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There are several motivations for gambling. It’s a powerful distraction; an easy way to escape.

Disclaimer: This is a personal view of the effect of gambling on my mood. It will surely resonate with some of you.

At the recent National Council of Problem Gambling conference in Cleveland this year, Neva Pryor and the New Jersey Council on Problem Gambling team held a powerful session on the link between trauma and gambling. Ultimately, [deep pain] + [no way to deal with it] = [escapist / distraction behaviours (gambling)]

But why is gambling such a powerful – dare I say it – effective tool at distraction? It’s down to our brains. It’s the near misses / near wins. It’s the upturn and downturn. It’s avoidance. It’s our inability to stay still and remain neutral.

This is my mood level right now:

Gambling has an powerful adjustment effect on my mood.

Everything is more pronounced. I’m swinging from happy to sad; frustrated to elated. I hardly spend any time at all at base level because that’s where the pain/boredom/normal is.

The more I play, the less the spike/drop.

I’ve become accustomed to my loss level and my win level. I’m not getting far enough away from base level, where the pain/boredom/normal is.

So my wagering increases to get back to the swings I need to distract me.

Of course, the chart looks very different for a ‘chaser’ (optimistic scenario below!)

The point is, I’m going from a high to a low without spending time at my base level mood. I’m manipulating this artificially through the mechanics of the game; games designed to keep me addicted and engaged.

If you gave me the following scenario at my worst, I would take this over no gambling at all. Because it’s a deviation from base level, where the pain/boredom/normal is.

The effect of the radical upward and downward swings have a dramatic impact on dopamine production – an immensely powerful chemical.

This is why some heroin users tell us that the gambling ‘high’ is just – if not more – powerful.

I hope this helps explain how gambling has had such an effect on me and possibly relevant and pertinent to many of you reading this.

Jack