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Why do people gamble?

A common question for a person with a gambling problem is: 'Why do I do it?'. You may be wondering that about someone you know, and wonder why they are putting themselves and their loved ones through such turmoil. If something is causing such problems, why not just stop and be happier? You might also wonder why some people seem able to gamble within their limits, and not develop such problems. You might be thinking that your gambling is a sign of weakness, or the inability to cope.

However, the truth of the matter is rarely so simple. Gambling problems are often experienced as being completely outside of the person's control, and 'just stopping' isn't felt to be a reasonable option. 

Additionally, many people find themselves unable to explain why they continue to gamble despite the problems it causes in their day-to-day lives. The most obvious answer is “for the money”, but perhaps you can challenge yourself here:  When you win, do you spend your winnings on more gambling? Do you continue to gamble until you have little or no money left? 

A lot of gamblers feel they are waiting for the 'big win', which never comes but always seems tantalisingly close. But often, they find having a big win would simply fuel their desire for more gambling, leaving them feeling trapped into a behaviour with no way out.

This would suggest that being 'in action' is the most important thing, rather than winning an amount of money.

There is another way of thinking about gambling, that it represents a symptom of a larger problem in life. While this might sound a bit scary to contemplate, perhaps consider whether you tend to gamble at certain times, or whether gambling is associated with certain feelings for you. It might well have played a large part in your life since you were quite young. If you think of it this way, you might realise that gambling problems are not a sign of weakness, but rather a way of coping with something bigger, in a way that on some level makes a lot of sense.

Get help

Perhaps consider joining our forum and starting a recovery diary to track your gambling behaviour - you might notice some patterns that you were not aware of. 

Of course, it might not be so easy to see those underlying reasons on your own. Getting professional help can start to unpick things. If you are interested in this, have a look at our counselling pages to see what services are local to you, or call our freephone Helpline for more information.

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