A gambling addiction is characterized by a physical need to put something of great value at risk in the hope of earning something of even greater value. Gamblers may make irresponsible decisions, putting all their money, relationships, and opportunities at stake in order to fulfill their inner urge to gamble. As an example, casual gamblers usually set a limit to the amount of money that they are willing to lose, whereas people with a compulsive gambling disorder keep playing to recover their lost money.
The professional staff at Avenues Recovery have encountered and helped many clients addicted to gambling, so they’ve seen it all before and speak from extensive experience. If this article sounds familiar and you identify with one or more of the gambling addiction signs below, you are encouraged to consider gambling addiction treatment. Read on to learn how to stop gambling addiction in its tracks.
How Do I Know if I Need Gambling Addiction Treatment?
A diagnosis of gambling addiction requires at least four of the following gambling addiction signs:
- A need to gamble with increasing amounts to achieve the desired excitement.
- Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling.
- Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on or stop gambling.
- Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling or planning future gambling).
- Often gambling when feeling distressed.
- After losing money gambling, often returning to get even. (This is referred to as "chasing" one's losses.)
- Lying to hide gambling activity or resorting to fraud or theft to obtain more money to gamble.
- Risking or losing a close relationship, job position, school, or employment opportunity because of gambling.
- Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling.
These gambling addiction symptoms all share the common thread of the inability to cut down or stop gambling. In these situations, gambling addiction is affecting one’s life significantly, leaving them unable to function normally without gambling.
Why is Gambling so Addictive? Does it Really Need Gambling Addiction Treatment?
Around 1% of Americans are addicted to gambling. Addicts find it impossible to stop gambling despite the negative effects on themselves, their families, and their professional lives. In the past, gambling was thought to be a compulsion (an intense urge) rather than an addiction (a physical necessity). In 2013, the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)  included gambling as an addiction.
Dopamine is a hormone that provides a deep sense of pleasure or reward when released. Gambling is addictive because it releases dopamine in the brain leading to a sense of euphoria, excitement, and pleasure, much like with drugs or alcohol., After experiencing this sense of pleasure, many people feel an uncontrollable urge to continue gambling in order to satisfy their new craving. After a while, the body develops tolerance to dopamine, requiring more intense levels of dopamine in order to feel the same amount of pleasure. This means that the gambler will increase the time spent gambling, or the amount that they put at risk, in order to increase the dopamine level released from the brain.
Gambling presents several short-term benefits, causing people to try it out and then, unfortunately, in many cases, become addicted. These include the social status of being a successful gambler, the entertaining gambling scene, the thrill of winning money, and a desperation for more money.
Negative Effects of Gambling Disorder
People who struggle with a gambling disorder may spend all their money on gambling and then do everything they can to find more money to gamble. They may even resort to theft, fraud, or borrowing large amounts with no viable plan of repaying the debt. This can cause a lot of friction within intimate relationships and between family and friends who lend money. Gamblers may have difficulty holding down a job and may turn to other negative behaviors to manage their stress, such as drugs, tobacco, or alcohol, often developing a substance use disorder. It’s important to note that people with a gambling disorder are also at great risk of suicide or suicidal ideation due to the stressful nature of gambling and the negative emotions that are felt as a result.
Risk Factors for Gambling Disorder
Different factors can increase the chances of a person becoming addicted to gambling. These include:
- Sex- Men are more likely to have a gambling disorder than women, although the disparity seems to be narrowing. Often, women start gambling later in life, and they may become addicted more quickly.
- Age- Gambling addiction statistics show that around 2% -7% of youths have a gambling disorder compared to around 1% of adults. Gambling during childhood or teenage years increases the chances of becoming addicted to gambling.
- Mental health issues- Compulsive gamblers may also suffer from personality disorders, anxiety or depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), substance use disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or bipolar disorder.
- Friends and family- If a parent gambles, the children are more likely to develop a gambling addiction. This may be due partly to genetics and partly to environmental factors. The same is true of friends- you are more likely to develop a gambling disorder if you already see your friends involved with gambling.
- Personality- People who are highly competitive, hardworking, restless, or impulsive are at greater risk of becoming addicted to gambling.
How to Stop Gambling
Many people want to know how to quit gambling. There is so much help for gambling addiction available, whether in the form of medication, therapy for gambling addiction, and rehab for gambling addiction. It’s important to recognize that the addiction won’t disappear on its own, and you need outside help to recover. Just like any physical illness that requires a trip to the doctor, or a visit to a psychiatrist or therapist, a rehab center will guide you on the path to an addiction-free life.
How to Stop a Gambling Addiction
Medication is often prescribed for gambling addiction because the gambler is likely to suffer from depression and/or anxiety, exacerbating the issue and causing the destructive cycle to continue. Because gamblers are at risk of becoming addicted to the medication, it’s important to enroll in an in-patient program while taking it.
12- Step Programs, such as Gamblers Anonymous, have proven to be very helpful, providing a non-judgmental support and recovery group. Psychotherapy can be very effective, especially approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing.
Rehab is an attractive option because it offers in-house medication monitoring, ensuring no further addiction develops while aiding recovery. There are many gamblers in recovery today worldwide, who have already found help for gambling addictions. Avenues Recovery offers gambling addiction treatment in supportive and judgment-free rehab centers. Contact us 24/7 with any questions and to receive the help you need. You deserve better than a life of addiction.