Gambling Addiction: Symptoms, Causes, Cycles, And Treatments

It can happen to anyone in any situation in life, a game goes from harmless fun to unhealthy obsession with dire consequences, whether you bet on sports, scratch cards, roulette, poker or slots, in a casino, in Track or online, a gambling addiction can affect your relationships, interfere with work, and lead to financial disaster – you can even do things you never thought you would do, like rack up big debt or even steal money to gamble.

Although it may feel like you can’t stop, there are many things you can do to overcome a gambling problem, repair your relationships and finances, and finally regain control of your life.

What is a gambling addiction?

It is a need to continually gamble despite damaging negative consequences or the desire to stop, the problem of the game is often defined by whether the player or other damages experience the damage, rather than by the behavior of the player. The serious problem can be diagnosed as a clinical pathological gambling if the player meets certain criteria, pathological gambling is a common disorder that is associated with social and family costs.

It is a mental health problem that is understood as one of the many types of impulse control problems and has many similarities to obsessive compulsive disorder , however it is now understood to be more similar to other addictive disorders . The types of games of chance that people with this disorder can participate in are as variable as the games available, betting on sports, buying lottery tickets, playing poker, slot machines or roulette are just some of the activities in which that compulsive gamblers participate.

The place of choice also varies, although many prefer gambling in a casino, the rate of addiction to online / internet gambling continues to increase with increasing use of the same. Alternatively, some compulsive gamblers may also participate in risky investments in the stock market.

Cycle of gambling addiction

Some play games of skill, such as cards or dice, and enjoy the idea of ​​”beating the house” and impressing others with their knowledge and skill, others tend to play slots and games of chance, and these people may enjoy the idea. that they are simply luckier than those they know.

Unfortunately, the paths they take with their addictions are predictable and often incredibly unpleasant, most gamers tend to follow these steps in severe addiction:

Winning phase

During the first five years, the player is rewarded for his behavior with incredible earnings from a week’s salary or sometimes more. Some people even earn a year’s salary in a game, these victories could give the player the impression that he or she is smarter or luckier than other players, and this could encourage the player to take greater risks, with these risks. bigger come bigger losses.

Loss phase

This phase can last more than five years, and the player may face considerable financial losses during this time, the player may begin to chase losses, making larger bets to recover money lost during a previous game, he may believe that he is facing a « losing streak ‘, but will come out of it. The player may need a loan of money to cover the losses, the tension begins to accumulate and the addiction begins to take hold.

Despair phase

The player may know that he cannot win, but he can no longer control the activity, he can spend more and more time playing and planning the next game. The financial losses during this stage can be huge, money theft can be a way that the player finances the addiction, the player may try to stop gambling and find that they cannot quit.

Desperate phase

If the player is not helped during the despair phase, they may no longer care if life goes on, they may do illegal things to fuel the addiction or simply get caught and get help, or they may contemplate suicide .

Why do people start gambling?

There is no single reason for people to start gambling, gambling is easily accessible to those 18 and older, from scratch and lottery tickets to casinos within walking distance in most states. Places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City are attractive to some because of their inherent novelty and glamor, and to others because of the competitive aspect of some card games and the chances of winning a massive jackpot they appeal to most of us as a financial solution. fast.

It can be difficult to understand why someone just won’t stop playing to prevent these terrible things from happening, the answer may lie in chemistry. When a person smells good food, hears the voice of a loved one, or feels a bright ray of sunshine, the body releases a chemical called dopamine, this chemical is considered the ‘feel good’ chemical as a surge is felt From happiness or joy, when players experience a victory, especially when that victory is large and occurs early in the player’s career, they also experience a surge of dopamine.

No matter why someone starts gambling, it is important to remember that not everyone who goes to a casino will become addicted to gambling, however there is evidence to suggest that certain people may be more vulnerable physiologically and temperamentally to gambling. gambling addiction than others, knowing that you or a loved one may be predisposed to a gambling addiction can be helpful in deciding whether or not to start gambling is a wise decision for you and your future.

Are there different types of gambling addiction?

Gambling is a diverse activity, so there are also different types of gambling addiction, it is not always obvious, contrary to popular belief, the act of gambling is not limited to slot machines, cards and casinos. As buying a lottery ticket, participating in a raffle or placing a bet with a friend are also forms of play.

Gambling addiction can occur when a person feels that they are in financial ruin and can only solve their problems by gambling on what little they have to try to obtain a large sum of money. Unfortunately, this almost always leads to a cycle in which the player feels they must recoup their losses, and the cycle continues until the person is forced to seek rehab to break their habit.

Another type results when you gamble and make risky bets to experience the excitement associated with taking big risks that occasionally pay off. In both cases, the person affected by this addiction must have the desire to stop the behavior, not just to please family and friends.

What are the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction?

Feeling a constant urge to gamble, even when you are already in a difficult financial situation, or gambling as a way out of difficulty are the two common symptoms of a gambling addiction, it can also cause problems in relationships and at work. While the cost of financing an addiction can become a huge burden, as well as emotional pressure.

It can be caused by the underlying stress linked to a difficult time in your life, be it work, relationship or financial, as well as having an addictive personality prone to compulsive behavior.

There are also fundamental emotional reasons that can contribute to the development and vicious cycle of compulsive gambling, including:

  • Overcome social isolation by visiting gambling shops or casinos.
  • To feel a rush of adrenaline and dopamine as a “happy” chemical release from the brain.
  • Numb and unpleasant feelings and problems that cannot be easily resolved.
  • Boredom and desire to pass the time.
  • Relax and rest after a stressful day.

While these emotional factors can contribute, the following may be more visible signs of a problem, either with yourself or with someone you care about:

  • A preoccupation with gambling and loss of interest in other aspects of life , such as ignoring family responsibilities and focusing only on the results of the game.
  • Loss of control and not being able to handle impulsive gambling urges, even when the odds are against you.
  • Increase the amount of money used for betting to pay off lost bets or experience the excitement.
  • negative impact on relationships with those closest to you . Losing a partner as a result of a gambling addiction is very common due to the stresses and burdens that the problem places on a relationship.
  • Workplace problems , which could include increased workload, absence or general lack of concentration, making it difficult to perform tasks sufficiently.
  • Hide the amount of money and time spent on gambling from family members. The secrecy that is often involved in the gambling problem leads to a lack of confidence and often more problems at home.
  • The denial of having a gambling problem is a major concern as the first step to recovery is accepting that you have a problem.

What are the causes for gambling addiction?

Many factors can contribute to a gambling addiction, including the desperation for money, the desire to experience strong emotions , the social status associated with being a successful player, and the entertaining atmosphere of the mainstream gaming scene. Unfortunately, once addiction takes hold, breaking the cycle is difficult.

Serious addictions can take hold when someone feels financially desperate and wants to get back what they have lost, once the person finally wins, while they can get a lot of money from that gain, it is rarely enough to cover what they already have. has lost. Most players don’t even get close to breakeven.

Who is at risk?

Several studies show that gambling, such as substance use, can have certain genetic origins that predispose a person to become addicted. These include:

  • People with lower levels of serotonin.
  • People with a more impulsive nature.
  • People looking for activities that offer immediate rewards.
  • People who tend not to consider the long-term consequences of actions.

Some studies show that people who become addicted can actually produce lower levels of serotonin, which is associated with a general lack of interest in activities or a lack of pleasure derived from most activities (known as anhedonia in the mental health community). Operating in this baseline state can encourage a person to engage in activities that increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, leading to feelings of happiness and pleasure that others may feel without the additional stimulus.

Other studies show that those who become addicted to gambling or substances are genetically predisposed to make more impulsive decisions and seek activities that offer immediate reward, these studies provide evidence that the parts of the brain that control inhibition and allow a person Thinking about the possible consequences and rewards for certain actions can be inactive, leading to impulsiveness and the search for rewards.

Treatment for gambling addiction

In general, the treatment is divided into three types:

  • Therapy: It could be behavioral therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy , it helps an individual reduce the need to gamble by systematically exposing them to the behavior, it helps to change the way the individual feels and thinks about gambling.
  • Medications: Mood stabilizers and antidepressants can help reduce the symptoms and illnesses that sometimes appear with gambling addictions. Some antidepressants can also reduce the urge to gamble. Narcotic antagonists (medicines used to treat drug addictions ) can help some compulsive gamblers.
  • Self-help groups: Some find it helpful to talk to others in a similar situation.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.