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What Causes Gambling Addiction And Where To Seek Help in USA

Author: Devin Erickson-Sheehy | Last Updated: November 11, 2022

The mind is a powerful thing. Scientists and medical experts estimate that the brain thinks between 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day. That means there is an average of 2500 to 3,300 thoughts per hour.

Now think about these statistics just like looking over the boards at the track and sportbooks online before betting on your favorite football team, or rubbing your fingers over the best hand in poker you have ever been dealt.

Gambling is a truly a fascinating psychological phenomenon that only humans can understand

Placing Bets is a Risk

Placing bets and similar risk-taking activities are a common thread that connects mankind with a wire encompassing the entire globe. From country to county people head to casinos and race tracks knowing it may not be a financially sound decision. Americans alone are estimated to take the plunge with unsound decisions and lose over $120 billion a year in gambling. But, the stakes do not stop them. Nor does it put the brakes on actions in citizens from Europe to China to Argentina.

In 2005, the National Science Foundation published an article regarding research about human thoughts per day. These studies revealed that the quality of our existence rests on the quality of our internal and external communication. It also reveals how our bodies respond to the way we think, feel and act. This is often called the mind-body-spirit connection.

When we feel guilt and shame, or stress and anxiety, our bodies cry out to tell us that something isn’t right.

For example, high blood pressure or a stomach ulcer might develop after a particularly stressful event.  It works the same for feelings of excitement and notions of conquering a task. We feel tingling sensations and a euphoric glow takes over our existence.

The first thing to note is that people don’t just gamble for the prospect of winning.

Psychologist of Nottingham Trent University, Mark Griffiths, has noted that gamblers list a wide range of motivations for their habit. He specializes in the field of behavior addictions and points out that even when you’re losing while you’re gambling, your body is still producing adrenalin and endorphins.

This is the powerful glow that takes over the mind. In a survey of 5,500 gamblers, the prospect of the chance to “win big money” was the biggest factor. It was followed closely by feelings of wanting to do it because it was fun and exciting overall.

Both of these scenarios can be emotions associated with gambling. 

Extensive research on how psychological processes affect betting behavior is often described in university studies as creating five interesting states of being.

Five Interesting States Of Being… A Gambler

First, good mood leads to increased gambling. The relationship between things that cause a positive mood such as your football team winning the big game will lead to increased gambling. Positive mode makes you a bigger risk taker.

Second, there is a bandwagon effect. When lottery jackpots reach record levels they garner a great deal of media attention and talk amongst friends and co-workers about betting. The attention causes a frenzy of ticket buying, as people decide that they don’t want to be left out of the process. 

Third, the brain starts to be attracted to gambling systems and superstitions. Gambling is random on how you win. Yet, most gamblers firmly believe that they can devise a system to win at gambling. 

This includes trying to predict patterns in random numbers, trying to select “hot” slot machines at the casino, and even performing some ritualistic behavior in order to keep getting wins – just like a gambler wearing his lucky green socks so his baseball team wins the World Series.

Fourth is what has been termed by psychologists as Gambler's FallacyLike a roulette player watching as three black numbers come up in a row, so he puts all of his money on red. This well-known psychological process is called the Gambler’s Fallacy and is the mistaken psychological phenomena that if an event happens repeatedly, a different event is imminent. In reality, the odds of any particular event occurring are always the same. 

And, fifth is changing expectations regarding winning. In one study of racetrack bettors, they were asked to estimate the odds that their favored horse would win, both before and after betting on the horse. 

Gamblers tended to believe that their horse had a greater chance of winning than before they bet. The increased commitment of personal finances down caused them to be more hopeful. Putting your money on something creates a stir in the brain and makes you believe you will win. Ergo, money talks!

These are all sensations that can lead to what is commonly known as gambling addiction. These psychological processes often work in tangent to increase the sensation. Neuroscience research has found that gambling addiction has many of the same neural processes as drug addiction.

What causes gambling addiction and where to seek help in usa

How To Fight A Gambling Addiction

A key to breaking a gambling addiction is to break down fallacies about gambling and learning to manage the addiction. 

The act of gambling may be as crucial to the buzz as the winning. But if someone is ultimately losing money – perhaps even losing their job, their family or their house – as a result of nursing their addiction the question comes into how can that high possibly outweigh the sacrifices?

For those whom are gambling addicts trapped in the realm of five gambling stakes it can be a vicious cycle with very little comprehension as to why it cannot stop when the fun is over.

Neuroscience findings are closer than ever to figuring out why. Ongoing research is helping clarify the biology of risky behavior.

All of the labs and scientific studies may one day lead to interventions for vices like compulsive gambling. The recent results show an explanation is more complex than looking at dysfunctional reward circuitry.

Like sex and drugs, gambling fires a response to pleasing stimuli in the brain regions that are undeniable.

Risking loss of it all for a small chance at a reward is a strange thrill that involves decision-making and emotion.

It is not easy to get rid of the sensation overnight and no one should be blamed for it, but rather have patience surrounding them in knowing they need help if the playing becomes a strong addiction.

websites and hotlines to help deal with gambling addiction

There are a number of very good websites and hotlines to help deal with gambling addiction, including the National Council on Problem Gambling.

As stated on their website, “The National Council on Problem Gambling has developed this list as a starting point for those seeking help or information about gambling problems.

We encourage you to ask questions, gather information and conduct research on the type of help that is most appropriate for your situation.”

Check's compulsive gambling help guide with adresses and hotlines in your state.

The National Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-522-4700) ensures local problem gambling help is just one call away anywhere in the US.

Don’t be ashamed to reach out if you need help. Take the biggest bet on yourself in life.

Devin Erickson-Sheehy

Devin is a diehard New York sports fan and betting expert. He supplies a wealth of knowledge about everything online gambling, providing readers with up-to-date tracking on the latest trends, industry news, and betting offers.