Gambling Addictions

by maria on July 1, 2008

You are standing at the slot machine engrossed in the activity of what you are seeing in the screen before you, hoping that all those icons line up so that you hit it big. Your mind is in a total altered space there is nothing else entering, no thoughts to disrupt this process, no problems to deal with, the stress seems to melt away, its just you and the machine engrossed in this interaction that has your 100% attention.

All of a sudden someone in the room has hit the jackpot. Wow! Money starts popping out of the machine, you hear the clanging of the coins rapidly hitting the metal tray and you feel a sense of excitement and momentary exhilaration because someone in the room has won the jackpot. People are clapping and you feel the rush of adrenalin through your body as you

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feel the excitement of the moment. As the noise subsides and you return to your machine the thought enters your mind,” If they can win, so can I.” You continue feeding the machine totally lost in this thought without any conscious activity of how much is going in.

Why do we do this? “How could I?” “What was I thinking?” is the question all gamblers ask themselves.Well the answer to this may lie in what has been coined “mirror neurons” by a group of Italian neuroscientists in the late 1990’s. They discovered that a portion of the mammalian brain houses the memory of what they called “vocabularies of motor action”.In other words, this part of the brain, the premotor cortex stores the rules for the way we act and respond in a given situation. The key here is that the rule appears to be

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based on what we’ve already experienced. By using our imagination and visualizing in our minds what we are about to create in our world we are actually building the network of neural connections in our brain that make our live actions possible. Much attention was brought out to this process through the recent release of the movie “The Secret.” How much time does a gambler engage in the imagining of winning?

These “mirror neurons” become active when we watch someone else doing something that excites us. In other words, these cells appear to give us the ability to make whatever we see in others real within us. Therefore for the gambler it becomes “If he or she won, I can win” so the gambler keeps going back chasing his losses. This process is the reason so many sports fans become so excited and at times out of control at sporting events, they are experiencing themselves as the person on the field, and the “mirror neurons” kicking off.

Perhaps this is what is so devastating about gambling addiction. Drugs and alcohol are substances that produce a temporary state while under the influence of the substance. Mirror neurons are much more potent. They can be our enemy or our ally. It is these same “mirror neurons” that also are the reason that all 12 Step Recovery Programs work for addicts. It’s the process of “If they can recover from this addiction, so can I.”

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