Chasing losses is a common problem for gamblers. It refers to the behavior of continuing to gamble after experiencing a loss, in an attempt to win back the money that was lost.
Chasing losses can quickly lead to a vicious cycle that is hard to break. However, there are ways that you can overcome the cycle and stop chasing your losses.
Why Gamblers Chase Losses
Understanding why gamblers chase losses is important in order to help them overcome this problem and regain control over their gambling habits.
Loss-chasing could arise from impaired inhibition, giving rise to impulsivity as the tendency to make rapid, hasty gambling decisions in pursuit of winning. Ultimately, chasing losses has to do with the following:
- Desperation: A gambler will start to panic once they have spent more than they can afford, and continue gambling in a desperate attempt to win some of their money back.
The illusion of control: Some gamblers believe that they are in control of their gambling and can stop any time they want. They may also think that they can beat the house, or that they are "due" for a win at any point.
- The thrill of gambling - Gambling triggers a release of dopamine in the brain, which produces feel-good emotions. Gamblers can get a thrill from gambling even if they are losing.
Dangers of Chasing Losses
Chasing losses is never a good idea, and it always ends badly. It can cause detrimental effects, including:
Financial ruin - Chasing losses is the fastest way to accumulate a substantial amount of debt. When a gambler continues to play after losing, they are likely to lose even more money, making it harder and harder to recoup.
Reckless behavior - When a gambler chases their losses, they are desperate. They will not be in the mindset to make good decisions; all they can think about is getting their money back. They will gamble more than they can afford to lose, or engage in high-risk gambling behaviors.
Addiction - Chasing losses creates a vicious cycle of gambling. Losing a substantial amount of money can lead to relationship problems, financial problems, and mental health problems, which leads a person to want to gamble as a distraction from these circumstances.
Decline in mental health - Chasing losses can cause extreme depression and anxiety, and make a person feel like there is no way out of their addiction.
It's important to remember that when it comes to chasing losses, you stand far more to lose than you do to gain. It's always best to take a step back before things get out of control.
Is Chasing Losses a Sign of Gambling Addiction?
Yes, chasing losses is often a sign of a gambling addiction. In fact, the “chasing/desperation stage” is the third and final stage of gambling addiction, following the winning stage and the losing stage.
When individuals continue to gamble in an attempt to win back money they have lost, they are engaging in compulsive behavior that can spiral out of control. This type of behavior is a clear indication that gambling has become a problem and is affecting their life negatively.
People who enjoy gamble casually can usually walk away from the table after a loss, and will not bet more than they can afford to lose.
Tips to Help You Stop Chasing Losses
The pain of losing a substantial amount of money due to gambling can be devastating and overwhelming. You may be experiencing debt, relationship problems, depression, or anxiety as a result of your gambling.
Here’s what to do to cope with a gambling loss, instead of chasing your losses.
- Address the root cause of your gambling - Become aware of what thought patterns lead you to gamble. Is it boredom, loneliness, depression, or anxiety that is causing you to gamble? It’s essential to treat the underlying cause, so that the desire to gamble can reduce.
- Set a budget & stick to it - Never gamble more than you can afford to lose. If you find that you cannot stick to a budget that you set for yourself, it’s time to get professional help, and allow someone else to be in charge of your finances.
- Accept your loss and move on - It’s important to understand that losing is a part of gambling. You win some, but you lose more. Gambling is not about skill, it’s simply about luck, and the odds are not in your favor.
- Seek support - Don’t suffer in silence. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your struggle with gambling, and consider attending therapy or professional treatment for your gambling disorder.
- Practice healthy coping mechanisms - Many people gamble as a way of coping with negative emotions. In order to stop chasing your losses, you will need to find an alternative coping mechanism that allows you to process your emotions in a healthy way.
- Reevaluate your relationship with gambling - Ask yourself, “How is gambling serving my life?” If gambling is causing you more harm than good, it’s time to stop gambling altogether. You deserve to live a life that brings you purpose and joy.
- Go easy on yourself - You are not a bad person because you have lost money to gambling. Be kind to yourself, learn from the situation, and move on.
Why is it So Hard to Stop Gambling?
Why do gamblers continue to gamble even when they lose? The psychology of gambling is complex. Gambling addiction actually changes how your brain works, similar to a drug addiction.
This happens because gambling creates a greater release of dopamine in the brain, which teaches the brain that this behavior should be repeated, making it increasingly difficult to stop gambling.
Get Help for Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction can have devastating effects on lives, but recovery from gambling addiction is possible.
At Algamus, we have been treating disordered gamblers for over 30 years. Our program is 6 weeks of residential treatment located in Prescott, Arizona. We strongly encourage disordered gamblers to take time away from their home environment to devote to their recovery.
We have seen lives completely turn around after only a short period of time at Algamus. To learn more about our program and how we can help, speak to our gambling addiction treatment specialists.