Every day millions of people gamble not knowing that their entertainment and fun can easily transform into gambling addiction, a dangerous obsession with unpredictable consequences. Gambling problems may harm relationships and career, and leave you without a penny in the pocket. Moreover, you may find yourself doing the things you thought you would never do, like making debts or stealing money.

What are we dealing with?

Compulsive gambling or gambling addiction is an impulse-control disorder, which means that gamblers can’t control their desire to gamble, even knowing what consequences are waiting ahead. They will continue playing whether they are broke or rich, up or down, and will gamble even knowing that the odds are not in their favor.
Did you know that compulsive gambling is included in the fifth edition of APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual? Gambling has become a real problem and every year the rate is drastically growing. In 2012 there were almost 6 million people with gambling problems and needed professional help.
Here are the main stages of compulsive gaming:

  1. Winning. This stage usually lasts up to 5 years, and compulsive gamblers truly enjoy their wins;
  2. Losing stage takes more than 5 years. Players usually bet more money and turn to the game more often;
  3. Desperation. This stage may both last a few days or weeks, or several years. Desperate compulsive gamblers think about the game all the time: where to find money, what bets to make, when to play or how to beat the system;
  4. Hopelessness. After desperation comes hopelessness when gamblers lose hope and become indifferent to everything happening around. At this stage, compulsive players realize that they have a serious disorder;
  5. Recovery. Unfortunately, not many gamblers reach this stage, because it takes lots of courage to admit the problem and to be sincerely willing to solve it. Usually, compulsive gamblers attend counseling, a 12-step program or group meetings for compulsive gamblers.

The roots of the problem

But how is it possible to play knowing that you will continue losing money, job, house, and respect? Why these sacrifices can’t outweigh the desire to play? The reason is simple: compulsive gamblers play not only because they want to win.
According to Mark Griffiths, a behavioral psychologist from Nottingham Trent University, gamblers have a variety of motives to start and continue playing. He surveyed over 5,000 gamblers and it turned out that such motivation as ‘gambling is fun’ or ‘exciting’ was rather close to ‘winning a jackpot’.
When you gamble and lose, your body continues to produce endorphins and adrenalin, so basically, you buy entertainment, not a chance to make money. Unfortunately, such players are hooked on losing: they know that they can lose money, respect, happiness and the people they love but they continue placing real money bets on roulette, blackjack, and other games. If you think that a person you love is involved in compulsive gambling, listen to what he or she is saying – there are common lies that they regularly tell.
Do you feel sad that a person you love is lying to your face and can’t control the disease? Let us assure you: compulsive gambling is not solely their fault. B.F. Skinner, father of behavioral analysis proved that gamer’s brain is addicted to chemical changes when winning or losing.
Moreover, back in 1980 APA added compulsive gambling to impulse-control disorders along with pyromania, kleptomania, and hairpulling. They proved that when the reward is uncertain, dopamine is released. It is also released during such activities as eating, drugs, and sex. The highest levels of dopamine were detected, when compulsive gamblers were waiting for a potential reward. Unfortunately, studies on animals showed that brain changes after long-lasting craving for uncertainty may also lead gamblers to drugs and abuse. Almost five million Americans are involved in compulsive gambling, one in five commits suicide and this is definitely a problem to reckon with.
Compulsive gambling may be caused by various reasons: genetic predisposition, chemical reactions in the brain or psychological disorders. But it is in our hands to help ourselves or the people we love by understanding the stages of addiction, most common patterns of behavior, and the mechanisms that make gamblers want to return to casinos over and over again.

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