The US has an estimated two million gambling addicts, and the habit seriously interferes with work and social life for as many as 20 million. The act of gambling involves the risking of something of value to acquire something even greater. The urge to gamble uncontrollably, no matter how much it affects one’s life, is gambling addiction. As with drugs or alcohol, gambling stimulates the brain’s reward system, which makes it addictive. Gambling addiction is arguably the most common impulse-control disorder in the world.
It is important to recognize that gambling addiction can be caused by several factors, such as desperation for money, the “high” that comes from playing the game, and the intoxicating atmosphere of the gambling scene
Gambling has traditionally been considered a compulsion rather than an addiction by the psychiatric community, i.e. something people do primarily because they want to rather than out of necessity. However, after studies revealed gambling addiction is far more similar to alcohol and drug addiction than initially thought, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) 5th edition decided to officially recognize gambling as an addiction in 2013.
Problems that Stem From Gambling Addiction
Problems that stem from gambling addiction start with symptoms that are common amongst gambling addicts. Then, some consequences follow these symptoms. Most times, the symptoms of gambling addiction cause a huge strain on the relationships of the affected person. This is because the other person may not be aware of what’s going on and take offense at weird reactions. Let’s consider some of these symptoms and effects below:
- Possessing an obsessive gambling habit
- Gambling with increasingly large amounts of money only to get the same thrill
- An unsuccessful attempt to control, reduce, or stop gambling
- A feeling of restlessness or irritability when unable to gamble
- Using gambling as an escape from problems or to relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, or depression
- Gambling more in an attempt to recover lost money
- Using gambling to undermine or lose important relationships or work or school opportunities
- Using fraud or theft to obtain gambling money
When people addicted to gambling lose, they are unable to stop or set a loss limit. Instead, they are forced to continue playing until they recover their losses. People often lose more money than they intended, feel bad about the losses, and attempt to regain that money by gambling, even more, leading to even more losses. In this destructive cycle, a person’s physical, mental, and financial health can be seriously damaged.
As if the horrible symptom problems were not enough, they lead to more effects which are exhaustively addressed below:
Both the family and the individual are burdened by financial stress. Some problem gamblers spend so much money that they commit theft to fulfill their unquenchable desires. The emotional distress resulting from problem gambling often causes a breakdown in families, with children being the most innocent victims. Furthermore, those with gambling addictions suffer from stomach problems, headaches, insomnia, and ulcers as a result of stress. The use of drugs and alcohol by people with gambling issues can have even more detrimental effects.
How to Avoid Gambling Addiction
It’s a common opinion amongst people in the world that prevention is better than cure. That equally works with gambling addiction. However, the question is how do you avoid gambling addiction? Avoidance means taking proactive steps to prevent it from happening. Here are some steps you can take:
- Set a Gambling Budget
Have a maximum amount you want to spend on gambling and strictly adhere to it. This budget could be for a month, day or year. Hence, no matter how thrilling a gambling session is, you would not go overboard with spending.
- Set Gambling Timetable
This helps you reduce your gambling time and avoid plunging into an uncontrollable gambling spree.
How to get help when you’re dealing with gambling addiction?
Most times, dealing with gambling addiction on your own can prove very ineffective. This is why you need to get help as soon as possible. Several treatment facilities specialize in gambling addiction recovery as well as providing treatment.
You can contact the National Council on Problem Gambling through a phone call, phone text, or chat. The phone number is 1-800-522-4700 and you can initiate chat at ncpgambling.org/chat.
Online Casinos also provide amazing help to problem gamblers. Some options place you on gambling restrictions to prevent you from playing at your weak moments. You can also delete your gambling account by applying for problem gambling or gambling addiction help.
General Steps to take if you want to quit gambling
Stopping gambling can be extremely difficult but, once stopped, the ongoing task is to stay stopped. Here are a few steps you can take if you want to quit gambling:
1. Know what the problem is
If you don’t understand something, you can’t fix it. Learn about gambling and admit to yourself that you have a gambling problem to eliminate it from your life. Observe the symptoms of gambling disorder honestly, and even better, ask a loved one what they think of your gambling. Stop denying how gambling affects your life and start accepting it.
2. Become a member of a support group
Now that you are aware of the problem, you can seek help from a support group. A support group is an organization that is run by people with similar experiences. While there are no professional interventions in support groups, participants can try them out in person or on the Internet.
One support group dedicated to people with gambling problems is Gamblers Anonymous. As is the case with other 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, this group follows a similar approach.
3. Do not give in to temptation
Though gambling is a temptation, viewing it as an addiction is a significant step since it allows you to apply skills from addiction recovery and relapse prevention. Avoiding people, places, and activities associated with gambling can help someone in recovery avoid setbacks. The thoughts and feelings that lead to gambling can be avoided by avoiding these triggers.
4. Find an alternative to gambling
You can find healthy alternatives to gambling by avoiding triggers and distracting yourself during cravings. But for a better state, you’ll need to avoid triggers and distract yourself during cravings. The focus can be shifted away from the bad to the good by replacing gambling behaviors with positive ones.
Here are some alternatives to gambling:
- Exercise (e.g., walking, weightlifting, team sports, yoga)
- Spending more time with nongambling family members and friends
- Volunteering at an animal shelter or hospital
- Trying out new hobbies
You can explore many fun, beneficial alternatives with the extra money you spare from not gambling.
Gambling Addiction can be very daunting but it also has its corresponding measures to overcome. Avoidance comes first, treatment after and quitting is the hardest. The steps provided in this piece should give you all the information you need to stay ahead and avoid falling victim to gambling addiction.
However, we’ve provided measures to help you even if you do fall victim to the addiction of gambling. Gambling is thrilling and fun. However, extreme playing can be bad for you. Take necessary steps to curb gambling addiction today!