Gambling with casino bonuses is a habit that is typically acceptable if done in moderation. However, if you allow this seemingly fun activity to take over your life, it can result in gambling addiction.
While this may seem like a trivial problem, it is not. In fact, according to addictions.com, up to 750,000 young individuals aged between 14 – 21 have a gambling addiction, while three to five gamblers out of 100 are dealing with a gambling problem.
As you can see, these figures are alarming. If you are an avid gambler who loves to claim freebies, you can quickly become a statistic of gambling addiction.
Read this guide as we show you everything you need to know about gambling addiction and how to get help. But first, what is gambling addiction? Read on to find out.
Gambling Addiction: What Does it Mean?
Gambling addiction is the uncontrollable urge to gamble even when it is harming your life. It goes by different names, including gambling disorder, gambling problem, or compulsive gambling.
You can experience gambling addiction in all forms of gambling environments, including casinos, sportsbooks, and racetracks. Those who suffer from gambling addiction experience similar problems as individuals dealing with drug or alcohol addiction.
Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
People who have a gambling addiction may have a difficult time realizing it because of how slowly it creeps in. If you are worried that you or someone you know may have this issue, the following are some obvious symptoms:
- Constantly thinking about gambling
- Lack of control over your gambling activities
- Dealing with irritation, anger, or mood swings when gambling
- Avoiding other people so you can gamble
- Engaging in criminal activities to fund your gambling
- Gambling for hours while postponing important activities like work or study
- Gambling as a means to deal with other life issues
- Experiencing financial problems due to gambling
- Selling your personal items to raise funds from gambling
- Taking loans from friends and loved ones to gamble and being unable to pay back
- Breaking promises and commitments so you can gamble
If you have noticed one or more of the symptoms above, it may be a sign of gambling addiction. Failing to correct it or get help can cause different problems in your life, which we will cover in the next section.
Negative Effects of Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction can cause many negative issues in your life. Some of the most common include:
Financial difficulty is one of the first issues a problem gambler deals with. Since gambling stimulates the brain’s reward system, compulsive gamblers keep going to experience this feeling. In turn, this causes numerous financial problems, including:
- Loss of Jobs: A problem gambler can lose focus on his/her job in a bid to gamble. Worse, they may divert company funds to fuel their gambling activities and get into trouble. Eventually, this may lead to losing their source of income.
- Bankruptcy: Compulsive gamblers may keep betting even after exhausting their savings while chasing losses. Sometimes, they could take loans from financial institutions and even family and friends without plans to repay them. This leaves them in more debt and eventually bankruptcy.
Gambling without control can lead players to numerous legal issues. A player may engage in criminal activities like fraud or theft in a bid to fund their gambling activities. Other times, they may engage in illegal gambling activities to recoup losses. For instance, gambling in US states like Florida where it is illegal. These activities could result in legal issues with dire consequences like fines, charges, or even prison time.
A compulsive gambler will prioritize gambling over relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners. Players may lie or keep their gambling activities a secret, leading to communication problems and mistrust. The financial problems caused by problem gambling can also lead to constant arguments and conflicts that may ultimately end the relationship.
Health risks are a common risk among people with gambling disorders. Sleep deprivation, increase in anxiety levels, and neglect of self-care are some of the potential health risks a problem gambler might face. These could lead to even worse symptoms like heart issues and weakened immune systems.
Treating Gambling Addiction
There are various ways to manage and treat gambling addiction. Most of the strategies are like those used in treating other forms of addiction.
Generally, the main route for treatment will be geared towards helping you develop a healthy relationship with money. Knowing this, here are some of the common treatment options available:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This is a type of therapy where a mental health expert deeply evaluates your emotions and thoughts. You’ll then realize how your thinking affects your actions, helping you to unlearn the behaviors and habits that cause you to gamble compulsively. Through CBT, you’ll also learn more beneficial habits and thinking patterns.
- Group Therapy: This is another popular type of psychotherapy used in treating problem gamblers. Here, a group of individuals meet and talk about their issues with the guidance of a mental health expert. Players who are dealing with a gambling disorder can get moral support and motivation to stop gambling from group therapy. Examples of popular groups include Gamblers Anonymous.
- Medication: Some medications have been known to treat people dealing with gambling addiction. Mood stabilizers and antidepressants are great options for dealing with issues like anxiety and depression, which come with gambling disorders. In other cases, medications known as narcotic antagonists, which are used for treating substance abuse, can help with compulsive gambling. Also, your gambling addiction may stem from other underlying health conditions like bipolar disorder. During these situations, you’ll first need to treat the condition to enable you to control your impulsiveness better – thus stopping your gambling addiction.
- Inpatient Treatments: Compulsive gambling treatment may also involve an inpatient program. Players who cannot stay away from casinos and other gambling centers without assistance may benefit from this program. You’ll be required to remain in the treatment facility for a period – typically between 30 days to a year.
- Outpatient Programs: In this type of program, individuals experiencing gambling addiction will need to attend classes at the center. They may also attend one-on-one, group sessions or have telephone calls with a mental health expert. Participating in this program means staying home and continuing your day-to-day activities while getting treatment. These types of treatments can help gambling addicts deal with their addiction while taking charge of their lives.
- Lifestyle Changes: Changing your lifestyle can be a great step in the right direction. For instance, if you have trouble handling money without using it up on gambling, you may need to employ a financial advisor or leave it in the hands of your spouse or friends. You might also need to avoid places that might trigger your gambling habits, like online casinos or hangouts with friends who always gamble.
Dealing with Relapse
Even with the right treatment, there is a high chance that you may go back to gambling. This is typically common if you spend time around those who gamble frequently or other triggers. The moment you start to experience the urge to gamble again, it is important to reach out to your mental health expert to avoid a relapse.
Gambling addiction is just like any other addiction and can be hard to stop. While it can be embarrassing to let those around you know you have a problem, it is the first step to recovery.
Any of the strategies above, including therapy, group sessions, and specific medications, can help you deal with your gambling addiction. Ignoring the problem and allowing it to blow out of proportion can cause different problems, including financial, relationship, and health issues.
Getting help can prevent these from happening and your life from going downhill.
Disclaimer: Our services are meant for entertainment purposes only. If you feel you are suffering from gambling addiction, you should consult the support services listed on our website to find help and support.