How Gambling Addiction Works

Imagine you’re walking through a twinkly casino, filled up on food at the buffet and ready to roll the dice or hit the lever on a slot machine. It’s an exciting experience for most people, and some can even afford to gamble without going broke. But for others, it’s a dangerous habit that can ruin their lives. Whether it’s online or in person, gambling can be addictive and lead to major problems. If you or someone you know has a problem, it’s important to understand how gambling addiction works so that you can get help.

The first thing to remember about Gambling is that it’s not just about money. In fact, many people who gamble do so for social reasons, like playing with friends or simply because they enjoy the thrill of it. For some, it’s also about fantasising about winning a big jackpot, or how it would change their lifestyle. This is known as ‘positive thinking’ and is another way in which gambling can become addictive.

Gambling also activates the reward system of the brain, releasing a natural dopamine boost and making people feel good. This can be especially true when they win a lot of money. But the problem is that once they’ve ‘had their fill’, the dopamine response isn’t satisfied and they keep on betting to get that feeling again.

While the psychological factors that cause gambling addiction are complex, researchers have discovered some common features. These include the tendency to seek out an early big win, a lack of control, boredom susceptibility, impulsivity, poor understanding of random events and escape coping. It’s the combination of these factors that leads to a vicious cycle where the person keeps investing more time and money in an effort to make up for previous losses, but it never works.

Another factor is that, when the person is unable to stop gambling and it takes up most of their free time, they tend to hide their gambling activity from others. This can have serious repercussions for family and friends, as they can’t trust the person to make responsible decisions and it can damage their relationship.

Some experts believe that pathological gambling is actually a form of chemical dependency, similar to alcoholism. This has helped shift the perception of this type of gambling, from being seen as a moral issue to being viewed as a psychological disorder.

One of the biggest problems with gambling is that it hijacks the brain’s learning mechanism through partial reinforcement. This means that the actions you take aren’t rewarded 100% of the time, but they do result in a positive outcome more often than not. This is why it can be so hard to quit, as the person believes that they will eventually get back into the positive feedback loop and start to win again. This can be particularly problematic for people with a gambling addiction, as they are more sensitive to their losses than their gains, and the idea of ‘winning back’ past losses is extremely motivating.