Why Is Gambling Addictive?
Gambling has become a popular pastime for many and although some may argue that gambling in and of itself is not addictive, there are certain factors that lead some people to become addicted. Man’s penchant for gambling and trying his hand at games of chance is as old as time, with evidence of this dating as far back as Ancient China and Greece.
New Zealand has its own history of gambling and records can be found that document the various games of chance which the population were already engaging in long before casinos were ever in existence. Locals at the time believed that these games aided mental, spiritual and physical growth.
We’ve certainly come a long way from rudimentary dice and simple card games. Today, it has become easier than ever to gamble. Whether it’s playing online slots, a game of high-stakes poker or placing a bet on your favourite sports team, punters have access to a wide range of betting opportunities and gambling pursuits.
Here are a few factors that contribute to people becoming addicted to gambling:
- Lack of impulse control
Many people who suffer from a gambling addiction lack impulse control which can be caused by a mental health condition such as obsessive compulsive disorder. In this scenario, people will obsessively think about gambling and become preoccupied with the act of gambling. The compulsive part of this condition refers to the person acting upon their impulse to gamble in order to alleviate their perceived stress and anxiety. Much like those suffering from substance abuse, gambling addicts experience classic symptoms of withdrawal such as irritability and restlessness when they cannot act on their impulses.
- Early big wins and partial reinforcement
Some people never live down the thrill of their first big win and continue to pursue the promise of the next big win even to their own detriment. The tricky thing about this is that with each win (big or small), the player’s behaviour is being reinforced. It might sound counter-intuitive but behaviour tends to persist longer when they are partially reinforced rather than continuously. For example, most gamblers know that they cannot expect to win every single time, so when they lose or even experience a string of losses, they chalk it up to the nature of the game. What they do expect however is to win some of the time, and with gambling addicts, this means the expectation of another big win that’s bound to happen to them eventually if they just continue playing long enough.
- Escapism and financial desperation
In general, addiction is considered to be a pathological mechanism that is used for escaping from past or current problems and trauma. For some, the act of gambling provides an escape from a desperate situation or a distraction from past trauma, partly because addicts yearn for a sense of absolute control over their current situation. For example, if someone is in a state of financial desperation, they’ll be more inclined to partake in high-risk behaviour that gives them the illusion of control or the chance of escaping all their financial problems by winning life-changing amounts of money.