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Sex Addicts And Gambling Addicts. Are They The Same?

Aug 20, 2014

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The psychology behind sex addiction and addiction to gambling throws light on their similarities of both mindset and symptoms.

Addiction comes in such a wide variety of baffling forms that it can sometimes seem that any commonality must be superficial. The behaviors and behavior patterns that each addiction throws up can be wildly different. Objectophilia, tanorexia, and pagophagia are hugely different in scope and effect upon an individual but they are all classed as addictions. Some addictions, however, are more similar than others.

Sex and gambling addictions have long been the focus of studies by psychologists and, later, neuroscientists, and the similarities between these two, amongst the vast spectrum of addictions, are now a matter of record. Freudian psychoanalysis, however tainted it has become in recent years, did highlight some of the similarities between both the experience of gambling and sex, and addiction to those experiences.

Addiction To Sex And Gambling Studied

• Both addicts are compulsive liars

• Dysfunctional relationships common in gambling addicts

• Addiction to sex slots into similar pattern

Freud’s basic tenet was that within each of us as individual humans there are a great number of desires at play in our decision making of which we are not conscious at the time. These unconscious desires shape our behavior and habits day to day and indeed is these very deeper desires that are at play when addiction rears its somewhat unsavory head. Addicts can rarely explain their impulses nor inability to master them, and much gambling etiquette exists to prevent questioning of it at the tables.

As neither of these two examples have any physical substance abuse involved in their practice they are referred to as being process addictions, and as such tend to be harder to detect than say alcohol or drug addictions. With the rise of internet betting under liberalized gambling laws in America and elsewhere it isn’t just pornography to which there is easy and instant access, and that may make it still harder to detect.

Subconscious Desires Rule Us

Psychologists have demonstrated that there are several key areas in which sex addiction and addiction to gambling are entirely similar and perhaps even linked, although that is still in the process of being proven by various studies around the world. For a start during both the act of gambling and the act of having sex the same parts of the brain show the most activity, the predominant structure in use being the pleasure centers of the mind in both cases.

There is plenty of evidence, much anecdotal of course, to suggest that the thrilling “high” that a gambler feels when wagering is very much akin to, or even equivalent to, the state of arousal that is achieved during the sexual act. Winning at blackjack on the tables of a Vegas casino, for instance, can give levels of pleasure entirely equatable with that of orgasm, or perhaps orgasm can give the same pleasure as winning at the tables.

There is also the use of sexual connotations in the language employed by gamblers, and indeed the use of gambling phraseology in the discussion or description of sex, which seems to merge the two in a linguistic manner that belies our subconscious feelings about each activity. This perhaps might explain why in numerous cases psychologists found that those addicted to gambling were often also addicted to sex, the mental process being the same for each within the subject.

However perhaps the most fundamental similarity between the two stems from the concept that both are about gaining that which we feel on an instinctive level indicates success and prosperity. One need not be an anthropologist to know men have long since set great stock in the smart strategies they employ to amass money and the number of women they sleep with. Whilst these are subconscious motivators in the process addiction it is in both cases the same subconscious desire at work.

Some Unable To Control Impulses

The knowledge that their activities can cause significant harm to their lives, either through gambling debts or affairs, is coupled with an inability to curb the behavior, nor even adequately explain why they suffer from it, and this can lead to deep frustration, anxiousness, depression and a feeling of desolate isolationism. In both cases, sex addiction and addiction to gambling have far more symptoms in common than merely this state of mind brought on by being aware of the condition itself.

Impulse control disorder, where an addict is unable to control themselves, is often mixed with the inability to cease the pathological behavior pattens even in face of manifest and evident danger of a negative impact upon their lives. In both gambling and sex addictions this places great risk upon the finances or relationships that an individual might wish to retain. Usually neither form of addict can manage to sustain a significant relationship.

This is, of course, because both forms of addiction involve compulsive lying and reckless behavior. In essence whilst it may be difficult to detect these addictions in anyone you might meet, it can’t be hidden forever from someone with whom you are in a relationship. The dysfunctional nature of the interaction of addicts and those they attempt relationships with tends to bring about a collapse in trust from which no relationship could ever recover.

Sex addiction and gambling addiction are so similar in so many ways that the current efforts by neuroscientists to prove there is a link between sex and gambling seem almost redundant, however given the number of people who suffer from them, and the potential benefits from a greater understanding of the processes involved within those addictions, it is unlikely that science will at any time soon cease to be fascinated by these two addictive traits.

Read more about sex and gambling.


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