The Science Behind the Gambling Addiction

As people enjoy gambling, whether as an occasional activity or a main hobby, knowing the dangers of gambling addiction are being more widely understood. More researchers are studying how gambling addiction works and understanding how gambling addiction starts.

When we understand how gambling addiction starts, we can prepare ways to help people prevent gambling from becoming a problem. Having a gambling addiction can cause problems just as any other addiction can. Understanding the science behind how addiction starts can help you prevent potential problems.

Normalized Activity

Gambling has become normalized. It has always been an activity that people engaged in. But now with more casinos and ways to gamble increasing, more people are gambling. This opens up the door for more people to become addicted to gambling.

More options for gambling have even led to a rise in using an online casino for gambling. With online casinos, people can gamble from home. This is great for many people who want to try their hand at gambling but don’t know where to start. It can lead to potential addiction problems that were not there when gambling wasn’t as available.

Psychological factors

Several psychological factors can play into gambling addiction. People can fall into thinking traps that encourage reckless behaviour. When you don’t understand these factors it can contribute to falling into gambling addiction.

One of these psychological factors is receiving partial reinforcement. Reinforcement in psychology is encouraging activity through positive reinforcement. Partial reinforcement is commonly seen in gambling since the reward of gambling is only sometimes rewarded. This causes people to think that they have a stronger chance of winning than they do.

Another psychological factor is the illusion of control. This is where people develop rituals to encourage winning, even if those rituals have no impact on future habits. We are good at finding patterns even when there are none. Acting like we have control over gambling is another factor that keeps people gambling.

Genetic Predisposition

People are genetically dispositioned to all sorts of behaviour and activity. Addiction is one of these behaviours. Some people are more likely to become addicted to an activity or substance than others for reasons outside of their control.

Genetic predisposition to addiction is still an inexact science. There is no part of the genetic code that we can point out to see if someone will become addicted to something. The best way to determine if this is a factor in your life is to examine if there is a history of addiction in your family.


Brain Chemicals

When we do an activity that we enjoy, dopamine is released in our brains. Dopamine contributes to the feeling of euphoria when we do something we like. It is one factor that can determine addiction. When we gamble, the dopamine makes us want to continue gambling.

This reward system is easy to want to experience over and over again, even to our detriment. Chemical releases are outside of our control and we are susceptible to all of them. A dopamine rush is such a flood of positive release that it can be compared to taking drugs. It can be a dangerous reaction if you don’t know how to prepare for it.


Reward System

People enjoy gambling because various reward systems encourage it. Whether it is a brain chemical or the financial reward of winning, people continue to gambling because of rewards. Even if the rewards are theoretical. With every reward, messages are sent through our brain that this was good and we want more.

Winning in gambling encourages more gambling. If you win big time when starting to gamble, it can set off major reward signals. It also tells you right away that it is possible to win money. This reward and the potential for more keeps people coming back for more.


When we experience these chemical releases and positive reactions, we get used to it and we begin to need more to get the same rush. People need to win more in order to feel the same rush that we felt when we started gambling.

When a rush is so big, our brains build up a tolerance to that reaction quickly. This makes the small wins not seem even smaller and the future big wins seem not so big. The biggest concern for people who have built up a tolerance is getting the next hit of dopamine that hits the same way as the first time.

This becomes impossible as the brain has developed ways to insulate itself from those same rushes as you gamble more. When dopamine rushes are nomalized, your brain is unable to handle all of that all the time.

Key Takeaways


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