Why Gamblers Rarely Win
If you have a gambling problem, you are not alone. According to recent studies, around 0.7% of the population in the UK suffers from some form of gambling addiction. This means that there are almost 1 million people in the country with a gambling problem – and the number is increasing. The number of women who gamble compulsively is also seeing a rising trend.
If you struggle to control your gambling, you may wonder why other people can gamble without getting carried away, and you cannot. There are plenty of people who can put a few pounds on the lottery, or have a bet on the Grand National once a year, then not think about gambling till the next time they bet.
For problem gamblers though, it is not so easy. Compulsive behaviour around gambling means that these people simply do not have control over when and how much they bet.
Why is this? And how can a person stop if they have a gambling problem? These questions and more are answered in this article from Recoverlution.
Why do people gamble?
Someone who has “the odd flutter” may do so because it provides a little excitement in their life. Problem gamblers, on the other hand, often gamble to change the way that they feel.
Studies have shown that people with a gambling problem have lower levels of the chemical norepinephrine in their brain. This is the chemical that the brain releases so we experience arousal and thrill.
Much like how some people with substance abuse problems self-medicate a co-occurring mental health issue, compulsive gamblers may gamble in an attempt to alleviate mental health symptoms.
Someone with depression might spend large amounts of time playing online poker so they do not feel their low mood. A person who has anxiety disorder may spend all day watching horse racing to give them a sense of control in their life, and distract themselves from their anxiety issues.
There are also people who have gone through trauma, who use gambling to direct their attention away from unpleasant feelings that the untreated trauma brings up.
People with problematic gambling often do not realise that they are gambling for these reasons. They may simply believe that they “enjoy gambling”.
If you have a gambling problem, it is important to acknowledge that this behaviour is unhealthy, and it can be treated if you want.
The odds are stacked against you
People who gamble recreationally may not realise how hard it is to win. The house always has the edge over the player, whether it’s in casino games or sports betting. This means that the more you play, the more you are likely to lose. Casinos have an edge over pro blackjack players of around 0.5%, this goes up to 35% for slots games.
Casinos and bookmakers are businesses designed to make money from gamblers, and they are good at doing it. They know that gamblers are more likely to gamble more in the future if they believe they almost won, which is why they create this illusion in their establishments. There are countless other tricks that these companies deploy on gamblers to encourage them to bet more often.
Some gamblers believe that they have developed ‘a system’ which will allow them to win in the long term. The reality is, though, that the more you play these games of chance, the more you will lose.
Warning signs of a gambling problem
The DSM-5 states that you have a gambling disorder if you show four of the following signs over a 12 month period (paraphrased):
A. You need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to feel a desired amount of excitement.
B. You are restless or irritable if you try and reduce the time you spend gambling or stop gambling.
C. You have tried to either control, cut back, or stop gambling several times in the past but have been unable to.
D. You are preoccupied with gambling alot e.g. reliving past times when you gambled, trying to get more money to gamble.
E. You gamble when you are distressed (anxious, depressed, guilty etc.)
F. You lie about how much you gamble.
H. You have lost or almost lost an important relationship, job, career opportunity or education due to gambling
I. You rely on other people to give you money to tide you over desperate financial situations caused by gambling.
J. The above actions are not better explained by having a manic episode.
Mild: You meet 4–5 criteria Moderate: You meet 6–7 criteria Severe: You meet 8–9 criteria
How to solve your gambling problem
There are ways to break free of the cycle of gambling addiction. Some ways to stop gambling include:
Self-imposed banning from bookmakers and online gambling sites
Some problem gamblers are able to solve their gambling problem by speaking with bookmakers in their area and contacting the online gambling sites that they use, informing them that they have a gambling problem.
The issue with this is that someone who has a severe gambling addiction is unlikely to be deterred by getting themselves banned. Someone who is compelled to gamble will simply find a new resource where they can continue to gamble.
This plan also does not take into account the underlying causes of a gambling disorder. Unless the root issues that drive the gambling are unearthed and healed, there is little chance of a long term, healthy recovery.
Counselling & support for a gambling problem
Attending counselling sessions can assist in overcoming your gambling disorder. Seeing a mental health professional will often help a person get to the root of why they gamble, and why it has become such a problem. Often, people with a gambling disorder use gambling to distract themselves from difficult thoughts and emotions.
Addressing past difficult events with the help of a professional can free a person to move away from dysfunctional behaviours and may help them to quit. Counsellors can also assist in changing maladaptive thought processes related to gambling. This is important, as those with addictive disorders struggle to see the reality of their situation.
The association GamCare also offer a safe space to discuss a problem with gambling, with people who can offer help and support.
Gambling recovery meetings
Going to gambling recovery meetings is another option that can help a person to stop gambling. The most popular of these meetings is Gamblers Anonymous. The people in these meetings meet regularly - to try to stop gambling and to help each other.
Gamblers Anonymous is based on the twelve steps, which originated in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Besides going to meetings to share thoughts and feelings related to gambling, people in Gamblers Anonymous can go through the twelve steps.
Recoverlution is partnered with Anonymind, which provides completely free treatment for anyone affected by gambling in the UK. They will partner you with a therapist who can help you to overcome your problem gambling
Going to rehab for a gambling problem
Rehab is not just for people with substance abuse problems. While it is expensive and time-consuming, some gamblers find that the only way for them to stop gambling is to go to rehab. They need a time out and a safe place.
At rehab any opportunities to gamble are removed. This gives rehab patients the opportunity to press pause on gambling habits.
Rehab also provides patients with the opportunity to look at why they were gambling. Staff employ a number of evidence-based treatments to help each person address and change their addictive behaviours.
Gambling addicts always lose until they recover
Gambling addiction is a serious issue, and it can have a devastating impact on a persons life. At its most severe it is often referred to as pathological gambling, or compulsive gambling. The price addiction costs a person and their loved ones can never be rectified by any amount of money.
Someone with a gambling addiction will be unable to stick to any self-imposed limits. The only way to recover is to abstain completely.
If you are struggling to control your own gambling, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. There are plenty of resources available to help you, including support groups, therapy, and rehabilitation.
- Pathological gambling disorder: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2658737/