Gambling addictions are more psychologically complex than they may seem. Those who do not understand a gambling addiction are usually trained to judge those who are gambling addicts and treat them like they are degenerates. This is a very shallow estimation of who gambling addicts are. Every form of addiction can be traced back to a neurological chemical reward. When we encounter something pleasurable, our brain lets us know through a chemical response. Those who have an abnormal chemical response may be prone to addiction. The similarities that addiction has with disease are remarkable.
The underlying cause of any gambling addiction, and arguably any addiction period, is an affinity for risk-taking. Being attracted to risk-taking has everything to do with the evolution of our brains and our psychological make-up. The pleasure chemical that our brains release is called dopamine, and once we know how to achieve it, we regularly go back for more of whatever triggered it. Some people’s brains have stunted dopamine production, which causes them to repeat the trigger activity heavier and more frequently than the average person would. This is where the addict stigma comes in.
The addict’s brain and the highly functional person’s brain are actually of the same composition. The urge to pursue great feats in order to achieve the chemical dopamine is the same urge to pursue heavy immersion in addiction because initially, they achieve the same result. Obviously, over time, addiction proves to be unmanageable and devours the person’s life, where as the pursuit of incredible feats returns great rewards to the individual.
This all comes back to risk-taking behavior. Gambling, whether it is on a small scale in front of a slot machine or large scale with a multi-million dollar stock market investment, satisfies the need to take risks that serves as many people’s means of achieving dopamine. In essence, it is simply how some people feel alive. We need this type of person in the world because they are responsible for so many great achievements. We simply need to help encourage them back to their potential when they become too immersed in their addiction.