At The Liberation Place we believe that, much like substance use, the driving force behind an addiction to gambling is the brains neurotransmitter dopamine, due to its significant role in reward and motivation based behaviour. Dopamine plays a major role in the development of every addiction in the book, and it is important that we implement a basic understanding of its purpose and function whenever we enter into a recovery journey.
It is generally assumed that it is the pursuit of financial gain that is the basic cause of problematic gambling behaviours in people today. Dopamine is indeed released in the brain to a much larger extent in pathological gamblers during gambling episodes. However, it has recently been found that the interaction between dopamine and reward is not as straightforward as it would appear at first glance.
In Pathological Gamblers dopamine release seems to thrive off of the unpredictability of the distribution of the perceived reward rather than actually receiving the reward itself. This would seem to suggest that an individual’s motivation for gambling is strongly (though not entirely) determined by the inability to predict how often the reward process will occur. A big part of the recovery process is building an understanding of the role of dopamine in gambling, and attempt to provide an evolutionary framework to explain its role in uncertainty.
Ultimately, a gambling addiction impacts the individual and their environment in ways that sometimes only those close to can understand. The explanation of the influx of dopamine while gambling should go a long way to explaining why Most people with gambling problems say they lose control over how much time and money they spend while gambling. Meanwhile, they often ignore many or all of their other responsibilities. Most people with a gambling problem eventually admit that they knew they had problems, but at that time only gambling seemed important to them.
If this sounds familiar to you and your behaviours, or those of a loved one you are concerned about, and you would like to make some changes in your gambling behaviours, take a look at the information contained in our website and the external resources for gambling addiction that we offer here The Liberation Place. If it's time to make a change and reach out for the support, recovery is a journey that starts with just one step, and only you alone can choose to take that step, but remember you are not destined to be alone when you choose to take that step with The Liberation Place!