Impulsive Compulsive Gambling Behaviors

Impulsive Compulsive Gambling BehaviorsCertain behaviors, such as gambling, can become addictions. Most instances of gambling addictions are impulse disorders, but some can be the result of compulsive disorders. While both are destructive and painful, the difference between impulsive and compulsive behaviors is significant and requires unique treatment techniques.

Understanding Compulsive Behaviors

Compulsive behaviors are behaviors that an individual must engage in over and over with no particular purpose. A few examples of compulsive behaviors include the following:

  • Excessive hand washing
  • Repeating words meaninglessly
  • Touching oneself in a certain way constantly (nose, ears, head, etc.)
  • Constantly counting
  • Constant lying
  • Addictive sexual rituals

There are many other examples of compulsive behaviors and many people suffering from these disorders feel great embarrassment and stress about them. Gambling could easily become a different kind of compulsive disorder if it involved a certain ritual that a person must undertake repeatedly.

Understanding Impulsive Behaviors

Impulsive behaviors are different from compulsive behaviors in that instead of fixating on a particular behavior that cannot be stopped or done in a different way, the impulsive person simply can’t resist the temptation to follow a sudden craving or urge to do something. Impulsive behaviors are not pre-meditated. A person may experience an impulse to shoplift, to lie, to get a tattoo or to gamble. An impulsive gambler can’t resist the sudden urge to gamble and would have a hard time walking past a slot machine. The compulsive gambler, on the other hand, creates a ritual around gambling and then repeats that ritual over and over. Many will play one game and only one game, over and over and over.

Gambling Addiction and the Brain

The brain manages impulse control and the formation of habits in the same cranial area that responds to visual, auditory and other sensory rewards. This is also the same part of the brain that responds to reward and registers the thrill of risk. Gambling – especially Las Vegas style gambling – is designed to trigger every possible reward response in the brain in the following ways:

  • Flashing lights and colors
  • Chiming sounds
  • The constant risk of loss
  • The ever-present hope for significant reward

The brain of the gambling addict becomes desensitized over time and requires additional stimulation in order to register the pleasure response that is desired. This often involves drug or alcohol abuse, an ever-increasing escalation of the risk and often other addictive and unhealthy activities. It’s no coincidence that so many “vice” behaviors are so closely related to Las Vegas culture. From prostitution to impulsive spending, smoking and drinking, the gambling industry knows exactly how to super-stimulate the pleasure center of the brain in order to increase the likelihood that the gambling will continue.

24 Hour Gambling Addiction Helpline

If you or someone you love is suffering from a compulsive or impulsive gambling disorder, please call our toll-free helpline any time of day or night. Our caring staff members will confidentially answer all of your questions and can immediately connect you with the best recovery programs available. Don’t let a gambling addiction ruin your relationships, your finances, or your freedom. We can help. Call now.