Human behavior is quite a complex mechanism, so intricate that we ourselves don’t fully realize how it functions. Perhaps that’s the reason why we are unable to identify our own behavioral downfalls when we encounter them, just like some people solely start eating sweet foods when they get sad or getting addicted to a substance or an activity. The former causes many health issues as well but the latter simply starts to make a person unstable both financially and mentally and deteriorate their quality of life from within. As is the addiction of gambling, before one knows it they are addicted to it and with a blink of an eye, they lose everything they once possessed.
Psychology of Gambling
Gambling addiction at the heart of it is a behavioral addiction where an individual feels the need to compulsively engage in gambling despite having not having the funds to wager. It is also dependent on the Variable Ratio Reinforcement Schedule, in which a response is reinforced after an unpredictable number of responses or passage of time, meaning the variables such as time and numbers of responses are varied but operant believes that it is after a certain number of responses and this initiates a cycle within their mind to continue to gamble, as they believe next time will be different.
Six Signs of Gambling Addiction
Before we get into the signs it is important to know gambling isn’t necessarily limited to giant casinos where you find money gobbling machines or card games, but as simple as constantly buying the scratch cards and lottery tickets from your corner store is also a form of gambling addiction.
1. Obsession: Now it may sound like the obvious but for the ones who are dependent on gambling, this may sound like a completely new idea. The way they are obsessed with it is they simply gamble no matter the circumstances but not winning actually starts to cause them anxiety, an average person would simply stop right there but they continue to gamble in hopes that they’d win and this is the idea that they become plagued with. This becomes so extreme that they end up obsessively thinking about it, their thoughts get occupied with nothing but gambling. So if you happen to know someone who’s only talking about it, it is a definitive sign of this addiction.
2. Recovery of Money: Hitting rock bottom is one of the worst things that can happen in a person’s life, while sometimes it is due to our own mistake, other times scenarios unfold in a way that we are left helpless. Either way, as they say, the only from here is to go up. The only way to recover from this is to work hard and save but that’s the mentality of a person with the right mindset. But when it comes to gambling addicts, they’d do everything in their power to gamble with whatever money they’d earn. Why? Because they think it would somehow magically recover all of the money they had lost before despite the fact that they lost it all for this very reason.
3. Altering Emotions: You must have heard of the term, withdrawal symptoms and must be wondering that this only occurs with people who are addicted to substances. As the drugs are not in their bodies to alter the chemicals in their brain to make them feel ”happy”. However, similar emotions are observed in individuals who rely on gambling, depression, and anxiety are common among them. According to psychologists, this happens because when a reliant person is gambling, their brains become so accustomed to this activity that it starts releasing pleasure chemicals and once they stop so do these chemicals, resulting in all the negative emotions and a gloomy perspective of the world.
4. No holding back: Perhaps one of the most commonly observed signs and impacts of this activity are going broke. Pathological gamblers go all in, they’d hold nothing back, and even after dumping all of their savings into it, they’d burn through their next paycheck. If that’s not enough they’d even bet their possessions in order to continue gambling. Ultimately, they lose everything they had but are unable to get rid of this addiction.
5. Borrowing and Stealing Money: As you can imagine these individuals are always short on money or completely out of it. So the next obvious choice for them is to ask for it from their friends and family to continue to feed their addiction. If they are denied this, they turn to banks as they ask for lines of credit, loans, and so on. They go to extreme ends to obtain money as it is often observed they steal or even perform short robberies just so that they can continue to wager away these funds.
6. Guilt and Regret: If you happen to be gambling and even if you lose money, you’d regret it for a while and then move on because you understand it was your own doing and you won’t do it again. Unfortunately, in the case of pathological gamblers, firstly they cannot stop, and secondly, they’d be constantly talking about how bad this is for them and how much they want to quit it but it is not in their control. Logically, they may force themselves to not gamble, and sometimes they are successful to hold back but it takes just one bad day and they are back in the wagering game. Just like any other dependency, they dread it once they are done with it but are unconsciously drawn towards it no matter what.
The bottom line is that just like any compulsive behavior, it is a serious issue and shouldn’t be ignored. Therapy is one option that has shown promising results which can actually help people overcome this addiction. While some may suggest that forcing oneself to avoid it is the perfect approach but this only works for certain individuals under very specific circumstances. So if you or your loved ones are showing these signs, it’s best to reach out and seek professional help.