30% of Londoners would chose playing at a casino table over bungee jumping and other thrilling experiences, a YouGov study revealed in London Evening Standard 28/05/15
Now, I am not anti recreational gambling and I am certainly not anti-thrill seeking – we all need a little lift to our mood now and then. My concern is that despite the rising popularity of gambling as a socially acceptable pastime, we still don’t really “get” gambling as an addiction and so are at higher risk of being caught unawares by addictive patterns.
The thrill that is a strong part of the appeal, for some then becomes the problem. It is almost always the feeling gained from gambling that becomes addictive, rather than the idea of winning money. Obsession with money being more the devastating consequence of gambling having gotten out of control. Initially, the anticipation of a win, or the win itself, creates the thrill. Part of the thrill, too, is that each spin of a wheel it could be win or lose. Next time there is a loss, compared to the thrilling high of the win there will be a low and so a desire to try to win back money and regain that thrilling feeling. That is all a natural part of gambling experience. The art of keeping it fun is in being able to walk away. be it win or lose.
So, how come some can walk away and others stay and play at all costs?
There are many complex reasons, psychological and personal, for someone getting hooked into gambling addiction, but the following is a useful guide for new gamblers:
· If you already feel pretty good about yourself and life when you go to gamble and find gamble only with amounts of money you budgeted for, you are more likely to be able to remain a recreational gambler.
· If, win or lose, you are able to walk away from the casino table feeling good about your gambling experience, then that too is a good sign.
· If you are currently going through a life crisis or suffer from stress, depression and anxiety, then you may be at higher risk of getting addicted to anything that changes your mood for the better; be it drink, drugs or the thrill from gambling.
· If money is tight, be aware that losses will hit harder and it may be more tempting to chase both the losses and another high.
· If you walk away from the casino feeling worse than you when you went in and with cravings to return to win money back, then that could indicate a potential problem.
· If you walk away with a win, but find that instead of enjoying spending the money on treating yourself you crave returning to the casino ASAP to buy another high, preoccupied by wishing for another win, then that could indicate a potential problem.
This is in no way written with the intention of frightening anyone away from having a go at gambling, but with the intention of giving insight into what the signs of gambling becoming a problem really are. And, to emphasize that you cannot gauge whether you will be vulnerable to getting addicted to gambling by how responsible you are with money in life outside the casino, or how well you know the odds of winning. It is how you feel about gambling, winning and losing that will make the difference and frequently that will be influenced by how you feel about yourself and life outside of the casino.
Thrills are terrific and can enhance a life that is already pretty much okay, but if we use them to regularly escape a life that isn’t, or rely on thrills alone for the feel good factor, then we run the risk of developing addiction.