Gambling Addiction and How to Address and Treat It
Most of us enjoy gambling, but some gamblers develop obsessive wagering behavioural patterns that often lead to gambling addiction.
Although most of us enjoy a visit to a casino now and then, some people struggle to control their gambling or prevent themselves from spending more than they should. Gambling addiction, or problem gambling, is an uncontrollable urge to wager money on games of luck. Like drugs, gambling stimulates the brain’s reward system, which develops into addiction.
Compulsive gamblers chase bets even when they are in the minus and have accumulated crippling debts that affect them and their families. Ultimately, this can lead to crime in order to support the habit.
What are Gambling Addiction Symptoms?
The main signs that you may be a compulsive gambler include:
- A gambling preoccupation
- A need to place higher bets to get a similar thrill level
- Inability to reduce or stop gambling
- Feeling restless or irritable if you try to stop gambling
- Gambling to treat depression, anxiety, guilt, or to escape existing problems
- Chasing losses
- Lying to family and friends to hide the extent of your gambling issues
- Putting your relationships or job at risk because of gambling
- Turning to theft or fraud to get more gambling money
- Asking to borrow money from others since you are struggling financially due to gambling
Why Do People Develop Compulsive Gambling Issues?
While there’s no definite reason why people become gambling addicts, genetics and biology often play a part. Here are some known risk factors:
- Mental health problems – ADHD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and personality disorders
- Age – most gambling addicts are young or middle-aged. People who start gambling at a younger age are likelier to develop a problem
- Sex– compulsive gamblers are mainly male, although females who start to gamble later in their lives often develop an addiction rapidly
- Influences of friends or family– when family or friends have gambling problems, this can be a significant trigger
- Medication– drugs like dopamine agonists may cause compulsive behaviours, such as gambling.
- Personality– if you are very competitive, easily bored, impulsive, or restless, you could be at greater risk of problem gambling.
Treating Gambling Addiction
It is challenging to treat compulsive gambling because most people don’t realise they are problem gamblers. However, a key stepping stone to seeking treatment is acknowledging that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. Treatments include:
- Therapy– cognitive behavioural therapy is often beneficial. This therapy systematically exposes patients to the behaviour they should unlearn while teaching them new skills to lessen their gambling urge.
- Medication– mood stabilisers or antidepressants often help treat the side effects of compulsive gambling.
- Self-help groups– talking to others who are experiencing the same problem can be helpful.
- Outpatient and inpatient programmes– many programmes are designed to help compulsive gamblers change their behaviour.
How to Prevent a Relapse
People who get treatment for their gambling addiction might still relapse over time, especially if they spend time with others who enjoy gambling or end up frequenting casinos or other gambling establishments. People who are concerned that they might begin gambling again should contact their doctor or counsellor straight away to address the issue before it gets out of hand.
Essential Skills to Keep Gambling Addiction at Bay
Several recovery skills can help you resist the urges, including:
- Stay entirely focused on the goal of not gambling
- Reiterate to yourself that gambling, even in small doses, is too risky since one wager almost always lead to another
- Be open to asking others for help. Willpower is often not sufficient to beat compulsive gambling, so asking a family member or a friend to assist with a treatment plan is crucial
- Recognising and avoiding trigger situations
The families of gambling addicts may also often benefit from counselling, even when the problem gambler doesn’t partake in the therapy. This is because it’s helpful for family members to understand how compulsive gambling impacts their loved ones and how they could help.