Understanding the Psychology of Gambling

Posted on August 30, 2014

Photo: flickr

Gambling is perceived by many individuals as merely a form of entertainment – an outlet for stress and perhaps even a form of "therapy" where person can kick back and have fun. Over the past few years, gambling has grown into a popular global pastime, appearing in a variety of guises such as horse racing, casino games, sports betting, lotteries, slot machines and other games of chance. Due to ease of access, gambling has become particularly rampant on the internet with hundreds of gambling sites having mushroomed online to meet the increasing demands of gamblers worldwide. However, while gambling has indeed become a part of everyday life, studies show that the practice can be much more dangerous than you might initially think.

One of the most frequently encountered psychological phenomena while gambling is "the illusion of control." It refers to a person's tendency to overestimate his influence in events that he demonstrably has no control over. This phenomenon is both subtle and devastating. What it essentially means is that gamblers often believe that they have a particular skill or strategy which guarantees success while playing games of chance. This fallacy has been demonstrated by studies which show that while playing craps, gamblers tend to roll the dice softer when aiming for low numbers and harder when aiming for high numbers.

Researchers have found that gambling can activate the brain's reward centers, stimulating the release of dopamine. Similar brain activity is observed in persons who suffer from substance abuse disorders, so it should come as no surprise that gambling can become addictive.

Gambling addiction may be identified by frequent or excessive gambling despite negative effects, coupled with the inability to stop gambling. Addicts tend to gamble in secret, and this makes the addiction particularly hard for relative to discover before the situation has spiraled completely out of control. GoodTherapy.org gives the following warning signs of gambling addiction:

- An escalation in gambling. A person addicted to gambling might continually bet more and more money or begin gambling more frequently
- Feelings of elation immediately before, during, or after gambling
- Lying about gambling
- Trying to win back gambling losses through more gambling
- Gambling-related debt
- Relationships with seemingly dangerous people associated with gambling; this could indicate borrowing money to gamble
- Drinking, depression, anxiety, and other unhealthy thoughts and behaviors associated with gambling
- Ignoring family, work, and other responsibilities to gamble

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Category(s):Gambling Addiction

Source material from What is Psychology?