Gambling addiction often develops insidiously. Experts divide the course of pathological gambling addiction into three phases.
Stages to gambling addiction
At first, those affected only play occasionally. In doing so, they notice that they feel a thrill while playing, especially in the moments that determine whether there is a win or a loss. If the person concerned wins, his brain pours out a high amount of neurotransmitters such as dopamine or norepinephrine and he experiences a high of happiness. Games have a similar effect on the brain as amphetamines or cocaine.
The affected person still has the game under control, he continues to pursue his professional and private life as well as other leisure activities. At this stage, they are merely casual gamers and just looking for doubledown codes.
The more often the person experiences a pleasant thrill and a high of happiness while playing, the more his brain connects the stimuli of playing with positive, exciting feelings. It is increasingly conditioned to play, after a while it automatically demands it and the person concerned now regularly feels the desire to play. The world outside the arcade is getting increasingly boring.
He now regularly spends time at slot machines, at the roulette table or playing online poker, his stakes are getting higher and the willingness to take risks increases. He has gone from being a casual player to being a problem player.
In the addiction stage, those affected are also called desperate players. Because the player no longer feels any pleasure in playing but feels a great compulsive urge to play. His thoughts only revolve around how to pursue his addiction. He neglects his job, his relationship and his circle of friends more and more, his only interest is addiction.
In order to be able to feel the desired thrill at all, he has to take ever greater financial risks with his stakes. Some of those affected are therefore playing several machines at the same time. The gambling addict no longer has any control over his or her behavior, once he has started a game he is using all of his available money. If he makes a profit, he immediately loses it again, even if he has long since owed tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of euros. He can no longer control his actions.