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Addiction psychology

Addicted To The Rush: Understanding What Drives Problem Gambling

Gambling addiction, or problem gambling, affects millions worldwide. It’s not as simple as just losing money. It’s about how gambling can take over someone’s life, clouding judgement and leading to consequences that stretch far beyond the wallet. We’re going to take a closer look at addiction psychology, peeling back the layers to try to understand this complex issue.

The buzz of a win

The first thing we’re going to talk about is pretty obvious in addiction psychology. It’s the thrill of a win. When someone places a bet and wins, their brain releases a cocktail of feel-good chemicals, famously including dopamine. This is the same stuff that floods the brain when we eat our favourite food or fall in love. It feels fantastic. But here’s the kicker. The brain starts to crave that high, pushing gamblers to keep playing in pursuit of their next win.

Near-misses keep you wanting more

Surprisingly, it’s not just the wins that keep people hooked in addiction psychology. It’s the near-misses too. Those agonising moments when you’re so close to winning, but don’t can in fact be more arousing than wins or regular losses. Why? Because they fool the brain into thinking a win is just around the corner, encouraging more bets. It’s a cruel trick of the mind, leading many down a rabbit hole of “just one more try”.

And big losses make you chase

Chasing losses is a killer when it comes to addiction psychology in gambling. Many get caught in the cycle of chasing losses, betting more in a desperate attempt to win back what’s been lost. This often leads to a deeper hole, both financially and emotionally. It’s a vicious cycle that can be tough to break without help.

The social factor

The camaraderie of betting with friends or the buzz of a busy casino can almost be addictive in and of itself. Although this doesn’t explain the whole addiction psychology story, for some the status of showing off big wins or playing the part of the high roller can be incredibly alluring. Peer pressure, whether real or perceived, can nudge people to bet more than they’re comfortable with, blow their gambling budget and chase losses just to save face.

Escape your woes

Let’s not overlook the role of escape. For many, gambling is a way to forget about the problems, stress or boredom of everyday life. The focus required for poker, spinning the reels or the suspense of the roulette wheel can provide a temporary escape from reality. But this relief is fleeting and the return to real-world problems can be a hard landing, often with heavier burdens than before.

How addiction psychology can help you overcome problem gambling

But addiction psychology can work in your favour too. If you know what your up against, you can train your brain to overcome addiction. And acknowledging the problem is your first step to recovery. It’s important to realise that gambling addiction is not a failure of will or a lack of morals. It’s a complex issue rooted in psychology, with lots of factors playing into the addiction cycle. Shatter that stigma and start living a new life.

Support is also key here. Whether it’s friends, family, Gamblers Anonymous or professional help, having a support network can make a world of difference. There are many dedicated organisations whose sole aim is to help those affected by gambling addiction. For those based in the UK, you can find essential resources at Be Gamble Aware.

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