Gambling Addiction & Support
While gambling is enjoyed by hundreds of people all over the world, some do find themselves developing addictions to gambling which go on to hurt their relationships as well as physical and mental health.
It’s important to spot if you or a loved one is struggling to control gambling habits because, when gambling goes beyond being fun, it can create serious problems.
What are Gambling Addictions?
A gambling addiction is classed as a mental health disorder because the person who is suffering from a gambling addiction is unable to stop, even after realising how it’s hurting themselves or their loved ones.
Gambling addiction is so vast that there are actually three different types. This includes:
Compulsive Gambling: A person who is unable to control their desire for gambling and will continue to play whether they win or lose. They continually look for chances to make bets even if they know they cannot afford to lose.
Binge Gambling: A person who exhibits compulsive gambling symptoms but only at specific times. These types of gamblers may appear fine for weeks or months but their gambling behaviour will eventually appear.
Problem Gambler: Someone who engages in gambling behaviour that damages their personal life. They normally lie to loved ones about betting habits and realise they cannot control their gambling habits.
Gambling addictions can cause serious problems in a person’s life and may hurt the people around them. For example, a gambling addict can end up in severe financial trouble by amassing large amounts of debt. Some people may end up homeless or become bankrupt due to gambling addictions, putting themselves and their family in danger. The addictions can cause mental problems too as it causes rifts in relationships or even jeopardizes a person’s job.
Research suggests that families of someone who suffers from a gambling addiction are more likely to experience abuse or domestic violence. Even children who may not suffer from their parents’ addiction immediately may develop depression or behavioural problems and even suffer from substance abuse later in life.
What Causes Gambling Addictions?
Gambling addictions are caused by a person’s inability to control their behaviour. What causes the individual person’s inability to control their behaviour, however, depends on the person.
According to research, one of the most common causes of a gambling addiction is biological. Scientific studies have revealed that a gambling win leads to a neurological response similar to the response seen in cocaine addicts after receiving a dose. The studies also discovered that deficiencies in norepinephrine and serotonin have also been linked to addictions.
In addition, a player’s belief in gambling can also spark an addiction. For example, a player may believe that if they continue to play the game, their chances of winning will increase. Meanwhile, people who have had or have addictions to alcohol or drugs are also vulnerable to developing an addiction to gambling.
Loved ones sometimes believe that stress may trigger the addiction, but research suggests that stress or difficulties in a person’s life do NOT cause the addition to manifest. In addition, the existence of casinos or online casinos does not cause gambling addictions and instead only provides addicts with more ways to gamble. Even if gambling addicts were unable to access real or online casinos, they would find illegal methods to do so.
Lastly, it’s been claimed that fast-paced casino games such as slots increase the likelihood of someone developing a gambling addiction.
What Are the Symptoms?
Some people may immediately recognise that they or their loved ones are struggling with a gambling addiction.
For others, however, it may be more difficult to spot and may go unnoticed for some time, until the problem gets incredibly serious and possibly dangerous.
It’s important to research the symptoms of someone with a gambling addiction and to help, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has come up with several symptoms you can look out for.
- Thinking about gambling constantly
- Feeling the need to increase bets to experience a thrill
- Becomes agitated when cutting back on gambling
- Gambles as an escape from problems or to reduce anxiety
- Chases losses
- Lies to hide their gambling activities
- Tries to finance their bets through illegal means
- Damages relationships in order to gamble
- Relying on financial bailouts from loved ones in order to meet gambling debts
- Is unable to control their gambling habits
According to the APA, a gambling addict must meet five of the symptoms above to be considered a pathological or compulsive gambler. If you or a loved one begins experiencing the above symptoms, it’s important to get help and support from professionals.
How Does A Gambling Addict Get Better?
A gambling addict can get better in several ways. While there is no single treatment that works for every addict, there are a few that work.
The most common treatment a gambling addict can seek is psychotherapy. Trained professionals help addicts by correcting their problem behaviours. This form of treatment is highly successful as many addicts suffer from other psychiatric problems.
Meanwhile, Gamblers Anonymous (GA), a company that works worldwide, also helps addicts by providing them with a way to discuss their problems. Peer support systems are also available from GA, which has been shown to help in recovery.
Although it hasn’t been proven, some medications such as anti-depressants, anti-seizure medications and medications that have been used against other addictions, may help battle gambling addiction.
Friends & Family
For partners, friends and family of a gambling addict, facing the problem can be difficult. While you may be experiencing several different emotions, it’s important to remain calm and strong.
Professionals have urged an addict’s loved ones to learn more about the issue before doing anything else. Friends and family should be supportive of an addict and help them seek treatment without being seen as judgemental or threatening, as that will only make the situation worse.
A popular way of helping an addict come to terms with their problem is by staging an intervention to address the addiction or other problems. During an intervention, family members and friends will show their concern about the addict and their problem. While this won’t stop the problem, it may encourage the addict into pursuing treatment or professional help. It’s important to remember, however, that the tone of the intervention should never become confrontational or heated.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by everything, you should know that you too can seek help and professional advice. There are numerous helplines and websites you can contact for extra support or help.