Losing a large bet would seemingly be a sign to stop gambling right then and there. But if this is the case, why do gamblers continue to bet even after they’ve lost? The issue is that problem gamblers don’t know when to stop gambling, even when they’ve set a budget and time limit. It’s the rush to keep gambling that fuels more spending, and then the inevitable happens.
What happens to gamblers when they start losing money?
Gamblers don’t just gamble for the sake of winning money. Compulsive gambling is a behavioral disorder that alters the structure of the brain, and there may be many motivations to gamble.
For many, gambling is a pleasant activity that serves as a distraction to the stresses of their daily lives, and they aren’t too focused on whether they win or lose. The action of gambling is what’s exciting, and winning just funds the gambler so that they are able to continue gambling.
Why Do Gamblers Continue to Gamble After They Have Lost?
It’s not any easier for gambling addicts to "just stop" than it is for an alcoholic or drug addict to stop using their substance of choice.
Gamblers don’t only get a rush of adrenaline when they are winning, but also when they are losing. The uncertainty of gambling is what motivates players to keep gambling. A compulsive gambler will believe that they are just one bet away from winning the jackpot, and many believe that gambling is about skill to an extent.
In most cases, when an addicted gambler loses, they don’t stop there. They think that they are so close to winning, that if they just try once more, surely they’ll win this time. This is a very dangerous mindset to have.
They often feel a sense of panic at the amount they have lost, and are determined to gain it back. This is referred to as chasing losses.
In reality, the odds are never in your favor. Relying on skill won’t get you very far, since gambling is not based on skill. If you continue to gamble after you’ve lost a large amount, you will only lose more, and it will result in deeper financial debt, as well as deeper guilt and stress.
Gamblers often engage in “post-loss speeding” by placing another bet quicker following a loss because frustration from the defeat prompts them to try and win back their money. As a result, gamblers become more impulsive - instead of becoming more cautious about spending money, they become more reckless.
How Gambling Leads to Mental Health Disorders
The amount of money that they spend on gambling often causes a strain on their personal relationships and can negatively impact their job performance and overall work life.
In some cases, gamblers will go to extreme lengths to cover up their gambling addiction, and may borrow or even steal money from others.
Gamblers tend to feel guilt and shame when they lose, which can greatly diminish their sense of self-worth. These intense feelings accompanied with problems that gambling is causing in their personal lives can lead to depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
How to Cope With Gambling Loss
Gambling as a distraction from other issues such as mental health disorders or stressful situations is like putting a band-aid on a major wound - it’s a temporary fix, but the underlying issue will still be there when you are done gambling.
So how do you cope with a gambling loss and move on from it?
Be honest with yourself: Being honest about your situation and the extent of your gambling addiction is the first step to being free from it. Ultimately, you need to take a break from gambling, but how you do that is up to you! Not everyone quits overnight, and if they can, that’s great. Others don’t even realize how big of a problem it is until they take a break.
If you are addicted to gambling, taking a break isn’t always easy, but talking to someone about your goals can lead to some changes in thinking about your gambling habits.
Join a Community: Find a support group, or a sponsor who can hold you accountable to your decision to ease off of gambling. If necessary, put barriers in place to prevent spending money. This might mean letting a loved one hold onto your credit card or giving them control of your bank account.
Get to the root of why you are gambling: Are you gambling to distract yourself from depression or the stress you’re facing at home or work? It’s important to face these issues before gambling makes them worse. Consider speaking to a therapist who can help you uncover the root cause of your gambling and give you practical tips to cope with your situation.
Go to Treatment: The most successful way to treat a gambling addiction is to attend a residential treatment center, where you can heal in a serene environment away from your routine of everyday life.
At Algamus, we have nearly 30 years of experience treating individuals with compulsive gambling disorders. We understand that everyone recovers differently, which is why we use a variety of treatment methods, and create an individualized aftercare plan for each of our clients before they leave our facility.
If you or a loved one struggle with gambling disorders, we encourage you to reach out to our gambling counselors. We’re here to help you, even if it means just talking about the best next step to slow down and leave gambling behind.