20 Most Common Gambling Addiction Causes
Gambling addiction is quickly on the rise.
Four out of five people will admit to indulging in gambling over the last twelve months, and gambling addictions are touching all age groups in society, even teenagers.
Unfortunately, there are many reasons why people get addicted to gambling.
Most people who have a gambling problem have poor impulse control, which can lead to the destructive behaviors associated with gambling addiction, and others look for a distraction that gambling provides.
Knowing the most common gambling addiction causes can help you identify what causes the addiction, which can help with treatment.
- 1. Poor impulse control
- 2. Past trauma
- 3. Desire for psychological escape
- 4. Illusion of control
- 5. Addiction to euphoric sensations
- 6. Desire for excitement
- 7. Adrenaline release
- 8. Genetic factors
- 9. Obsession with sports of gambling-related activities
- 10. Developing failure to resist games of chance
- 11. History of financial thievery
- 12. Innate quality of impulsive lying
- 13. Excessive defensiveness regarding personal activities
- 14. History of antisocial behavior
- 15. Inclination to take massive risks
- 16. Failure in professional life
- 17. History of anxiety-related issues
- 18. Excessive financial pressure
- 19. Negative peer pressure
- 20. Pure happenstance
1. Poor impulse control
Almost all gamblers who become addicted suffer from poor impulse control.
Impulse Control Disorder (ICD) is a specific type of mental illness in which people can’t control their behavior.
People with these types of behavior problems also suffer from many abuse problems and mental disorders, such as alcohol and substance abuse, mood instability, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Impulse control has only recently become classified as a mental disorder.
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual DSM-5, impulse disorder has only become its own section of the manual in 2013.
2. Past trauma
According to a study from in the United Kingdom, male gambling addicts are more likely to have suffered past trauma.
Psychologists identify childhood trauma, such as physical and sexual abuse, as triggers in those who become addicted to gambling.
Researchers claim that addiction treatment needs to address these triggers need, or patients will be more than likely to relapse.
In those patients who are undergoing treatment for gambling addiction, those who have suffered childhood trauma will also experience trauma in their adult lives connected to their addiction, such as loss of personal relationships, loss of employment, and bankruptcy.
3. Desire for psychological escape
According to a study conducted in New Zealand, women use gambling as a coping mechanism related to a desire to escape.
While men tend to use gambling as a form of control connected to the desire to win, women approach gambling differently.
There are many reasons why women may feel this need, whether it is problems in their home life, relationships, or work.
Gambling provides a stimulus or experience to focus on, which can alleviate any psychological problems that she may be enduring, allowing them to experience a sense of detachment, which will enable women to be undisturbed by the time and money spent on their addictions.
4. Illusion of control
Many gamblers suffer from believing that they are in control of their situation.
Having an illusion of control is when someone believes they are in control of a situation that they usually can’t control.
Gambling wins are purely based on chance, and gambling addicts believe that every time they gamble, they will win.
According to the scientific journal Frontiers of Psychology, this illusion of control is not just connected to gambling; it is a particular psychological condition that can spread to other areas of addicts’ lives.
The study indicates that problem gamblers have a higher instance of the illusion of control compared to other people who just indulge in gambling recreationally.
5. Addiction to euphoric sensations
Now that gambling is taken seriously as a legitimate addiction, many factors can contribute to the development of gambling addiction.
According to the Scientific American, researchers state that people innately feel a rush, also known as a “high,” a euphoric sensation when they first gamble.
All addicts feel this euphoria, regardless of what they are addicted to, caused by the release of dopamine, a hormone in the brain related to the feeling of happiness.
Over time, as the risky behavior continues, the body gets used to the amount of dopamine, and it makes it more difficult for the brain to create it, leading to people needing to engage in the behavior more frequently to get the same feeling, quickly leading to addiction.
6. Desire for excitement
Up to 90% of gambling addicts receive treatment for gambling from slot machines.
Psychologists and researchers have found that the characteristics of slot machines that make gambling fun are what makes gambling so addicting.
The bright lights, the payoff relating to payment and winnings, and the immediate gratification of slot machines tap into the desire for the excitement that we naturally feel.
The excitement is directly related to the exact nature of gambling: the investment made that can turn into a small or a large reward, and the inability to predict when winnings will happen.
7. Adrenaline release
The release of adrenaline in our brains when gambling is one of the most significant causes of gambling addiction.
Psychologists used to believe that the adrenaline release that we feel when we are gambling and winning was one of the causes of addiction.
If that’s the case, then why do gamblers who are losing keep playing over and over again?
Recent research, according to a story by the BBC, claims that our brains still feel that adrenaline rush during gambling losses, which leads to more bets and higher stakes.
Psychologists believe that gambling provides the brain with the stimulation it needs to produce the adrenaline, as well as other endorphins, to which the body becomes addicted.
8. Genetic factors
Recent studies have found that there are genetic factors that can contribute to developing a gambling addiction.
Much like other substance addictions, faulty genes can be responsible for the production of dopamine and adrenaline in the body, which can explain why addiction tends to run in families.
According to the Journal of Gambling Studies, researchers have found a genetic abnormality in most addicts that affects the hormone production of the brain, which contributes to developing addictions like gambling to create the hormone levels that someone who doesn’t have the disorder can achieve on their own.
According to a treatment center based in Los Angeles, the connection between sports and gambling is hard to ignore.
Over 40% of people in treatment for gambling addiction primarily bet on sports games.
The behavior is a learned one, often coming from factors introduced from an early age, watching parents and loved ones bet on the outcome of sports games.
Research also suggests that sports-related gambling is a predominant characteristic in male gambling addicts, with very few women suffering from gambling addictions to sports games.
Gambling addicts become so emotionally invested in the outcome of the games that they are betting on that everything else in their lives seems not to matter as much as it did before.
10. Developing failure to resist games of chance
The true nature of gambling addiction is not being able to stop engaging in a specific activity that relates to taking chances, despite the negative consequences that the behavior may cause.
According to a treatment center in Tampa, Florida, the connection to gambling addiction and the need to indulge in games of chance is the primary reason people become addicted to gambling.
The act of making a wager, or playing a game, or any other method of gambling creates dopamine in the brain, which can give us the happy, satisfied feeling we get when we make a wager; our minds quickly become addicted to this feeling.
11. History of financial thievery
One of the many characteristics of someone with a gambling addiction is someone who has financial problems.
Gambling, and the need to win, makes financial problems seem less important.
However, those who have suffered money problems before, and who have resorted to criminal activities related to that, are more likely to become compulsive gamblers.
Studies have shown that many gambling addicts had stolen from friends or family, or neglected to pay their debts, long before they became addicted to gambling.
This history of financial thievery may contribute to the ability to become addicted to gambling.
12. Innate quality of impulsive lying
According to many gambling treatment centers, lying is a central characteristic of all gambling addicts.
They will lie to their friends, family, and employers about the state of their lives, their financial situations, and many other things in their lives to hide their addictions.
Many addicts live in denial, so one of the many lies they will tell their loved ones is that they don’t have a problem.
Over time, the lies that gamblers will tell become so habitual that the addicted person often believes it.
Other lies, such as about financial resources or the ability to control their activities, are also common among gambling addicts.
13. Excessive defensiveness regarding personal activities
Also connected with impulsive lying about their addiction, many gambling addicts become incredibly defensive when confronted about their actions.
They will become hostile to questions about where they are spending their time, how they are spending their money, or when they were gambling.
Many addicts insist that they don’t have a problem, and they will attack those who insist that they do.
This type of behavior can contribute to the loss of relationships and the loss of employment.
Many gambling addicts will do whatever they can to keep up with their behavior, and the isolation of themselves using these defensive tactics is very common.
Despite most gamblers engaging in public gambling, such as on sports games, at slot machines, or at gaming tables in the casino, many psychologists agree that gambling addicts usually have a history of antisocial behavior.
According to the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Antisocial Personality Disorder is a recognized psychological condition that often presents as people who engage in neglectful or harmful behavior without any regard to the consequences.
Gambling addicts often have a history of this behavior, which often leads to a progression in their addiction as they no longer care about who or what they are sacrificing, as long as they can keep gambling.
15. Inclination to take massive risks
Compulsive gamblers who suffer from an antisocial personality disorder, or have a history of antisocial behavior, are also inclined to continue their actions, despite the enormous risk involved.
Often diagnosed in those who have other depressive disorders, such as bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety, people who suffer from antisocial tendencies often become addicted to gambling.
It is easy for them to engage in risky behavior, more so than those who do not have the condition, because they don’t feel guilty about it, leading them to even more risk-taking behaviors.
16. Failure in professional life
For many people, struggling to excel in their career can negatively impact their lives.
If someone isn’t making enough money at work or has been fired or laid off from work, this can lead to the desire to gamble.
The idea that gambling can give them enough money to get back on their feet is what drives them to the activity, which can lead to an addiction.
Once someone is addicted to gambling, it is hard for them to stop.
Their addiction becomes more important to them than anything else in their lives, which can lead to abandoning personal and professional responsibilities.
In many cases, this can lead to the loss of their employment altogether.
Gambling addicts often also suffer from anxiety disorders, which are often induced or worsened by stress levels.
According to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, compulsive gamblers also suffer from anxiety disorders at alarming rates: over 10% have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, and as much as 22% have a panic disorder.
A professional from the University of Calgary has claimed that the anxiety that comes from having stress in life is connected to the desire to gamble, which is essential in the study of how addictions develop and how to treat them.
18. Excessive financial pressure
Often, the spiral into addiction begins because addicts have lost the money they have invested in the activity, and they try to win it back.
According to a study in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, financial concerns are often related in the many stages of the addiction.
Often the addict will suffer a significant financial loss in their activities, and they will often lose more money or assets than they can afford.
This leads to many compulsive gamblers to approach family and friends to provide funds to cover the losses, often with extra to keep gambling.
Many gamblers often keep placing bets to make up for the money they have lost, hoping for a large payout.
19. Negative peer pressure
Many recovering gambling addicts report that negative peer pressure contributes to relapse.
This pressure can come in many forms and from many sources, from gentle urging to an insistence on engaging in the behavior to become part of the group.
Recovering addicts find that the impulse to gamble can return after just one event.
According to a gambling recovery foundation, many gambling addicts and recovering addicts find themselves in situations where they feel pressured into gambling, which can lead to the downward spiral into addiction.
20. Pure happenstance
When gambling addicts finally begin treatment, one of the first things many of them will say is that they don’t know how they got addicted.
Many will remember the first time they gambled: a random trip to a casino on vacation or an outing with a friend or significant other.
They also report that they felt a “high”, or an extremely positive feeling, that they tried to emulate again, which led to more habitual gambling.
Knowing the common causes of gambling addiction can help addicts receive the treatment they need.
Psychologists and psychiatrists today have been combining the treatment of the addiction with its underlying cause, making treatments more effective.