What Causes Gambling Addiction?

For many, the idea of gambling seems harmless enough – a game of poker or spinning a few coins in a slot machine, who cares? But if a person is struggling with gambling addiction, it can be far more complex than simply having some fun. The answer to why someone gambles, and how it becomes problematic, depends on a number of factors that aren’t just genetic predisposition or the way the brain is wired.

People may gamble for social reasons – it’s what their group of friends do, and they enjoy the excitement of thinking about what they would do with a big win. Or they might play for coping reasons, to forget their worries or to feel more confident or resilient. These don’t excuse them of responsibility for their addiction, but they can help you understand why they might struggle with stopping and what might be causing them problems.

It’s also important to remember that gambling involves chance, so the chances of winning don’t increase or decrease after a loss or series of losses. Just like flipping a coin, even after 7 tails in a row, the odds of getting heads still remain 50%. Humans want to feel in control, so they rationalise that a series of losses will balance out with a win, but the reality is different.

Gambling also causes external impacts, that can be seen at the personal and interpersonal level as well as at the societal/community level (such as increased debt or financial strain). These are generally monetary, but they can include general costs, the cost of problem gambling, and long-term costs.