Visualization and Preoccupation

Visualizing is part of a competitive athlete’s skill set. Watch a bobsledder gearing up for a race. They get a far away look in their eyes; bob this way and that way to the turns of the course they have memorized in their heads. In that moment, they’re in their sled, careening down the course. Most athletes also visualize themselves winning. They see that knockout punch, that ball soaring over the fences, or into the net. They picture their arm being raised or stepping onto the podium. These are all adaptive in the arena of competitive sports. What could go wrong? A preoccupation with gambling is one feature of gambling disorder. Those with a problem spend a great deal of time fantasizing about past wins, or future play. They can picture their hand, slowly revealing a pair of hooks (Jacks), kings, queens or aces. They can see the ball settle on their number/color on the roulette wheel, or their horse cross the finish line a nose ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, an athlete’s ability to visualize so precisely and with such focus, if applied to their gambling, facilitates a degree of preoccupation that can be characteristic of a disordered gambler’s. Once again, gambling like an athlete is not a winning scenario.

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