The Psychology Of Gambling And Addiction

psychology of gambling addiction

More than half of the global population gambles at some point in their lives, especially now that the practice is more accessible and acceptable than ever before. Most people think of the activity as a source of pleasure, money, and thrill, which is also preached during games' marketing campaigns. While the initial reasons are valid for many gamblers, they can quickly turn into something dark that changes the fun diversion into a compulsive behaviour that matures into gambling addiction. 

Gambling is an interesting phenomenon that has been the subject of numerous studies for decades. With problem gambling on the rise faster than ever in history, psychologists seek to understand the habit more than ever. The research has come a long way over the past few years to make the conclusions delved into in this piece. 

The Science Of It All 

In the past, the uncontrollable urge to gamble was considered an impulse rather than an addiction. It was considered an escape from the world's stress and anxieties rather than an intense pleasure craving. 

However, psychologists could not put their finger on why the activity would cease being an enjoyable diversion and turn into a raging compulsion, even when players learnt that the games are designed to lose more than win. As it turns out, the hooks hidden in the games that work on casual casino-goers and pathological gamblers target the mind. 

Recent neuroscience, psychology, and genetics studies demonstrate that gambling addiction a lot more similar to drug addiction than was previously perceived. Neuroscientists have collected data on the brain changes when gambling leads to addiction development, and it is linked to the reward system. 

A series of circuits that work as reward system links sit at the centre of our cranium and connect it areas of movement, memory, motivation, and pleasure. Whenever we engage in anything that keeps us alive or excites us, the transmitters release dopamine, which results in happiness and satisfaction. The little wave of dopamine can be released in large amounts when stimulated by drug substances and activities that take one to the extreme. 

The continued dependency on such habits robs dopamine of its power to induce euphoria. The brain is kept continuously awash in the chemical that builds tolerance and becomes less responsive to its effects. As a consequence, users seek larger amounts of the substance to achieve a high. If they don't, they can go through withdrawal, resulting in physical illness since the brain does not know how to tame its dopamine impulses. 

In this sense, drug addicts and gamblers share the same genetic dispositions that make them impulsive in their search for rewards. Just as a cocaine addict needs an increasingly strong dose to get high, pathological gamblers pursue riskier ventures the deeper they sink into the habit. Also, gambling addicts show physical signs of withdrawal when depriving their brains of the regular dopamine hit. 

The Risk Factors Of Gambling Addiction 

The psychology of gambling is more profound than the neurological dispositions of an individual after they start gambling. A range of environmental, physiological, and psychological factors push people into the habit including; 

● Environment 

One's surroundings play a significant role in the habits they adopt, including gambling. People who surround themselves with others who continuously engage in gambling behaviours can influence trying the activity. The omnipresent nature of technology makes it easy for people to run into gambling games and casinos, even without interacting with other people. Thousands of games and betting options are available at the click of a few buttons, which means one can nurture the habit anywhere and anytime. 

● Family History And Genetics 

Genetics play a significant role in our habits, including make some people vulnerable to addictions like compulsive gambling. Such individuals are born with reward circuits that are inherently underactive, which sends them to seek big thrills without provocation. Many people with a family history of addiction are likely to pick the habit if they are exposed to it in the slightest. 

● Mental Disorders 

People with underlying mental disorders are at significant risk of pathological gambling than the regular person. For instance, a substantial percentage of those who have Parkinson's disease are compulsive gamblers. The disease kills the dopamine-producing neurons in the midbrain, and the treatments used to reverse the issue often make the patients dopamine junkies. Other mental illnesses that nurture the habit include depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder. 

● Personality Traits 

Gambling addiction often develops in people that are workaholics, impulsive, easily bored, and always restless. Also, highly-competitive habits can drive people into the obsession to beat the house even when the chances are slim. 

● Age And Gender 

Young people face a more significant risk of being gambling addicts than those of older generations. Also, men become addicts at a much higher rate than women since they are the industry's most targeted gender. 

Signs Of Problem Gambling 

Gambling addiction is characterized by repetitive patterns of destructive habits, just like drug addiction. These habits result in personal, physical, and mental distress, and even then, it isn't easy to function without indulging in them. Gambling addicts deal with urges so severe that they can only be relieved by practising the activity more and more. Different signs can be used to characterize problem gambling including; 

● The constant obsession with gambling almost every moment of every day 

● Difficulty controlling the gambling impulses, even when need to stop the habit is intentional 

● Inability to function on a day-to-day basis without placing bets to the point of disrupting other life aspects like relationships, school, work, and mental health 

● Gambling using money that one cannot afford to lose and chasing wins trying o twin back the losses 

● Having financial problems due to borrowing and stealing only to gamble it all away 

● Lying about the extent to which the habit is exercised and hiding from loved ones when engaging in it 

The gambling addiction signs are not always apparent to the public since addicts often go to great lengths to hide it. 

Closing Thoughts 

Gambling is a lot more than just a source of pleasure and entertainment. It is a psychological game that influences action and behaviour in individuals. People with the irresistible gambling urge should seek professional help, which sometimes means being put on medication.

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