Here is a winning bet for you – Put it all on “Getting help now”.
Gambling is one of our favourite activities. According to a US survey from 2012, around 77% of the population gambled during that year. We are not far behind as a nation, as most of us love our Melbourne Cup, buy Lotto tickets in the hope of a little windfall and even indulge in the occasional poker machine game – all of it is legal and considered to be a bit of fun.
What about your personal gambling habits? Do you gamble weekly or once a year? Have you ever stolen or borrowed to finance the habit? Do you feel ashamed and guilty after spending your salary in a casino and then living off your credit card until pay day?
Despite consistently dealing with the negative consequences of your gambling, do you find that it is a difficult habit to break?
People tell stories of gambling away the money that was so essential in their lives. A son gambles away the money that was supposed to pay for an airline ticket to attend his father’s funeral. A mother spends her salary in a casino, although it was meant to pay for food and rent for her kids – afterwards she feels guilty and drowns her guilt with a bottle of wine. A young professional ruins her career when she is caught stealing in order to finance her designer wardrobe/drug habit. Tragically, many gambling stories include people feeling out of control, feeling ashamed, losing hope and even killing themselves.
Why do we continue gambling when it is such an irrational activity? Losses are always greater than gains. The price of gambling is health, career, relationships and future opportunities. Why do we do it and why is it so difficult to stop?
What makes it so devilishly addictive? Why can’t we stop?
There are several reasons why gambling is so difficult to stop. Researchers consider the following factors that are important in understanding this habit:
Reason #1: Impulsivity
Impulsive individuals exhibit poor self-control and emotional instability, which manifests in behaviours that might be risky and inappropriate, and that often lead to negative and undesirable consequences (Gay et al., 2011).
Impulsivity, when characterised as the failure to resist a drive or impulse that is potentially harmful to the self or others, is a core feature of several psychiatric disorders, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder, as well as Impulse Control Disorders such as pathological gambling (Stahl et al., 2014).
It has been suggested that there is no single personality trait that underlies the disposition for an impulsive action (Dick et al., 2010). It has been proposed that five dispositions underly this trait. These are positive urgency, negative urgency, sensation seeking, lack of planning and lack of perseverance (Whiteside & Lynam, 2001). The positive urgency and negative urgency experienced by individuals are based on emotions (Dick et al., 2010). Positive urgency is a tendency to act rashly when experiencing a positive mood and negative urgency is the tendency to act rashly when experiencing a negative mood (Dick et al., 2010)
Positive urgency – engaging in a rash action when experiencing extreme positive emotions – has been linked to pathological gambling in particular.
Reason#2: Motives – Enhancement
Recently Australian researchers reported that, according to their survey, the five most commonly endorsed reasons for gambling were: firstly, for fun (62%); next, the chance of winning big money (52%); then it being something to do with friends and family (48%); to be sociable (40%); and excitement (38%).
Research in the areas of motives for gambling suggests that Hedonistic Enhancement (for example: “Because I feel excited”) is strongly associated with gambling. Another study supports this research and suggests that, contrary to the common thinking that people are more likely to gamble when feeling sad in order to cope with their negative emotions, people actually gamble because they experience strong positive emotions.
In addition, this finding supports the theory that sensation seekers are likely to endorse enhancement motives in an attempt to experience greater thrills and stimulation from their environment.
Reason #3: Cognitive Distortions or Thinking Errors
People who struggle to control their gambling behaviour are more likely to have certain beliefs and thinking patterns that maintain this habit.
Some of them are:
Gamblers’ Fallacy – loss is interpreted in a way that supports the conviction that a win is imminent, which leads to persistence in gambling.
Attribution Error – dispositional factors are overestimated (such as the gambler’s skills and ability) and situational factors (such as luck and probability) are underestimated.
Selective Memory – remembering wins more than losses, especially large wins.
Other Reasons: Impact of Alcohol and Drugs
When a habit has been established it is usually accompanied by certain behaviours. Alcohol and drugs have a connection with and an impact on your gambling behaviour. A recent study reported that people consuming alcohol are more likely to spend a larger amount when gambling and lose their money sooner compared to their sober counterparts. No wonder that in some casinos you don’t have to pay for your alcohol at all, as long as you are still gambling.
Of course there are other factors, and you will have your own personal reasons as to why you started gambling and why you still find it hard to stop. Give yourself a chance to learn to be stronger than this habit. Learn to control your impulsive behaviour, manage your emotions in a healthier and more sustainable way and correct some of your unhelpful thinking styles.
Take control over your life (especially over your impulsive behaviour)
When you are ready to learn how to manage your behaviour patterns, simply register to start learning about impulsive behaviour and how to control your urges. After registration you can start learning straight away at your own pace and in the convenience of your own home.
Through the program you can access recorded webinars and access templates and material that help you to master your impulsive behaviour and to be in total control at all times. We understand that your journey might require some additional support, so send an email to us at email@example.com and we will help you to master your impulses.
- Addicott, M. A., Pearson, J. M., Kaiser, N., Platt, M. L., & McClernon, F. J. (2015). Suboptimal foraging behavior: A new perspective on gambling. Behavioral neuroscience, 129(5), 656.
- Cronce, J. M., & Corbin, W. R. (2010). Effects of alcohol and initial gambling outcomes on within-session gambling behavior. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 18(2), 145.
- Francis, K. L., Dowling, N. A., Jackson, A. C., Christensen, D. R., & Wardle, H. (2014). Gambling motives: Application of the Reasons for Gambling Questionnaire in an Australian population survey. Journal of Gambling Studies, 1-17.
- Stahl, C., Voss, A., Schmitz, F., Nuszbaum, M., Tüscher, O., Lieb, K., & Klauer, K. C. (2014). Behavioral components of impulsivity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(2), 850.
- Whiteside, S. P., & Lynam, D. R. (2001). The five factor model and impulsivity: Using a structural model of personality to understand impulsivity. Personality and individual differences, 30(4), 669-689.
Written By Dr Richard, PsyD Clinical and Health Psychology, Principal Psychologist at Blue Horizon Counselling – Psychology and Psychotherapy practice based in Sydney.
License: Creative Commons Copyright
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