The Psychology of Gambling
All manner of accusations and allegations have indeed been leveled against gambling. The most interesting thing, though, is that the proponents of these claims consider gambling to be simply a vice. They cannot provide any real grounds on why gambling is wrong. It is thus worrying to see those who are anti-gambling using psychology as a weapon. Considering that the rightness or wrongness of a thing is based mainly on personal beliefs, are any of the psychologically derived allegations against gambling valid?
Furthermore, is there an actual relationship between personal beliefs and a leisure activity like gambling? It is critical to begin with an understanding of what psychology is if we are to answer this question. Having attained such knowledge will help you to access which aspects of gambling are psychological.
The term ‘Psychology,’ in its most straightforward application, is the study of how the mind affects behavior. Psychology can thus be viewed as an attempt to describe, explain, to predict, and to influence human behavior. In essence, psychology tries to provide a reliable link between the mind of an individual and his/her actions. There are several ways of interpreting the perceived relationship between human thought and human behavior. However, you should note that hardly one of these perspectives is unbiased.
Thus when you are trying to understand the psychological aspects of gambling, what you are mostly trying to achieve are two things. First and foremost, you are trying to understand why people love to gamble. Secondly, you are trying to predict how the increasingly popular activity of gambling affects its participants. Fundamentally, you should never forget that all psychological endeavors are primarily based on accepted assumptions.
Gambling and Addiction
Among the most prominent anti-gambling slogans out there is founded on the claim that engaging in gambling leads to gambling addiction. There are two psychological scenarios on how gambling can achieve the status of addiction similar and equal to an actual drug problem.
The first one involves a compulsive desire for money. The scenario starts out with someone in a dire financial situation, which results in gambling as a way out. This individual then takes the little they have left and uses it to gamble where they end up losing it all. Having lost everything, the said desperate individual seeks out dubious means of securing more money to gamble. The ‘gambling addict’ can result in outright theft and other crime to get gambling money. All this supposedly happens because the gambling addict can’t let go of the illusion that will recover all they have lost in just one gamble.
The second gambling addiction scenario revolves around the euphoric state of mind attained from engaging in gambling activities. This supposed high is itself supposedly brought on by the release of endorphins in the brain during gambling. Having experienced this heightened state of mind, the affected individual then tries to realize it again through more gambling. Ultimately this gambling addict gambles not to win but to experience the emotional high.
If you happen to dabble in gambling from time to time, then it is likely that you have come across the above arguments. It is even possible that there is some truth to the cases, which is why they sound so plausible. However, let us analyze the two scenarios.
False Arguments for Gambling Addiction
If you consider the scenarios presented above, you should note one key characteristic in all of them. Both scenarios apply a very general mode of reasoning. This outcome is consistent with the use of psychological approaches to describe and explain human behavior. You might ask, how is this so? As previously mentioned, all psychological approaches have one thing in common. The use of assumptions. The above psychologically-sound gambling addiction narratives deviate from reality in several critical ways.
- The assumption that most people in dire debt truly believe that gambling provides an avenue to recover.
- The assumption that losing every coin one has during a gambling session is not enough of a deterrent to further gambling
- The assumption that a person previously without a criminal record would be spurred to engage in crime by an unreasonable desire to gamble
- The assumption that the euphoric high attained while gambling cannot be replicated in other non-gambling activities such as sports
- The assumption that a supposed emotional high can be enough incentive to risk everything one has
However, this is not to say that the gambling scenarios presented are impossible. The two psychologically sound narratives are highly improbable. Thus choosing to view gambling from a psychological standpoint is essentially choosing to be biased against this popular past-time. You should, therefore, strive for an objective outlook towards gambling. Doing this will allow you to experience gambling as the thrilling positive activity that it can be.
As with most past-time activities, gambling does have several aspects that can adversely affect your overall experience. Fortunately, these aspects of gambling are mainly in the mind and can thus be considered to be psychological. Therefore to safeguard yourself from being negatively affected by gambling, you can strive to attain a mindset characterized by the following.
Be realistic about possible winnings
A loss will have a little or substantial negative emotional effect, depending on your mindset at the time of placing your bet. If you know and accept the possible losses at the beginning of each gambling session, then an eventual loss will not cause you emotional pain. If, however, if you are obsessed only with winning and pay little attention to losses then the emotional impact of a loss will be dire. It is best to set your mind on a fun-filled gambling session instead of one in which you are obsessed with winning.
Keep track of your bets, winnings, and losses
While individual bets might seem small and insignificant, the total that you might end spending during a night of gambling can be quite considerable. By keeping track of not only the bets you make but also your losses and winnings, you will be able to stick to your budget.
Keep a level head
If you must have a drink or two while gambling, it is advisable that you moderate your consumption. Doing so is necessary because high blood alcohol levels will impair your judgment, which can result in taking unreasonable risks. This outcome is not only limited to alcohol but also applies to any other recreational drug that you might use while gambling.
Have a betting strategy
It is essential to plan out your gambling sessions beforehand. Don’t just walk to a betting table without a plan. Your betting strategy should have a set limit to the bets you intend to place. You should also place a limit on your possible losses. Ensure you know what proportion of your winnings that you reinvest in a game and what you set aside. It is paramount that you stick to your betting strategy to the end.
Take breaks during gambling sessions
It is prudent to take short breaks after engaging in gambling for prolonged periods. The pause will allow you to take stock of the money you have at hand compared to what you had at the beginning. If you are experiencing a winning streak, then ensure you set aside some of your winnings. If you have suffered considerable losses, then you should reconsider quitting or setting a limit to your bets.
Make small bets that you are ready to lose
With every bet you make, you should have in mind that you might lose that money. It is thus very wise to make small, consistent bets rather than a few large bets. Using this approach minimizes your losses while still offering you the chance to win.
Gambling-related Warning Signs
If you find yourself depicting the following behaviors, then you should probably consider taking a break from gambling for a while. If you find that you have to be secretive to your friends and family when you go out to gamble, then there is something wrong. It is likely that everyone has noticed your obsession with the activity and have made their opinions known. You should certainly have no reason to hide from your family and friends. When you find yourself gambling at a time when you can least afford it, then it a sure sign you have a self-control problem related to gambling. You should make sure you never get to the point that you feel you have to gamble all the time.