When does a ‘normal’ gambler cross over to become an ‘abnormal’ or problem gambler?
Firstly let us define what is normal and what is abnormal.
What is a Normal Gambler?
Anyone engaging in Normal gambling can:
- Just have one or two bets, and not gamble until their last pound is gone
- Only stake money that was not for rent, food or bills
- Be honest about his whereabouts and what he was doing
- Generally be a truthful, reliable individual who shows consideration for others on a daily basis
A problem gambler (Abnormal)is the complete opposite of the above.
So where is this line, where one crosses over into irresponsible gambling and develops these character traits? Well in my experience of being a problem gambler for 35 years (25 years of it without placing a bet)
Addiction Factors Creating a Problem Gambler
Having listened to hundreds of others and referencing my own journey, I have noticed the following factors:
(1) Emotional Pain
This is a broad brush, but can include things like:
(i) Being abused or bullied physically/mentally
Gambling ‘numbs up’ the memories of abuse, no matter how recent or distant they are.
This is a way to suppress the pain of childhood /teenage incidents, rather than allowing them to come to the surface.
(ii) Being abandoned, or having the sense of being abandoned, even if it was not the case
Gambling instantly increases the feeling of being significant, especially after a Win.
This is the polar opposite of being so insignificant that you were abandoned by a partner/mother/father.
(iii) Being depressed or being off balance in some regard
In a state of depression you are sinking down and everyone else is rising up. You are the odd one out, the misfit. Gambling offers you the change to give yourself an instant lift (ie. the buzz) from the mediocre grey of your depressive existence. You can feel normal even for a few moments.
(iv) Being an addict already (eg. alcohol, porn, drugs, food, shopping, etc)
If you are already an expert at altering your State with external substances, you will find that Gambling provides an identical lift. A Gambling addict is artificially stimulating Dopamine in the brain.
(2) A Big Win
Another factor that helps an addict-in-waiting (ie. someone that fits part of the above profile)
to cross the invisible line is the Big Win, or more specifically The Big SIGNIFICANT Win.
Significant how exactly?
Well if the Gambler is in an environment where other people are (i.e. the races, bookmakers, casino, etc) then everyone usually knows there is a winner. In that moment, their Significance is a 10/10. It’s a ticket to popularity – people want to be around them. Other gamblers want to BE them.
And if they’re playing alone online, then they know they’ve won. For that dream moment they can pay that bill, repay that debt, or have a chance of being normal. [Ironically they forget that they were actually normal before the abnormal gambling screwed them and their finances, but for now they’ve won and are back on top for a change!]
But that chance soon fades as the problem gambler keep going rather than walking away.
Note that a normal gambler can & often does walk away with his winnings (ie. money) whereas an abnormal gambler just sees their winnings a further stake (tokens, chips, credits, spins) for yet more gambling – after all, they only really feel at home in their own skin when they’re in action. They don’t see their winnings as money (distorted perception).
Which factor is to mostly to blame?
So getting back to the Invisible Line, which is the biggest out of these two factors? Where do we cross over?
Well unfortunately that’s a trick question – in my experience it’s only & always the first one, Emotional Pain.
All the Big Win does is provide the external trigger that wake up the pain ans sets the whole thing in motion, and we self-medicate it with something big enough to override the feelings.