When gambling transitions from being a recreational activity to an addiction, gamblers can experience serious consequences as a direct result of their behaviour. It may still be possible to maintain a job and manage finances without displaying any symptoms of a gambling disorder, but over time the problem can develop into a situation that causes serious financial difficulties and strained relationships with family and friends.
While gambling can become an addiction for some people and carry many negative consequences, treatments are available to help people control their habit and find healthy alternatives.
What Causes Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction is known a “process addiction,” because unlike alcoholism or drug addiction, a person is not taking a substance to change how they feel. A gambling addict may begin to gamble, or do so increasingly more often during a difficult time in their lives, and can subconsciously do so as a way to divert attention away from unpleasant emotions or feelings.
This may initially work to mask these feelings, but over time will most likely cause even more problems, and when used as a coping mechanism, it can be difficult to reduce the destructive behaviour without finding tools to overcome these emotions.
Recognising a Gambling Problem or Gambling Disorder
If gambling is causing you or someone you know to feel distressed, or is having an impact on day-to-day life, you should seek seek professional help. It is imperative to keep negative feelings in check and to eliminate the desire to continue with the destructive behaviour. If you suspect that you have a gambling disorder or gambling problem, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you feel like your family and friends don’t understand you?
- Do you lie about how often you gamble?
- Are you secretive about your gambling?
- Is it difficult to stop when you’re up?
- Do you gamble even when you don’t have the money, or know you put yourself at financial risk?
- Have you ever stolen to support your gambling?
- Are family and friends worried about your gambling?
- Do you find that you need to gamble more often to feel the same high that you once felt?
- Have you tried to cut down but found it to be very hard or impossible?
- Do the majority of your thoughts revolve around gambling?
- Have you had problems at work or school because of gambling?
- Would you rather gamble than take part in activities that you once found enjoyable?
- Has your gambling put you in severe financial distress?
If you’ve answered yes to two or more of these questions you most likely have problems with gambling.
Gambling Addiction Rehab
While it may be difficult to accept that your gambling has become out of control, there are many options and professionals waiting to help you. The first step is recognising that you have a problem and being ready to get help. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and 12 step treatment methods as used by Gamblers Anonymous can be effective in dealing with gambling disorders but in some cases it may be necessary to attend an inpatient treatment facility to overcome the addiction.
The Overwhelming Factor in Gambling Addiction is That of Denial
A common feature of gambling disorders is being in a state of denial. It can be very difficult for gamblers to recognise that they have a problem in the fist place, especially when they see other people gamble occasionally without undesirable consequences.
An unwillingness to accept that there is a problem can be very frustrating for those around them who do recognise that the problem exists, and can delay the process of addressing the gambling disorder. If you are experiencing on-going problems due to gambling that causes stress or other difficulties in your life, you may have a gambling disorder.
In order to be diagnosed with a gambling disorder, a person must show at least four of the following symptoms:
- Gambling with increased amounts of money
- Feeling restless or irritable when trying to stop
- Unsuccessful efforts to cut down
- Being preoccupied with thoughts of gambling
- Gambling when feeling stressed or upset
- Lying to hide the extent of gambling
- Loss of relationships or jobs
- Trying to win back losses
- Depending on others for financial support
- Spending significant time gambling
People with Gambling Problems Often Have Other Addiction Issues
There is a strong link between gambling and alcohol abuse, as well as depression. People with gambling problems may be trying to cope with an already existing depression, or may become depressed due to the negative consequences of their gambling. In fact, suicide rates among gambling addicts are significantly higher than average.
Gambling can also be a symptom of a manic episode of bipolar disorder, where a person feels a surge of energy and may engage in impulsive and risky behaviours.
When to Ask for Help with a Gambling Addiction
- You want to stop gambling but are unable to do so
- You know somebody with a gambling problem
- You want advice and information on available treatment options
- You know you want treatment but would like to discuss details
- You think but are unsure if you or someone else is a gambling addict
- You have specific needs that require an individualised treatment plan