|Posted on May 20, 2020 at 1:21 PM||comments (43)|
Gambling Addiction Guide & 8+ Helpful Tips to Stop
By Liam Wilson
Psychiatry experts describe addiction as a brain disorder that involves repeating certain actions despite negative consequences on health and well-being. The statistics aren’t encouraging as it indicates that gambling addiction is among the most common addiction forms these days.
The reason behind it is a large number of land-based gaming facilities throughout the world.
Additionally, you have numerous online gambling websites offering lottery, betting, and casino games. Although these games can be a fun way to spend leisure time, it is essential to be careful. Here is what you need to know about gambling addiction and how to stop it!
What Is a Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction is a mental disorder where you cannot control your behavior and stop gambling even when you aware that it affects your health and wellness negatively. Just like a person addicted to substances cannot stop using them, a gambler cannot stop playing. Gambling addiction also shares similarities with impulse-control disorders like kleptomania or pyromania.
According to statistics, only the United Kingdom has around 600,000 gamblers dealing with addiction. The data indicates that more than 2% of players in the United States have a certain type of addiction to gambling. It is a growing problem that shouldn’t be taken lightly. That is why it is crucial to recognize the issue on time and take the required steps to deal with it.
What Are the Main Gambling Addiction Types?
Scientists recognize three different gambling addiction types, and not all of them manifest the same symptoms.
Here is an overview of the most common addiction types:
Is Gambling Addiction a Serious Problem?
Yes, gambling addiction is a serious problem, and it is imperative to deal with it as soon as possible. It is crucial not to push addiction issues under the carpet since that could make them worse.
Gambling addiction can significantly affect the gambler’s quality of life, as well as their family, partners, and friends. That is why you should give your best to recognize the symptoms promptly, especially in the case of compulsive gambling.
It is hard to say how many gamblers have an addiction form since many of them use self-help options to deal with the problem. The experts believe that 2-3% of all players deal with some form of addiction.
How Gambling Affects Your Life
It is not an exaggeration when someone says that gambling addiction can change your entire life. Take a look at how it could affect you!
1. Mental health
The critical thing to consider is how gambling issues affect your mental health. Gamblers focus only on playing their favorite game and often forget other aspects of their lives. That means they might not be able to focus on job tasks, miss important events, etc.
Gambling addiction itself is a brain disorder, which means it affects your state of mind. In many cases, mental problems are the reason why people become addicted to gambling. It is also common that a mental health issue occurs after developing a gambling addiction.
It is the people that are close to the gambler that is the most affected by their negative habit. It might start by forgetting about your partner’s birthday or missing family dinner. Things could take a turn for the worse when loans, lying and stealing to find time and money to play. Gambling issues could cost you the entire relationship with your partner, and make you distant from your family and friends.
Finances might be a category that takes the first hit once you enter gambling problems. Not being able to stop and not winning anything means you need to invest more money. It is only a matter of time when you will start taking cash that was supposed to be used for other things. Gamblers frequently take loans, miss payments for their home, or even sell the property to acquire funds.
What Are the Signs of a Gambling Addiction?
Do you think your friend, or a family member developed a gambling addiction? Would you like to test yourself to ensure you are not addicted?
Here is the list of the most frequent signs that you developed negative gambling habits.
1. Always Thinking About Gambling
It might be your friend’s birthday, and the atmosphere is great. You might have an important work task, but you can’t concentrate because you are thinking about playing casino games. If you are trying to focus on other activities, but you can’t stop imagining visiting a gaming facility, that is among the initial signs of a gambling problem.
2. Developed Gambling Tolerance
It used to be enough to invest a couple of dollars and feel the excitement. However, you’ve discovered that you now need more money to experience the adrenaline rush. The experts explain this by the term “gambling tolerance.” The more you play, the more money you invest.
The first time you invest a big sum, everything changes. Investing small sums doesn’t do the trick anymore, and that can be dangerous for your finances.
3. No Control Over the Losses
You set a gambling budget so that it doesn’t affect your daily routine or threaten your loan repayment rate. However, once you lost the chosen sum, you realized that you want to continue playing. It all started by taking a tiny portion of the funds important to you. Before you know it, you lose the entire salary or savings. Not being able to control your losses is a sign of a gambling problem and an issue that could ruin your life.
4. Gambling Is a Way to Escape Reality
Things are not going great in your life. Your company might have fired you recently, or your partner broke up with you. Going through a rough patch in life makes gambling a fun way to escape reality. In those situations, it can be easy to develop a habit and get yourself into more problems.
5. Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms
You spend hours a day playing your favorite games. Once you stop, it makes you feel nervous, sad, and depressed. You are anxious to return to gambling, as that is the only thing that soothes you. That is a sign you are going through withdrawal symptoms when not playing. If you compare how you feel about the feelings of a person withdrawing from substance abuse, you will find out the two are similar.
6. Lying to Others
Admitting that you have a gambling problem is hard. You have problems confessing to yourself, and you certainly don’t want others to know. However, if you are going the extra mile to hide from others that you are gambling, that might be a problem. That is especially true if you lie about being sick to miss your friend’s birthday so that you can gamble.
7. Stealing from Others
If you are ready to steal money or valuable items for others to acquire gambling founds, it might indicate that you are in a serious problem. Stealing from your friends is immoral, and stealing from others is illegal. Either way, it is crucial not to let yourself do something like this. And if it happens, it is a surefire indicator that you have gambling issues.
How to Deal with Gambling Addiction
You have several approaches when it comes to dealing with gambling addiction:
Can You Help Another Person Addicted to Gambling?
Did you notice that your friend has gambling issues? Is your partner spending hours and losing a lot of money on playing casino and other games?
The first step in helping someone is to recognize that they have a problem. The next is to understand which steps will truly help them. Covering them for hours while they head to a gaming facility won’t assist the gambler fight with their addiction. Loaning them the money is also pointless because they will probably lose it.
Start by finding the right way of telling them you think they are addicted. Don’t be judgmental, but pinpoint that you would like to help. Recommend potential ways of treatment, such as group support and counseling with a professional.
Compulsive Gambling Stages
According to experts, a compulsive gambler will go through four stages:
What Are the Risk Factors for a Gambling Addiction?
Are some people at more risk of becoming addicted to gambling than others? The answer is yes, which is why you should take the time to understand the risk factors.
Some countries ban gambling, which means you can only play illegally. That reduces the overall number of players, as well as those addicted. But the majority of countries legalized gambling, and you can play in both online and land-based facilities. That means you can access a gaming platform around the clock, which makes it easier to get hooked.
Nobody plays a game without hoping that they will win. However, those having overconfidence issues might be at more risk for gambling addiction. They believe they will win every time, which makes it easy for them to start losing money and get addicted.
Gambling addiction is an impulse control disorder, and people who tend to act impulsively are more prone to it than others. That factor can be quite risky if it is combined with overconfidence.
Rough Life Patches
Whether you are out of work, or you lost a beloved person, you might need a way to escape reality. Some people see gambling as the way to do that, which makes rough life patches and feeling vulnerable a risk factor for addiction.
Did you know that people who earn a lot of money tend to act more responsible when it comes to gambling? It depends on the individual, but those with low earnings might resort to gambling to improve their economic status.
Genetics and Family Factors
Some experts claim that those who have parents with a gambling addiction are more prone to developing one. Research indicates that those coming from a family where there are records of gambling addiction, alcoholism, and substance abuse are more likely to get hooked to gambling. Also, the earlier you start playing, the more odds you have to develop an addiction.
Are Age and Gender Risk Factors for Becoming a Gambler?
People of both genders and all ages can develop a gambling addiction. However, it seems that teens and the elderly are the most vulnerable groups. Teens try gambling because they want to look cool, but they might have a hard time putting it under control. Elderly people might be having a hard time making peace with the fact they are retired or going through a divorce, which triggers gambling addiction.
As for gender, more men are addicted to gambling at this moment. However, the number of women is increasing every day.
Common Gambling Addiction Myths
If you are going to overcome or help someone deal with a gambling addiction, it is important to understand the disorder. Take a look at the most common misconceptions people have about this condition.
1. Addiction Requires Gambling Every Day
A gambler might be a fan of a particular lottery game. They might like playing in a specific casino, or they only bet on basketball. The gambling events might not occur every day for the gambler to be addicted. The crucial criteria for determining it is the frequency of wagering and sums invested.
2. It Is Not a Problem If It Doesn’t Cause Financial Issues for the Gambler
Rich people might be able to afford huge losses. However, that doesn’t mean gambling addiction can’t affect your life otherwise. You could experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression, and ruin relationships with other persons. The point is that addiction has severe consequences that could go far beyond finances.
3. Gambling Addiction Happens to Unintelligent People Who Don’t Have a Strong Will
Addiction plays with your brain, and even the smartest and strongest people are vulnerable. For example, if you are a math wizard, you might overthink and trick yourself that it is possible to design a strategy to guarantee a win.
It is crucial to note that people of all ages, genders, nationalities, social statuses, education levels, and intelligence levels can become addicted.
4. You Should Help a Gambler Get Out of Financial Problems
If you give money to a gambler, the chances are they will lose it quickly. That is no long-term solution, and it only supports their addiction. Instead of doing that, recommend them to consult a therapist or start attending group support.
How to Help Yourself If You Have a Gambling Problem
Although gambling addiction is a serious problem, you can overcome it! However, you need to be persistent and ready to invest plenty of time and effort.
Here is a list of tips that could help you in overcoming gambling problems!
1. Admit You Have a Problem
Everything starts by admitting that you have a problem. As long as you are rejecting the idea that your gambling is an issue for yourself in others, it will be hard to get better. Once you understand you have a problem, you can work on the right moves to deal with it.
2. Understand That It Will Be Hard
The second step goes hand in hand with the first one, and it involves discovering the reason why you are gambling. It might be the adrenaline rush, escape from reality, but also the desire to win and improve your finances or life overall.
The thing to understand is that it is virtually impossible to beat an addiction until you start realizing the opponent’s strength. It is important to get ready for the battle and doing whatever is necessary to put your life in control again.
3. Join a Support Group
It is always better to have people by your side than going through a tough period alone. That is why you should consider joining a support group. If staying anonymous is important, you can look for online support groups.
Apart from classic meetings, you can also join classic programs. Gamblers Anonymous implement a 12-step rehab program similar to the one when withdrawing from alcohol. These meetings occur weekly, and you discuss your progress during the recovery.
4. Visit a Therapist
If you feel like you could use extra support, there is no reason why you wouldn’t visit a therapist. Look for a professional counselor who has experience in the gambling industry.
Alternatively, your therapy doesn’t have to focus on gambling. If you feel your relationships have suffered, you can attend couples therapy. Professionals can always assist to go through a rough patch and repair relationships.
5. Are Medications a Solution?
Addiction plays with your brain and might make you anxious and depressed. It might be easier to handle the cravings with medications that would replicate the hormones producing while you are gambling.
A medical professional like a psychiatrist can analyze your current situation, and whether there is a need for medication.
6. Organize Your Schedule
The idea is simple – if you spend time doing something else, you cannot gamble. That is why it is essential to organize your schedule to the smallest detail. Apart from work, try to fill it up with as many fun and exciting activities as possible. The idea is to preoccupy your brain and stop it from thinking about gambling.
7. Handling Gambling Cravings and Potential Alternatives
Be prepared to experience gamble cravings occasionally. Once that time comes, it will take a lot of strength to push through them.
It might be wise to look for alternatives that provide a similar feeling:
8. How to Treat Gambling Addiction
Here is an in-depth look at how you can treat gambling addiction by visiting various professionals:
Can Family Members Help a Person Who Has Gambling Problems?
If a gambler is beyond the point where they can help themselves, family members can be of assistance. Everything starts by protecting yourself, and that includes both your finances and emotions. That is especially true if you are part of the same household. You will need to keep things under control, which is why taking care of yourself is imperative.
You can consider asking for help from other family members or friends. It might be a problem to admit that someone close to you has a problem, but the more help you have, the easier you will push through the problem.
Don’t forget to set limits for money spending, and never agree to loan money to the gambler. You can consider a loan to pay their debts, but insist that you make the payment even then.
Remember, gamblers might be lying about why they need money. It is important to stay strong and reject all their requests
Tips for Gamblers’ Partners
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I had a lapse while dealing with gambling problems. What should I do?
A: Lapses are normal because fighting an addiction is difficult. Talk to your mentor, support group, or a trusted person. The important thing is to keep going and ensure lapses are minimized.
Q: My partner has a gambling addiction, and they are mentioning suicide. What should I do?
A: Always take any suicidal thoughts seriously. Find a national helpline for suicide prevention or consult a medical professional that specializes in that area.
Q: I feel guilty that my partner started gambling. What should I do?
A: Understand that, as adults, we all take responsibility for our own actions. Gamblers might try to rationalize their bad habit by blaming other people or their surroundings. The truth is that they are the only ones to blame. Regardless, you should find a way to help them deal with the issue.
We underline once again that gambling addiction is a serious problem. That issue can affect your finances, relationships, mental health, and overall quality of life.
The critical thing is to recognize addiction, whether it is in yourself or a person close to you. From that point, you can consider the right steps to fight it. Always remember to count on your friends and family, but don’t hesitate to rely on helplines and medical professionals for additional support!
|Posted on June 22, 2017 at 9:03 PM||comments (46)|
How the Brain Gets Addicted to Gambling
When Shirley was in her mid-20s she and some friends road-tripped to Las Vegas on a lark. That was the first time she gambled. Around a decade later, while working as an attorney on the East Coast, she would occasionally sojourn in Atlantic City. By her late 40s, however, she was skipping work four times a week to visit newly opened casinos in Connecticut. She played blackjack almost exclusively, often risking thousands of dollars each round—then scrounging under her car seat for 35 cents to pay the toll on the way home. Ultimately, Shirley bet every dime she earned and maxed out multiple credit cards. “I wanted to gamble all the time,” she says. “I loved it—I loved that high I felt.”
In 2001 the law intervened. Shirley was convicted of stealing a great deal of money from her clients and spent two years in prison. Along the way she started attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings, seeing a therapist and remaking her life. “I realized I had become addicted,” she says. “It took me a long time to say I was an addict, but I was, just like any other.”
Ten years ago the idea that someone could become addicted to a habit like gambling the way a person gets hooked on a drug was controversial. Back then, Shirley's counselors never told her she was an addict; she decided that for herself. Now researchers agree that in some cases gambling is a true addiction.
In the past, the psychiatric community generally regarded pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction—a behavior primarily motivated by the need to relieve anxiety rather than a craving for intense pleasure. In the 1980s, while updating the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association (APA) officially classified pathological gambling as an impulse-control disorder—a fuzzy label for a group of somewhat related illnesses that, at the time, included kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hairpulling). In what has come to be regarded as a landmark decision, the association moved pathological gambling to the addictions chapter in the manual's latest edition, the DSM-5, published this past May. The decision, which followed 15 years of deliberation, reflects a new understanding of the biology underlying addiction and has already changed the way psychiatrists help people who cannot stop gambling.
More effective treatment is increasingly necessary because gambling is more acceptable and accessible than ever before. Four in five Americans say they have gambled at least once in their lives. With the exception of Hawaii and Utah, every state in the country offers some form of legalized gambling. And today you do not even need to leave your house to gamble—all you need is an Internet connection or a phone. Various surveys have determined that around two million people in the U.S. are addicted to gambling, and for as many as 20 million citizens the habit seriously interferes with work and social life.
Two of a Kind
The APA based its decision on numerous recent studies in psychology, neuroscience and genetics demonstrating that gambling and drug addiction are far more similar than previously realized. Research in the past two decades has dramatically improved neuroscientists' working model of how the brain changes as an addiction develops. In the middle of our cranium, a series of circuits known as the reward system links various scattered brain regions involved in memory, movement, pleasure and motivation. When we engage in an activity that keeps us alive or helps us pass on our genes, neurons in the reward system squirt out a chemical messenger called dopamine, giving us a little wave of satisfaction and encouraging us to make a habit of enjoying hearty meals and romps in the sack. When stimulated by amphetamine, cocaine or other addictive drugs, the reward system disperses up to 10 times more dopamine than usual.
Continuous use of such drugs robs them of their power to induce euphoria. Addictive substances keep the brain so awash in dopamine that it eventually adapts by producing less of the molecule and becoming less responsive to its effects. As a consequence, addicts build up a tolerance to a drug, needing larger and larger amounts to get high. In severe addiction, people also go through withdrawal—they feel physically ill, cannot sleep and shake uncontrollably—if their brain is deprived of a dopamine-stimulating substance for too long. At the same time, neural pathways connecting the reward circuit to the prefrontal cortex weaken. Resting just above and behind the eyes, the prefrontal cortex helps people tame impulses. In other words, the more an addict uses a drug, the harder it becomes to stop.
Research to date shows that pathological gamblers and drug addicts share many of the same genetic predispositions for impulsivity and reward seeking. Just as substance addicts require increasingly strong hits to get high, compulsive gamblers pursue ever riskier ventures. Likewise, both drug addicts and problem gamblers endure symptoms of withdrawal when separated from the chemical or thrill they desire. And a few studies suggest that some people are especially vulnerable to both drug addiction and compulsive gambling because their reward circuitry is inherently underactive—which may partially explain why they seek big thrills in the first place.
Even more compelling, neuroscientists have learned that drugs and gambling alter many of the same brain circuits in similar ways. These insights come from studies of blood flow and electrical activity in people's brains as they complete various tasks on computers that either mimic casino games or test their impulse control. In some experiments, virtual cards selected from different decks earn or lose a player money; other tasks challenge someone to respond quickly to certain images that flash on a screen but not to react to others.
A 2005 German study using such a card game suggests problem gamblers—like drug addicts—have lost sensitivity to their high: when winning, subjects had lower than typical electrical activity in a key region of the brain's reward system. In a 2003 study at Yale University and a 2012 study at the University of Amsterdam, pathological gamblers taking tests that measured their impulsivity had unusually low levels of electrical activity in prefrontal brain regions that help people assess risks and suppress instincts. Drug addicts also often have a listless prefrontal cortex.
Further evidence that gambling and drugs change the brain in similar ways surfaced in an unexpected group of people: those with the neurodegenerative disorder Parkinson's disease. Characterized by muscle stiffness and tremors, Parkinson's is caused by the death of dopamine-producing neurons in a section of the midbrain. Over the decades researchers noticed that a remarkably high number of Parkinson's patients—between 2 and 7 percent—are compulsive gamblers. Treatment for one disorder most likely contributes to another. To ease symptoms of Parkinson's, some patients take levodopa and other drugs that increase dopamine levels. Researchers think that in some cases the resulting chemical influx modifies the brain in a way that makes risks and rewards—say, those in a game of poker—more appealing and rash decisions more difficult to resist.
A new understanding of compulsive gambling has also helped scientists redefine addiction itself. Whereas experts used to think of addiction as dependency on a chemical, they now define it as repeatedly pursuing a rewarding experience despite serious repercussions. That experience could be the high of cocaine or heroin or the thrill of doubling one's money at the casino. “The past idea was that you need to ingest a drug that changes neurochemistry in the brain to get addicted, but we now know that just about anything we do alters the brain,” says Timothy Fong, a psychiatrist and addiction expert at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It makes sense that some highly rewarding behaviors, like gambling, can cause dramatic [physical] changes, too.”
Gaming the System
Redefining compulsive gambling as an addiction is not mere semantics: therapists have already found that pathological gamblers respond much better to medication and therapy typically used for addictions rather than strategies for taming compulsions such as trichotillomania. For reasons that remain unclear, certain antidepressants alleviate the symptoms of some impulse-control disorders; they have never worked as well for pathological gambling, however. Medications used to treat substance addictions have proved much more effective. Opioid antagonists, such as naltrexone, indirectly inhibit brain cells from producing dopamine, thereby reducing cravings.
Dozens of studies confirm that another effective treatment for addiction is cognitive-behavior therapy, which teaches people to resist unwanted thoughts and habits. Gambling addicts may, for example, learn to confront irrational beliefs, namely the notion that a string of losses or a near miss—such as two out of three cherries on a slot machine—signals an imminent win.
Unfortunately, researchers estimate that more than 80 percent of gambling addicts never seek treatment in the first place. And of those who do, up to 75 percent return to the gaming halls, making prevention all the more important. Around the U.S.—particularly in California—casinos are taking gambling addiction seriously. Marc Lefkowitz of the California Council on Problem Gambling regularly trains casino managers and employees to keep an eye out for worrisome trends, such as customers who spend increasing amounts of time and money gambling. He urges casinos to give gamblers the option to voluntarily ban themselves and to prominently display brochures about Gamblers Anonymous and other treatment options near ATM machines and pay phones. A gambling addict may be a huge source of revenue for a casino at first, but many end up owing massive debts they cannot pay.
Shirley, now 60, currently works as a peer counselor in a treatment program for gambling addicts. “I'm not against gambling,” she says. “For most people it's expensive entertainment. But for some people it's a dangerous product. I want people to understand that you really can get addicted. I'd like to see every casino out there take responsibility.”
This article was originally published with the title "Gambling on the Brain"