price fluctuations.

Global Economic Factors:

Cryptocurrencies are not isolated from the wider economic environment. Global economic instability, inflation rates, and changes in traditional financial markets can all influence crypto markets.

For example, investors might turn to cryptocurrencies as a hedge against traditional market downturns, affecting crypto prices.

One last thing we should take a look at before moving on is how cryptocurrency volatility compares to volatility in traditional markets.

Comparison of Volatility in Cryptocurrencies vs Traditional Markets

Since it is still a relatively new industry, cryptocurrencies exhibit significantly higher volatility compared to traditional financial markets, where price movements are generally more gradual and predictable.

This stark contrast is largely due to the nascent and speculative nature of the overall crypto market, alongside its sensitivity to market sentiment, regulatory news, and technological advancements.

How to Reduce Volatility?

To mitigate cryptocurrency volatility, the following strategies may help stabilize assets:

  • Broadening crypto adoption
  • Clarifying regulatory frameworks
  • Enhancing market liquidity
  • Educating investors
  • Advancing blockchain technology
  • Diversifying with stable assets

These efforts aim to foster a more stable, secure, and trustworthy environment for cryptocurrencies, gradually aligning their market behavior closer to that of traditional financial assets, though completely eliminating volatility remains a challenging goal due to the crypto market’s inherent nature and dynamic evolution.

Final Thoughts

Although the cryptocurrency market is likely going to continue to be much more volatile than traditional markets, this does not mean that investors or businesses should be scared off.

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