Gambling is one of the most ancient fun activities people from all walks of life engage in for pleasure and making money. Right from those old times, the primary procedure involved in it has always incorporated making stakes of funds or items of given value in order to win. This description, therefore, means that one either wins or loses the game; there is no in-between.
Even in our modern era, gambling continues to win the hearts of many wishing to experience fun while also making a huge lump sum of money with little struggle. Out of these aspirations, lots of gambling games have come up, including those that are played online thanks to the encroachment of internet services, as well as those done in person in the casinos.
Among these games are bets on sports, poker, roulette, scratch cards, or slots. As in most cases it occurs, not all that glitters is gold. Being too much into these games can lure one into a severe obsession which may impact negatively on their lives.
Gambling addiction: Definition
This term describes a situation whereby one gets entirely obsessed towards gambling. It comes with great compulsion and hard to control impulses, which urges the gamblers to make a stake irrespective of the possible consequences. Addicts of this kind may not discover that for themselves. To them, all is normal.
Leading indicators of this condition are mainly the abnormal dependence. An addict will most likely spend lots of their time in casinos and online betting sites trying to make their stakes. Despite losing, they will try again and again to extent of spending all their money, up to the last coin they have.
The real cause of this mental disorder is not yet fully established. However, lots of suspicions are directed to psychological factors. Gambling, like most addictive activities or substances, offers “pleasure” to the brain that makes it feel good whenever you participate. As such, it develops into full addiction.
Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addictions
Obsession towards gambling occurs in lots of varied ways. Some will be addicted out of high emotions, others because they need colossal finances to solve their problems and their will be some who become addicted simply because it is fun. Each of these kinds comes along with their respective subjective disorder indicators. However, most of them are mutually shared.
The following is a detailed description of each of them beginning with the most frequent ones.
- Addicts of this nature always sleep and dream gambling. They are entirely preoccupied with their new betting strategies to get more money.
- Most of them would strive to have considerable stakes to gain more from it.
- A good number often try to pull out of their obsession but always fall back.
- The condition causes restlessness and confusion whenever an addict tries to cut down on their gambling habit.
- Out of frustration, usually caused by this gaming, most addicts suffer from depression, anxiety and feelings of guilt and helplessness.
- It is highly tempting for addicts to gamble more in a bid to return lost money.
- Lots of addicts do not say the truth to their families on their levels in gambling.
- Many of them would lose focus or put at risk their jobs, relationships, school and other opportunities for the sake of betting.
- When addicts lack enough money for gambling, they may resort to unlawful behaviours, such as theft, to get some.
- Out of financial strains, many of these addicts frequently ask to be bailed out of situations.
Gambling Symptoms Associated with Emotions
The key happenings in betting are mainly winning or losing. Depending on which of these two outcomes a person gets, one can either be happy because of a win or sad, anxious and depressed as a result of failure.
Extreme emotions can be very dangerous, as they can involve things like suicidal thoughts. Most addicts would sometimes stake all they have hoping to make a win, only to lose everything. All the depression, confusion and hopelessness that follows can be life-threatening.
Physical Symptoms of Excessive Gambling
The pain and sadness that come along with losing a bet can be so depressing that addicts might have a tendency to injure themselves. Addicts under this category need to be watched closely – they may cause serious physical harm to themselves.
Also, it should be known that with anxiety and extreme depression physical symptoms such as pale skin, acne conditions and weight gain or loss might easily result.
Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of a Gambling Addiction
Similar to other kinds of addiction, gambling comes with both prolonged and short-term effects which, if not well managed in time, may result in worsening conditions/situations. A lot of stress and depression causes serious effects which may lead the addict into other unwelcoming behaviours or addictions.
Some may begin drinking and doing so in an unreasonable manner to curb their problems. Others may also divert to drug abuse. All this eventually causes financial strain, to the point of bankruptcy, among these people. They also will likely end up irreversibly damaging their relationships with family and friends.
Best Ways of Dealing with Gambling Addiction
Problems of reckless gambling and obsession are not a new topic in the world. For so many years now, lots of people have perished in the hands of gambling disorders. Couples have parted ways because all they had worked for was all lost in the casinos. People have succumbed to depression caused by losing bets, and lots of young persons have lost jobs, opportunities and general focus in life; all because of gambling.
Initially, before 1980, problems associated with gambling obsession were perceived as just regular issues. The American Psychiatric Association made it clear that gambling addiction was a form of mental disorder which could be very severe if not managed.
During this period, the statistics of American addicts was about 1.1 million people. According to recent statistics by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), the estimated number of these addicts has risen to figures of between 5.4 and 8.1 million persons. These are mainly addicts which are eligible to gamble.
As further explained by Heather Berlin, a neuroscientist at Mt. Sinai, the problem of gambling addiction is very chronic and occurs similarly as that of alcohol or drug addicts. This means that the affected persons can risk everything for the sake of betting. They can jeopardise their jobs, families, relationships or opportunities to attend casinos or visit online betting sites.
Most of them would stake large properties or money without considering “what if they lose” questions. Extreme conditions can lead to bankruptcies, spouse abuse, foreclosure, child neglect, suicide and illegal practices, such as theft, to get money. National statistics in the US indicate that about $6 billion is lost every year due to gambling problems.
Just like in other obsession disorders, the impact levels to a person differs from one individual to the next. Some people might take longer to be thoroughly addicted and for others the addiction may not go to extents of being severely depressed whenever they lose a bet. On the other hand, there are those who won’t take long before getting addicted. They will play a few times and become glued to it permanently.
The executive director at the NCPG, Keith Whyte, further added that men form the more significant portion of the population of addicts compared to women. He explained that most men participate in betting on sports as well as competitive skill-based games; whereas women often prefer playing bingo or slot machines.
Detecting whether you are a gambling addict may not be a cup of tea. However, as explained by Berlin, it all depends on how much you like participating in it and your willingness to stop whenever one persuades you. If stopping becomes a problem, then the diagnosis can be a second proof that you are an addict.
Though, if you reach limits of gambling your savings and facing severe withdrawal effects like getting easily irritated, chances are high that you are an addict.
Recovering or shunning away from this sort of obsession calls for addicts to make a decision. First of all, it should come from within one’s inner self after considering all the worst experiences they have passed throughout the adverse and severe consequences of their addiction. This may be out of losing an opportunity or job, marriage breakage, suffering concurrent illnesses and bankruptcy, among many others.
When in such a situation, here below are “things to do” to save oneself.
- Discover new, healthier ways to curb stress: If your gambling is caused by stress, loneliness or boredom, then the best solution is never within the casino and betting sites. It may be that your cruel boss who gives you stress may not be changed so soon and maybe your spouse might not be willing to alter their bad characteristics; so what do you do? The best way to relieve stress is participating in healthy, relaxing activities, such as going out for a jog, listening to music or watching movies can be of great assistance in rectifying one’s emotions. There is also no shame in asking friends and family for help or advice to get through a tough situation.
- Find a reliable support team: One man’s battle, in most cases, might not be as effective as those fought by many. Combining efforts with trusted family members, workmates, friends, relatives or support groups can be of great assistance as you will feel less burdened with your problems.
By committing yourself into such an extensive network of support, you’ll find that you don’t have a reason to go to the betting halls/clubs.
- Be an active member of peer groups: Having mentors in life makes it easy for one to face their daily problems more effectively. Joining a group of persons who were once gambling addicts could be very helpful, as they will offer you full encouragement and practical steps to follow in, allowing you to break the chains of this kind of dependency.
- Seek assistance for co-occurring mood disorders: Suffering from any sort of mental disorder, in most cases, could cause you to develop other co-occurring illnesses. In this case, depression, anxiety, loneliness, stress, as well as substance abuse are the most likely ones to occur.
It is sad and unfortunate that some of these opportunistic illnesses are chronic and may affect one’s life for a longer time. If not well managed, they may lead to suicidal thoughts.
Note that all these efforts may only work if you mean to change, and therefore you stay away from causative environments. These could include your current peer groups.
Treatment Solutions for Gambling Disorder
As mentioned earlier, managing or recovering from this type of disease is not as easy as some people may think. Sometimes it may call for a health specialist’s intervention. However, this does not mean that you are vulnerable to your problems and that you cannot address them effectively yourself.
No. Addiction occurs differently in different persons; the signs and symptoms you experience might be somehow different from those experienced by others. Hence, an expert will help you fully understand what your condition is and the best procedure required for it to be averted.
The most common and recommendable treatment procedures may include:
- Residential or inpatient curative process, as well as rehab programs: This procedure is mainly designed for those whose addiction levels are quite high, to the point where they cannot control themselves whatsoever.
- Treatment for withdrawal symptoms: When trying to avoid any addictive activity, process or substance, there are those effects that occur of such denial. In this case, they might be depression, anxiety, ADHD and among many others. The treatment procedure, therefore, needs to begin with these side effects.
Both medical and therapeutic procedures work effectively in ensuring a full recovery.
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy: This is one of the most effective and recommendable treatments that helps in the recovery process of a gambler. It mainly works on one’s behaviour; as a training procedure, the therapy helps sharpen people’s thoughts and straightens their behaviours.
From that, addicts can learn the best ways to avoid their addiction. They will think about their progress rather than spending all they have for the sake of taking unnecessary risks.
- All round counselling: By offering psychological advice to your family and also marriage partners an addict can have a competent person around them they can ask for help from based on their condition.
Best Ways to Assist Persons with a Gambling Problem
Obsession with gambling might not be as far as you may think. It could be right next to you, affecting those around you, but you barely realise it. A brother, sister or relative could be an addict, and a serious one for that matter.
So, when in such a position what do you do to help? Below are critical active steps you can follow in helping your close associates.
- Acknowledgement of the problem: This step comes first. Before any recovery procedure is effected, you need to let your loved ones confess that what they have is a real problem which needs to be solved.
You can do this by explaining to them the consequences of some of their actions and behaviours.
Again, you need to help them understand the dire need to stay sober and free from addictions of this kind. If they refuse, do not force them; some people will only change when faced by a severe consequence.
If they make the confession but do not need your help, then you can refer them to health professionals or rehab centers for better solutions.
- Join a support group: Ever since its classification as a mental disorder, several support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous (GA), have sprung up offering special programs, these include the 12-step program, which helps many addicts shun away from their alcoholism and other addictions.
- Seek professional assistance: Considering the signs and symptoms caused by a gambling addiction, the topmost recommended therapy for this is usually cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
The therapy works by offering training on one’s behaviour toward their addiction. It coaches addicts on communication skills, respect for one’s self, building one’s own empire and installing proper socialisation methods in someone.
You can explain all these benefits to your friend as a way of persuading them.
- Consider medication: When an individual suffering from drug addiction is introduced to using just a little of their drug substance, cravings for more or excess tend to diminish.
This is what should also happen with the gamblers. They should not have all that high expectation to win. Instead, they should have much more realistic goals and expectations.
Thus, according to Berlin, appropriate medication needs to be prescribed/administered to these persons to prevent such huge expectations.
In this case, antidepressants are highly recommendable. Other drugs, such as lithium, are also very useful. However, this is used in events where two kinds of disorder occur in an individual at the same time.
- Have a control mechanism: for “Clever” gamblers do not stake everything. They will only risk a given amount of wealth and if they do not win, they let it go and wait for another day.
This is what your friends should do. You should explain to them the need to not risk it all. Some of them could have families to care about and, therefore, without proper management of their financial affairs, they might end up losing enough to where they are unable to provide for their loved ones.
- Find a financial manager: In most cases, addicts find it hard to control their funds. Most of them would spend everything even the little that is remaining for them. This is why some pathogenic gamblers have decided to hire a financial manager to assist them in their spending – an idea which can work well for your friend.
Getting obsessed with gambling all starts with the mental state. When we are stressed about financial, social and/or economic issues, the nearest solution tends to be gambling which offers both fun and money. Many people in the past have undoubtedly excelled in it, while others have fully depreciated their state to nil.
As much as its actual cause has not yet been established, lots of environmental circumstances have been under great suspicion of causing this type of addiction. Studies show that a portion of people resort to gambling to reduce their financial, house or job stresses. Others because they are in need of huge, effortless and quick money. Meanwhile, some engage in gambling because they enjoy it.
However, its addictive nature has lead to lots of consequences, including breakages of marriage after one spouse loses all their possessions, jobs, opportunities, and time to gambling. Most gamblers would spend a lot of their time utilizing odds while at work and anywhere they find free time, provided they can access the internet.
The best treatment procedure for this entails both therapeutic practices and medical prescriptions. Note that early diagnosis is of great benefit – always seek medical counsel if you suspect anything relating to this condition.