We asked our readers what they’ve always wanted to know about gambling addiction but were too afraid to ask. Then we hooked up with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi Jr. for a professional opinion.
Joseph Nicolosi Jr. Ph.D. is the founder of The Breakthrough Clinic, which specializes in rapid treatment of gambling addiction over Skype and phone. He told us how being spoilt when you’re a child can lead to problem gambling, how gambling addiction is similar to porn addiction and he also explained why women gamble less than men.
People who weren’t challenged to develop delayed gratification during their childhoods are the most at risk of forming a gambling problem.They were indulged. They were pampered and told they were entitled.
Now they’re angry and confused that life is tough and results are hard to come by. Therefore, they’re drawn toward the idea of the quick fix, which is how they get into gambling.
For a moment, these people can get back the rush of feeling instant success and vindication that they felt in childhood – no delayed gratification needed.
Dr. Nicolosi told us exactly what a problem gambler experiences when they make a wager:
He also went on to explain that Some gambling addicts describe this as feeling ‘alive’, ‘Invincible’ or like a ‘powerful alpha male’.
Whatever the exact rush is, it’s a specific feeling that the addict:
- Didn’t experience much growing up.
- Isn’t getting a lot of in their day-to-day life.
For example, gambling addicts often chase a rush of feeling ‘alive’ but in their day job and family life, they often describe themselves as feeling dead and dull.
In all cultures, gambling is more acceptable for men than women.
Our earliest depictions of humans are prehistoric cave paintings depicting men on horses with spears. Masculinity, both then and now has always been about providing and protecting. And that always involves risk and a ‘rush’ for succeeding.
Men in particular had to take risks because their provision and protection was necessary for the survival of the species. This is why society is more accepting of men taking risks, like gambling.
Neural imaging (brain scans) show remarkable similarities of how addictions work in our brains.
For example, heroin addiction and porn addiction show incredible similarities in regard to their effect on our brains. All addictions overload our reward pathways by delivering a sudden rush of pleasure. All addictions give us a decreased ability to tolerate negative emotions and all addictions give us cravings— the brain’s way of punishing us for not providing it the sudden rush of pleasure it had been experiencing.
Dr. Nicolosi says it’s all down to the power of shame:
If you like something, you can stop if it starts to hurt you or someone you love.
You won’t develop cravings, obsessions, withdrawal or an identity out of something you like.
You won’t go against your own values to attain it.
Not so for an addiction. An addiction will break all those rules. I tell my clients (who are usually men), “look deep, deep down inside yourself— truly and honestly ask yourself this question: at the end of the day, does this behavior make me the man I truly want to be? If the answer is “no,” then get rid of that behavior, whatever it is.
The single greatest way to treat gambling addiction involves the ability to basically delete memories. It sounds like science fiction, but in 10 or 15 years from now, this will become much more common.
We’re just now able to identify the gambling addict’s memories of winning, those memories that created the addiction and keep the addict continuing to chase the euphoric rush they had experienced. With the client’s consent, we blur those memories and make them vague and virtually impossible to remember, so they don’t really recall the euphoric rush.
The cravings, the obsessions, they all start to cease. This process involves no pills or electric shocks. I do it routinely in my clinic.
This is the future of gambling addiction treatment, I have no doubt in my mind. My clients who experience this treatment report more powerful benefits than any other treatment I know.
With smart phones, we have any form of gambling you can imagine in our pockets. People are more likely to become addicted to anything that has the ‘3 A’s’ – accessibility, affordability and anonymity. Right now, you can start with small stakes (affordability), you can gamble 24/7 through your smart phone (accessibility) and no one even needs to know (anonymity). With a smart phone, you can be 2 feet from your spouse, gambling, and no one would know.
No generation before us has had this much temptation.
Dr. Nicolosi, Jr. founded The Breakthrough Clinic with the belief that addiction disorders can be treated faster, more gently and more effectively than through conventional psychotherapy treatment, leading to dramatic reduction or complete elimination of addictions and cravings.