Gambling Addiction Help, Treatment and Support, Don’t Let Gambling Ruin You!
Gambling Addiction Overview
As its name indicates, gambling addiction (also referred to as compulsive gambling or pathological gambling) is a behavior disorder marked by an inability to stop gambling, or to limit the amount of time, attention, and money one dedicates toward gambling and related activities.
For many people, gambling is a relatively harmless form of entertainment. From a monthly card game with friends to an occasional trip to Las Vegas or Atlantic City, millions of Americans gamble every year — most without significant negative impact on themselves or their families.
However, for an estimated 3 million others, gambling is far from harmless. For these individuals, gambling has progressed from a form of entertainment into a problematic behavior, and then morphed into an addiction. As is the case with other types of addiction and behavior compulsions, gambling addiction is marked by an inability to stop, even in the aftermath of significant negative consequences.
Regardless of whether they have won thousands of dollars or lost their life savings, addicted gamblers are incapable of reducing or stopping their gambling behaviors.
Causes of a Gambling Addiction
As is also the case with other pathological or addictive behaviors, researchers have yet to identify a primary cause of compulsive gambling.
Many experts believe that problems in the pleasure/reward areas of the brain may lead to a gambling addiction. (This is consistent with the belief that these same areas of the brain are involved in the development of addictions to other behaviors, and to alcohol and other drugs.)
Gambling compulsions have also been observed in individuals with bipolar disorder, as the manic phase of bipolar often involves spending sprees and a greater likelihood of undertaking risky behaviors.
However, in most cases, pathological or compulsive gambling results from the complex interplay among a number of biological (internal) and environmental (external) factors.
Symptoms of a Gambling Addiction
According to the Gambling Addictions website, individuals who can answer “yes” to seven or more of the following questions may need to seek professional treatment for a gambling addiction:
- Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?
- Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?
- Did gambling affect your reputation?
- Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
- Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?
- Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?
- After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?
- After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?
- Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?
- Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
- Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?
- Were you reluctant to use “gambling money” for normal expenditures?
- Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?
- Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?
- Have you ever gambled to escape worry, trouble, boredom or loneliness?
- Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?
- Did gambling cause you to have difficulty sleeping?
- Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?
- Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?
- Have you ever considered self-destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?
It is important to note that while almost everyone experiences these symptoms when exposed to certain threats or stresses, individual s who have anxiety or panic disorders experience these symptoms often, and in the absence of any negative external stimulus.
Gambling addiction treatment is a complex and highly individualized experience that must take a number of factors into account. Compulsive gamblers may also be struggling with co-occurring disorders such as alcoholism, addiction, and depression or other mood disorders.
Depending upon the unique circumstances of the individual patient, gambling addiction treatment may involve a number of the following:
- Medication (such as anti-depressants and related psychiatric drugs that have shown promise with compulsive behavior patients)
- Individual, Group, and Family Therapy
- Relationship Counseling
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- 12-Step Philosophies (both for co-occurring substance addictions and for the compulsive gambling itself)
- Family Systems Therapy
- Psychodrama Therapy