Understanding Gambling Addiction
One of the largest misconceptions that demands understanding is that problem gambling is a money problem, or that people who are dealing with a gambling addiction are financially irresponsible. Society sometimes struggles with understanding "how" people get addicted to gambling, and "what" is it about gambling that people get addicted to.
Money is necessary for a gambler to get their fix. As with drugs and alcohol money is used to participate in a mind or mood altering activity. Most addicted to drugs and alcohol find themselves in financial hardships as well. It must be understood that addiction would simply not exist if the act of doing something or ingesting something didn't give a person a reason to return again and again with no regard to themselves, loved ones, or society. In other words, people do not get addicted to things, but rather to what those things do for them. This is clearly powerful or we would not have an epidemic of addiction in our world, and gambling addiction would not be rapidly rising.
Gambling has effects that are narcotic like for some people. Gambling like drugs and alcohol provides escape, reward, pleasure, action, a high, and risk. Addiction is addiction, and regardless of what it is to, addiction is a symptom to a much larger underlying issue. For some people the effects of gambling, like the effects of food, alcohol, drugs, sex, exercise, and work satisfies an underlying need. It is recognized that such activities are often abused as a means of coping or avoiding dealing with bad feelings and thoughts.
Gambling initially provides comfort for some, an out or action for others. Those impacted have their unique experiences that keep them coming back. Although some activities create a physical dependency, they all create an emotional dependency for anyone who becomes addicted. For example, if drugs and alcohol did not create a physical/mental dependency, but still provided the same effects, people would still be as addicted. In other words, an individual does not become physically addicted to alcohol after their first experience with it, just as an individual does not become physically addicted to gambling after their first experience with it.
In my coaching practice I like to say that addiction is an emotional illness with mental consequences. People start abusing gambling because they like the way it makes them feel (the heart), and continue abusing gambling even when it doesn't feel good anymore (the brain), all control is lost. Yes there are many factors related to why people become addicted, but the emotional illness dynamic cannot be overlooked as people become emotionally addicted to their vice well before the physical self or brain is addicted. Understanding this provides one angle that explains how addiction to something non-substance like gambling can happen.