Gambling addiction is a real problem with real consequences. However, fighting it is not as simple as to tell someone she has a problem. Just as with drugs and alcohol, gambling addiction is hard to fight because our brain becomes “addicted” to it. When we win, our reward circuitry in the brain is activated leading to a feeling of well-being that enhances motivation to play. And, just as with drugs, stop playing leads to withdrawal symptoms and the need to placate that feeling and restore balance.
Further complicating the situation, near misses also activate the brain’s reward circuitry and contribute to the addiction. Gamblers that experience a situation of near misses will be more motivated to continue playing. Neurophilosophy reports these new findings and some of the implications
Henry Chase and Luke Clark of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute in Cambridge have previously found that the brain responds to near miss gambling outcomes in much the same way it does to as winning. In moderate gamblers, both types of outcome activate the reward circuitry, and although near miss events are experienced to be somewhat less rewarding than wins, they nevertheless increase the desire and motivation to gamble.
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