Causes of Gambling Addiction


Gambling is risking something of value (such as money or possessions) on an event whose outcome depends at least in part on chance with the intention of winning something else of value. It includes activities such as playing scratchcards or fruit machines, buying lottery or bingo tickets and even betting with friends on sporting events. It is often seen as a fun pastime, but for some people it can become addictive.

Gamblers can start gambling for a number of reasons, including for social reasons, to gain a thrill or rush, or for coping with negative emotions such as stress or anxiety. However, most people start gambling for the financial rewards – the hope that they will win big and change their lives. The problem with this is that it activates the reward system in the brain, so after a few wins, they will want to keep on winning just to experience the same high again. This is when addiction starts to develop.

People also gamble for ego-gratification and to try and avoid negative feelings such as regret, shame or guilt. In addition, they may be motivated by social pressure to gamble and by the desire for status or prestige. However, the underlying cause is a lack of self-control that makes it hard to stop gambling. This is because the prefrontal cortex is not activated when someone makes a decision to gamble and there is a high level of impulsivity.

In addition, gamblers are very sensitive to losses and feel much more emotional distress when they lose than they do when they win. This is known as ‘loss aversion’. This can cause a person to continue gambling and to invest more time and money into the activity in an attempt to make up for past losses. This can lead to a vicious cycle of loss and gain.

Another factor is a psychological phenomenon called partial reinforcement, which occurs when an action is not rewarded 100% of the time or punished 100% of the time and instead is reinforced some of the time. In other words, a person will think that their chances of winning increase after a string of losses because they remember previous times that they have won and believe that this means they are due for a big win soon.

Lastly, gamblers can also be influenced by the fallacy of the avalanche effect. This is when they think that their chances of losing are increasing after a series of bad outcomes. However, this is not true – the chances of winning remain the same after each outcome. This is because the odds of a coin flipping tails seven times in a row are no greater than 50%, no matter how many times you have flipped it previously. For this reason, it is important to know your limits and stick to them. It is also a good idea to begin gambling with an amount of money that you can afford to lose and never chase your losses.