Understanding the Psychology of Gambling


Whether it’s buying lotto tickets, scratch-offs, video poker or playing the pokies, gambling is an activity that involves placing something of value on a random event with the intention of winning something else of value. Gambling includes instances of strategy (such as betting against oneself in poker), but it can also include activities that don’t involve money or skill, such as sports events and the use of game pieces like marbles or trading cards.

Regardless of the type of gambling activity, it’s important to understand the psychology behind it in order to minimize the risk of becoming addicted. Most people who gamble do so for fun, but some have a problem with gambling and don’t realize it until they are in trouble financially or in their personal lives. Often, these problems stem from an imbalance between bottom-up emotional systems and prefrontal control systems.

People who suffer from gambling addiction are usually in denial about their situation, and they may hide their gambling activities from others or lie about how much time they spend playing. In addition, they may experience cravings for gambling and try to manage them by using food or alcohol as a substitute. Many people who have gambling problems are also suffering from underlying mood disorders such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. These conditions can contribute to compulsive gambling and lead to financial, work or relationship difficulties.

The good news is that there are ways to help someone with a gambling problem, and treatment options include self-help programs, family therapy, and individual or group counseling. In addition, there are residential and inpatient treatment facilities for people with severe problem gambling who need round-the-clock care.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a common form of gambling addiction treatment. It focuses on changing unhealthy beliefs about betting, such as believing you are more likely to win than is realistic or that certain rituals will bring luck. It also helps you develop tools for fighting your urges and solving the financial, work and relationship problems caused by problem gambling.

To reduce your gambling habit, set money and time limits for yourself. Only gamble with the amount of money you can afford to lose and don’t chase your losses. Also, only gamble for entertainment and don’t make it a way to make money. And if you’re feeling a gambling urge, stop immediately and think about the consequences of your actions. If you can’t resist the urge, call a friend or relative to talk it out with them. It can be hard to admit that you have a gambling problem, but it’s the first step toward overcoming it. Many people have gotten their gambling under control and rebuilt their lives, but it takes tremendous strength and courage. For more information about gambling and its effects, visit our articles on how to gamble safely and overcoming gambling addiction. Also, feel free to contact us for confidential support and advice. Our counsellors are available 24/7. Our service is free and anonymous.