In the world today, gambling addiction is no stranger at all. When we think of all the fun games that we can play in casinos, we’d think that it’s just harmless fun. It’s exciting and the chances to win big are real. If you get lucky, you’d walk out of there with more money than you could imagine. And you only had to play; who wouldn’t want to take their chances in the casino, right? But one thing that is also real is getting hooked to gambling. In this post, we will dig deeper into what gambling addiction is and what its dangers are.
This seemingly harmless activity of gambling can become an addiction once it starts to get out of hand you begin to have problems with your finances. Not only that, but you will also notice that you’re having problems with how you function at home, among friends, with school, or with work.
Addiction to gambling is just like being addicted to drugs. This is because the same parts of our brain that become activated when an individual uses drugs are the same ones that are affected when a person engages in gambling activities.
Dopamine is released in our brain when we do something we love or makes us feel good. This neurotransmitter tells our brain that this activity makes us happy and that it’s something we should do again and again. So, even if this feeling is harmless at first, it can transform into something of a compulsive need. Eventually, an addiction to a substance or activity becomes a problem.
How does Gambling Addiction Start?
There’s no one reason that will be able to fully capture the stories of gambling addicts as to how they got started with gambling and how they lost control of it. For persons 18 years and older, they can already gamble. It may start with lottery and scratch-off tickets, but anyone can easily drive to the nearest casinos in their city. Anyone can be lured by the idea of winning those massive jackpots.
Regardless of the reason as to why one started gambling, what is important is that not all who plays in the casino will develop an addiction to it. Studies have suggested though that there are certain individuals who could be more temperamentally and physiologically vulnerable to developing gambling addiction compared to others.
It will be extremely helpful if you know if you or someone you care about is predisposed to having an addiction to gambling. This is so that gambling activities may be avoided altogether so as to prevent any problem that may arise out of it.
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Common Causes of Gambling Addiction
Whether you’re addicted to gambling, alcohol, or illicit drugs, it has a lot to do with psychology. What does this mean exactly? It’s like this, people develop habits that give them pleasure or make them happy.
Some of these habits are not good because not everything that makes us happy or excited is caused by good things or habits. Some examples of this are eating junk food, drinking sodas or sweetened beverages, watching television, and others.
When a habit takes on so much of our time and we just can’t function properly without doing or consuming something, then that means that the habit has developed into an addiction and we are psychologically dependent on the activity or substance.
You know you’re addicted to something if you cannot stop doing it even if you want to. Will power is no longer enough to make you stop because you need to be able to get your fix. You’re hooked to the pleasure or excitement that you get from doing the activity like gambling.
Many gamblers think that they are still in control of their activities but the truth is that they are not anymore. Gambling activities are actually controlling them. When it comes to addiction, you should remember that no one ever wants to be addicted to something. However, to be able to break free from it, you have to choose to break free and get help.
If you think that you have a gambling addiction, you should know that your whole life and every aspect of it can be ruined if you don’t find a way to seek help so you can stop. You will be facing financial ruin because you’ve spent so much on the casino. You can lose your home, your job, or your business.
Relationships will also suffer. Your marriage may end and you may even lose custody of your children. You’ll find yourself in a never-ending downward spiral if you don’t do something about the addiction. It’s important that you recognize that there’s a problem and that you seek professional help so that the addiction can be treated.
Knowing if you are at Risk of Gambling Addiction
There have been studies that state that being addicted to gambling is much like drug addiction. Some people are genetically predisposed to becoming addicted. Here are some of the things you should watch out for to know if you are at risk of gambling addiction:
- If you have serotonin levels that are lower than normal.
- If you are impulsive.
- If you like doing activities that give you immediate rewards.
- And if you tend to not care so much about the long-term effects or consequences of what you are doing.
There were studies that also show that individuals who have become addicted to playing in the casino or gambling may be producing lower amounts of serotonin. If this is the case, then these individuals generally are not interested or do not find pleasure in most activities. The technical term for this in the field of mental health is anhedonia.
That is why such people usually look for ways or activities where the amount of serotonin being produced in increased so that they can actually feel pleasure in what they are doing. This is difficult for them because that kind of pleasure is typically experienced by people with normal serotonin levels. That is why there is a great risk of being addicted to gambling because that’s the only time that they feel happy.
There were also studies that focused on the genetic factor of addiction, either to gambling or drugs. There are individuals who are predisposed genetically for such behaviour and make decisions that are impulsive. They look for activities that can provide them with instant rewards.
The studies have provided evidence that the areas of our brain controlling inhibition which allows an individual to thoroughly think through what could be rewards or consequences of their actions could be under-active. This, then, leads to reward-seeking behaviours and impulsivity.
Common Signs of Gambling Addiction and Its Side Effects
If you have a loved one who you suspect is addicted to gambling, you can look at the common signs that we’ll be discussing here. You may also check these signs if you think that you are developing an addiction to gambling. Here are nine of the gambling addiction’s most common signs and symptoms.
- You find yourself spending increasing amounts of money so that you can get the rush that is associated with gambling.
- You feel irritable, anxious, and restless when you try to stop yourself from gambling.
- You have had attempts to quit going to the casino or gambling but they were short-lived and unsuccessful.
- You continue to think about gambling. This includes planning for your next trip to the casino, how you’ll be able to get the money to gamble with, and thinking about your previous wins. You may also fantasize a lot about winning big.
- You may notice that you want to gamble more if you are down or when you’re experiencing negative emotions.
- After losing at gambling, you want to gamble the next day or the soonest chance you get so that you can win back what you’ve lost.
- You lie about your activities and the places you say you’re going to. You lie about how involved you are with gambling and how much you’ve spent on it.
- Your relationships with your loved ones are suffering because of your gambling. Your status at work or at school is also being impacted negatively by your gambling activities.
- You find yourself consistently requesting money from family or friends because you need to pay your obligations like bills which you have ignored since you prioritized gambling overpaying them.
What are the Red Flags of Gambling Addiction?
If you notice the signs of gambling addiction in the previous section, then you’ll be able to better recognize that there is an existing problem with yourself or with a loved one who you suspect has an addiction to gambling. Here are some of the other red flags of this addiction to watch out for so you can seek help for it.
- You may be experiencing mood swings. It’s possible that you have bipolar disorder which is a mood disorder. This means that there are days that you seem upbeat and you feel like you can do anything confidently. However, there are also days when you are irritable, withdrawn, or depressed.
- You begin to notice that you have been neglecting your financial responsibilities such as your bills. And then you also ask for money from your family or friends more frequently. Bill collectors keep on calling you and you have plenty of overdue bills in your mail. It’s also possible that you’ve been loaning from lending centres to feed your need to gamble. You may even have reached the point where you’ve been stealing from your loved ones as well.
- You tend to skip going to school or to the office. At first, it may seem infrequent but then it becomes chronic. This means that you could be failing in your classes if you’re at school. At work, you may have gotten a warning, or worst, fired because you haven’t been doing what is expected of you at work.
- Lying becomes a habit. You lie about where you go to or where you spend your money on and how much. There are a lot of discrepancies in the stories you tell your loved ones. This becomes more evident as your addiction gets worse. When confronted, you become hostile, aggressive, and angry toward your concerned family members. You do this because you want to hide your gambling addiction.
- You also notice that you no longer plan activities with your loved ones and friends. You become more withdrawn whenever you’re not in the casino. All you think about is when you can go back so you can gamble.
- You may also drink more often or use drugs. Substance use and gambling can make you feel that high that you’re looking for. So, when you can’t gamble, you turn to other things such as using drugs so you can get your fix.
Can Gambling Addiction be Cured?
Gambling addiction is one of the many psychological illnesses like anorexia or obsessive-compulsive disorder where there’s no endpoint where the individual can be declared as someone who is already cured.
As you get to learn more about gambling addiction, you also learn about its true nature. One of those truths is that there is no cure for gambling addiction. However, don’t lose hope because just like other addictions, there are steps that you can take so that you can break free from it.
The first step is to acknowledge that you have a problem with gambling. When you can do this then you know that’s already a big step towards recovery. Since you know that there’s a problem, the next step is you can think about what should be done about it which is to seek help. Let’s take a look at some of the treatment options available for those with gambling addiction.
What are the Treatment Options for Gambling Addiction?
Not everyone who gambles will encounter problems with gambling. But for those who develop a gambling addiction, they can get hooked to betting. They get obsessed about winning that ever-elusive jackpot prize.
Gambling addiction can lead to problems with finances, relationships, and school or work. If you find that you’re dealing with more and more problems that arise because of your gambling, then it’s time to acknowledge that you have a problem and seek help.
There are several therapies to treat gambling addiction. And since there are many options for treatment, it may confuse you especially when you don’t know the difference of one from the other. But don’t worry about that because the next section will be devoted to providing you with information on the various treatments for gambling addiction.
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Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy or CBT has been the focus of many studies on addiction treatments. It is among the most effective ones when it comes to combating addictions like gambling. With this kind of treatment, a psychiatrist can aid gambling addicts in identifying their thought processes as to why and how they developed a compulsive gambling habit.
An example of this is many gambling addicts have this thinking that if they play some more, then they will be able to win the big jackpot that they have been chasing. However, instead of winning big, they find themselves getting deeper and deeper into debt and other financial problems. But this doesn’t stop some of them. Some gambling addicts keep on playing because they think that once they win, they can stop and pay off their debts. Of course, this isn’t the case for most.
Because of gambling addiction’s psychological nature, the moods of the gambler may become dependent on how their gambling turned out. They may be extremely happy whenever they win or they may be depressed when they lost a lot of money.
With sessions in cognitive-behavioural therapy, the gambling addict can start identifying his or her misperceptions so that those may be corrected. Once the root causes have been identified, then they may be addressed. Recovery from gambling addiction may be long and challenging but it is possible.
Other Therapies for Gambling Addiction
Other treatment options for gambling addiction also include other kinds of therapies as well. For example, psychotherapy is when gambling triggers are dealt with. This can be through sessions done in individual or group counselling. These therapy sessions can have similar results as that of cognitive-behavioural therapy. The sessions can isolate the causes as well as reverse the misperceptions.
Another therapy for gambling addiction is family therapy which is also beneficial to anyone who has problems with gambling addiction. When you are a compulsive gambler, then it is highly possible that your family is already suffering from your addiction. With family therapy, the gambling problem may be addressed but along with that, the family relationships may also be healed so that the recovery will not only be for the gambling addict but for everyone in the family as well.
A vital part of therapies for gambling is also providing limitations to accessing opportunities for gambling. This may be very challenging but many individuals won’t be able to avoid being exposed to the advertisements of casinos around the city or even on the internet. But when the access is limited, then the recovering gambling addict can focus more on their compulsive or obsessive behaviour rather than simply avoiding the triggers.
Residential Inpatient Treatment Centres
If you are having problems with gambling and your addiction issues has led you to worse life choices, then it may be best if you consider inpatient or residential gambling treatment centres for your next step toward recovery.
Residential inpatient treatment centres have plenty of benefits for the gambling addict. It can provide more care and supervision as compared to outpatient care because the recovering addicts can focus more on their recovery rather than being bombarded with the distractions of their day to day life.
Some of the benefits of residential inpatient treatment centres for gambling are that it provides care for the residents 24/7, there are programs for treatment of behavioural and psychological issues, there are available therapeutic activities for the residents, concurrent treatments are provided for associated disorders, and there is supervision for psychological and medical needs of the residents.
Luxury Treatment Centres for Gambling Addiction
Whether a gambling addict is a high-roller or a penny gambler, both kinds of gambling addicts face identical problems when it comes to their addiction. The main difference is their capability to afford more options apart from the usual offerings when it comes to treatments for gambling addiction.
An example here is that there are luxury treatment centres for gambling addiction where residents can have excellent amenities such as hot tubs, pools, massages, and the like. Ultimately, the wealthier residents get the same kind of medical and psychological treatments just like everyone else does in traditional recovery centres. However, they get it in an environment that is almost like a luxury resort and not a hospital facility.
A benefit of enrolling in a luxury treatment centre for gambling addiction is that there is also an increased availability and access when it comes to mental and medical health professionals. Individuals who are able to pay more may be given more attention by these professionals. This contributes to a faster recovery period.
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Executive Programs for Gambling Addiction
Executive programs for gambling addiction are available for individuals who are busy professionals. These people know that they need time to address their gambling addiction problems. However, they cannot make the needed time for it and be away from work.
Such professionals can afford programs that are specific to their needs and may be adjusted based on their availability. These people can enroll weekend programs where it is customized so as to treat their gambling addiction while still allowing the time to get on with their affairs in business.
Outpatient Treatment Programs for Gambling Addiction
Outpatient treatment programs for gambling addiction may range from group treatments such as Gamblers Anonymous to individual therapy. A lot of what is being done on inpatient facilities may also be conducted in outpatient treatment programs.
The main difference between these two types of programs for gambling addiction is the time spent when it comes to therapy. There are many inpatient treatment programs that include continuing outpatient treatment even after the individual has finished the inpatient program.
To find a good program for your gambling addiction treatment, you can check if the facility has been accredited and the staff members are licensed and are fully trained. You may also take a look at their programs and if those are customized specifically to the needs of the recovering addict. The gambling addiction treatment facility should also have a certified counsellor whose expertise is in treating gambling addiction.
Among some of the well-known outpatient recovery protocols for gambling addiction are the ones being facilitated by Gamblers Anonymous. It is based on the same 12-step program being used by Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.
GA works with individuals who acknowledge that they have a gambling problem and they are looking for ways to recover from it. The organization protects the members’ information so if you go to a GA session, you don’t have to worry about the information you’ll be sharing as they will be kept confidential.
New members are assisted so that they can give their best effort to go on with their lives and try to make amends with people whom they have harmed because of their gambling addiction. When they have recovered, these individuals can then serve as mentors to new members who are just starting on their road to recovery from gambling addiction.
Medications for Gambling Addiction
Medications can play an important role in the recovery of gambling addicts. However, before taking any kind of meds please be sure that it has been prescribed by your physician. When you are already being controlled by an addiction, it can be too easy to get into another one when you try to self-medicate. Nevertheless, if you take prescription meds and you are being monitored by the doctor, then it can help a lot in your recovery from gambling addiction.
You may hear from other recovering addicts about the meds they are taking. Don’t immediately get them from the drug store because, of course, you’re going to need a prescription from the doctor. And also, even if you do get your hands on the meds, it may not have the same effect on you as it has on other recovering addicts. That’s why it is best to talk to your physician first before taking any kind of medication.
Finding the Best Gambling Addiction Treatment Centre
When you are looking for the best gambling addiction treatment centre, you have to remember that you can ask them questions regarding their programs and how they can help you recover from your gambling addiction. Do note though that not all of the treatment centres for gambling addiction are the same when it comes to their approach to treating the addiction.
For the treatment to be effective, then it has to be tailored so that the needs of the gambling addict will be addressed. Some of the things you should consider would be where the setting for the treatment will be. Is it inpatient or outpatient? Is it a group or individual counselling? How long will the gambling addiction treatment program last? And other important questions.
To help you find a good gambling addiction treatment centre, here are some of the questions that you can ask them so that you’ll know if you’re getting the best available treatment in your area.
- Ask them about their experience when it comes to handling a case like yours. Are their counsellors and staff members well-trained and certified to treat gambling addicts? What is the treatment centre’s success rate when it comes to treating gambling addicts?
- How long do the treatments last? For example, how many hours in a day will have to be dedicated to the education and treatment of gambling addiction? What will be the topics to be covered? How are will the treatment centre address the needs or problems of the gambling addict as well as his or her family?
- Will the treatment centre for gambling addiction be accepting insurance? If this is not possible, are there any payment plans available for the individuals who want to enroll in the program or are there other ways where financial aid can be available?
- What will be the range of assessment as well as the treatment for gambling addiction? Does this include medical, psychological, financial (such as money management), social, spiritual, legal, and vocational?
- Does the treatment centre for gambling addiction also provide services that are age and gender-appropriate? Will they also address residents with physical disabilities?
- Will the centre provide continuing care and support to individuals after they have finished the program in the treatment centre?
- Will the centre provide an ongoing assessment of the gambling addict’s treatment program so as to meet the changing needs that may arise?
- What are the different strategies that the addiction treatment centre employs so as to better engage and also keep the recovering addict in the treatment program?
- Is there individual as well as group counselling sessions along with various behavioural therapies provided to the residents so that they will be able to function well in their families and communities after they have finished their treatment program?
- Whenever necessary to the recovering addict’s condition, will the treatment centre offer medications for the treatment of the individual?
- Does the centre for treating addiction also give ongoing monitoring for relapse prevention?
- Does the treatment centre provide family services so that the loved ones of recovering addicts can be better understood and that the family members can help them in their recovery from their gambling addiction?
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Ways to Overcome the Urge to Gamble
The truth about gambling addiction is that it’s not easy to stop, especially if you’re doing it alone. However, there are steps that you can take to lessen the urge to gamble. After undergoing recovery treatment for your gambling addiction, the next vital step is to not gamble ever again. This is easier said than done, yes. But here are some ways that may help you fight the desire to gamble. Let’s begin!
Avoid Boredom by Planning Ahead
Gambling addicts are used to getting that high whenever they win or even just the excitement that they get when they’re playing. That’s why boredom becomes a problem. To be able to address boredom, it is important to play how you spend your time so that you won’t be tempted to go to the casino.
There are so many things that you can do that where you can get a similar kind of pleasure and excitement. Try going to the gym and giving yourself a weight loss goal. That is something that you can look forward to. You will definitely feel happy and proud of yourself when you meet your goal.
Take Things a Day at a Time
What this means is that you should try to forget about the things that have passed. Forgive yourself for what happened when you were a gambling addict. There were a lot of losses and relationships may have been damaged because of it. But don’t let yourself be tied down to those thoughts. You can still do so many things at present so you can have a good future.
It may be daunting to think of what lies ahead or how you are going to get your life back. But just take things slow. Take each day as it comes. You only have to worry about today and do your best to make it a good one. When tomorrow comes, then think of that only. Soon, you’ll notice that you’ve had plenty of good days already.
Explore Other Activities
Your brain has already gotten used to your activities in the past when you were gambling. It became accustomed to being stimulated and it wants that now when there’s no more excitement from the casino. So, the best way to provide your brain with a similar kind of excitement is by trying out other activities.
You’ll be surprised that you’re actually good at sports or that you enjoy gardening. Take baking lessons or cooking classes. Try making dinner for your family. They will surely be happy to see you explore other things and making something good with the time that you have. Spend as much time as you can with your family. They will be more than willing to join you in your new activities.
Find Ways to Cope with Stress
Stress is one of the main triggers why you gambled before. You have to watch out for the stressors that you may have because it can lead to you going back to the casino. This is something that should definitely be avoided.
It’s important that you look for healthier ways that can help you cope with whatever stress you may face. It can be working out at the gym, meditating, doing yoga, or just talking with someone you trust. You can talk to your loved one or your best friend.
If you don’t address your stressors, the urge to gamble will just become stronger. Your brain will tell you that gambling is the only thing that will make you feel better. Know that this is not true. That’s why you should find ways that will work for you whenever you are faced with a stressful situation.
It’s easy to forget how far you’ve come since you started your road to recovery from gambling addiction. When times get tough and you feel the urge, it is important that you remember everything you’ve gone through to get you to where you are now.
Remember that it wasn’t an easy road to take but you haven’t gambled for some time already. That’s an achievement worth celebrating. Don’t break the good habits you have established. You’re in the right direction. Continue to go down that road because you know that better days are ahead.
To help you remember all the good things that have happened since you stopped gambling, keep a gratitude journal. Every day, try to list down some of the things that you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be big.
For example, you’ve spent an afternoon talking to you Dad over coffee. That’s something to celebrate because you’re now talking calmly and no longer shouting at each other because of financial problems that have been caused by your gambling. Be grateful for the small victories that you achieve every day.
Gambling addiction is a real problem. Just because you think you’re not an alcoholic or not into hard drugs doesn’t mean you’re not facing the same problems. An addiction of any sort will ruin not just your life but the lives of those dear to you. Think of your family; you don’t want anything bad to happen to them, right? Keep them as your motivation to push forward and fight your gambling addiction.
Your family and friends will cheer you on as you take each step towards recovery. They will be the happiest people in the world if they can see you pick your life back and make it into something wonderful. You know you can turn your life around. Your days will be better and you will be a much happier and more fulfilled person than you’ve ever been.
Remember that taking the first step to recovery is the most difficult part of the journey. But you have to take a good hard look at yourself and admit that there is a problem. Gambling is a problem and you don’t want it to ruin you and your loved ones. Once you acknowledge this, it’s time to seek help. Tell your family and friends about your plan because they will be there to help you every step of the way.
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