Stay tuned for Gambling Blues (Part Two): Why gambling is addictive, and strategies to regain control
The world is fascinating, exhilarating and powerful. Nowadays, almost everyone has that ‘thing’. You know…. that thing you just can’t seem to have in moderation. For some it’s blasting candy, it might be shopping, salty snacks, Netflix or Youtube. For others, it’s gambling and more recently online gambling.
Online gambling has become an increasingly popular activity, particularly in the wake of the global pandemic. For some, it’s done in moderation, for others it has major impacts.
Regardless of what is pulling your attention, almost everyone has thought to themselves … “I KNOW this is not serving me the way I want it to, I KNOW that I don’t want to waste my time, money or energy, I just can’t seem to stop!”
When someone comes to me, curious about their own gambling, I ask the following questions: How much time is okay for you to be gambling? Are you hoping to continue gambling if you stay within your limit? Do you play free gambling-like games despite struggling with gambling for money? In all my conversations, I rarely hear the same answers.
There is, however, one question that Every. Single. Person. Agrees with. Ready for it?
Question: Do you want to feel happiness when you engage in your entertainment activities? Do you want to feel like you are the one calling the shots over how much time, energy and money you spend?
The answer is simple. Yes. Of course.
I began to wonder, why is it so difficult to have control? We all want to engage in activities to bring joy, entertainment and purpose, but for some reason it is hard. Here are three reasons that it's difficult to have a healthy relationship with gambling.
Biological/Brain Chemistry: The world of gambling is created to stimulate the chemical release of serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and adrenaline (to name a few). These are fantastic chemicals most of the time. They are released when we are laughing with our friends, eating a delicious plate of fries and feeling connected to nature for example. The problem with gambling is that it also releases these chemicals at warp speed for very little effort. This can create a tolerance effect where folks need more risk or intensity to get the same reward. People find themselves feeling blue when they don’t have access to it (withdrawal) and it can make it hard to stop repeating that behaviour.
Emotional Needs: Often, folks think that all gambling activities are the same. This could not be further from the truth. We get our emotional needs met from things that we enjoy doing. For example, slot-type games are repetitive games of chance with no way to control the outcome. This might allow folks to ‘detach’, and take a brain break. If someone has a lot of stress in their life, this may be the only time that they feel that they are relaxed. On the other hand, someone that likes to play games like roulette or poker might be having a different experience. Roulette and Poker create a false sense of control over the outcome and tend to feel very engaging. If a person is feeling detached from their day-to-day life, these games could be providing a chance to feel a sense of power and control.
Industry: Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that the gambling industry is created as a business to generate revenue. While there are regulations to protect consumers, particularly with government-regulated sites, gambling games are designed to capture your attention and keep it there.
If gambling is feeling out of control for you, or even if you are curious about whether you would like to make a change, Kootenay Gambling Support offers free services to help with gambling struggles. We will work with you to determine your goals and support you to connect to the right resources. To connect with someone in your area, call the Gambling Helpline at 1-888-795-6111, or click this link to complete an online form.