Gambling is a thrilling and fun activity that has been in practice for several years. Players stake their money on various outcomes to stand a chance to win additional bucks. However, for some players, gambling is beyond a game of fun and excitement because they have been carried away by the possibility of getting big cashouts, now they have become hooked to the dice and cards of the casino tables.
These players later lose control of their gambling habits and will find themselves caught up in the dark side of gambling such that what was supposed to be a harmless, fun activity will now become a dangerous obsession. This might result in serious gambling addiction.
Gambling addiction, otherwise called Ludomania, is an impulse control disorder whereby a person keeps on gambling even when it harms both them and the people surrounding them. Symptoms of gambling addiction usually vary from one person to another depending on the form of gambling venture.
For instance, gambling for compulsive gamblers begins as an entertainment activity but turns into a big problem in little time, especially after getting a big win. The general belief that all addicts lose their ability to control their gambling impulses is not true because some can decide when to gamble. However, if gambling disrupts their normal daily activities, it is still considered a gambling addiction.
When a compulsive gambler still has control of his gambling, he is called a binge gambler. Binge gamblers can go for several months or weeks without displaying any signs of gambling addiction. However, the compulsive gambling habits of binge gamblers can pop out when they finally decide to start betting. It is often very hard for them to stop themselves or for someone to stop them from betting.
A compulsive gambler is not able to control the urge or desire to gamble. This type of gambling addiction pushes the limits because they cannot resist it.
In most cases, a compulsive gambler is aware of the negative effects that the addiction will have on them and the people around them, their daily lives, and their finances, yet they will still gamble. They usually make huge wagers despite knowing that they must not lose.
Most of the time, these types of gamblers often find themselves chasing loss or thinking about betting. Although they might make efforts to stop the gambling urge, they usually end up forgoing their responsibilities to gamble. As a result, their normal lives become disrupted, affecting them and their loved ones.
Physical symptoms and signs of gambling addiction are not usually obvious, like alcohol or drug addiction. This implies that many gamblers will keep on gambling until they lose their livelihood source and start facing financial problems if much attention is not drawn to them. However, there are certain signs and symptoms that gamblers should look out for and keep as a red flag. Once they find themselves doing any of these things or showing any of the symptoms, they have a gambling addiction.
According to DSM – 5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a player must show at least four of these signs within one year before he/she is considered a gambling addict. Here are the symptoms below:
Gamblers are advised not to rely only on these symptoms but to also go for medical diagnosis to tell if they have gambling addiction or not. Similarly, players who have exhibited at least 4 of these symptoms should see a medical practitioner, such as a psychiatrist or other mental health professionals. The professional is in the best position to diagnose and determine if the player is addicted to gambling or is simply experiencing signs of other mental health conditions.
Many people with gambling addiction usually have other disorders like bipolar disorders, ADHD, substance use disorders, and depressive disorders.
Today, the primary causes of gambling are not yet known, but different factors can contribute to gambling addiction. These factors include massive first wins, mental conditions, and desperation for money.
How the brain responds to betting is said to be one of the major causes of betting addiction. Research by scientists has revealed that problem gaming is often a result of how the brain reacts to a gambling win as it produces a neurological response similar to when a cocaine addict consumes a dose of the drug.
On the other hand, compulsive gambling has also been linked to deficiencies in norepinephrine (stress hormone and neurotransmitter) and serotonin (the feel-good chemical). There are also other biological causes in the gene; that is, a certain group of people may be liable to develop addiction disorders based on their genetic traits.
The way an individual perceives gambling may play an active role in determining whether the person will have a gambling problem or not. For instance, Loss-chasing is a primary factor that can result in gambling addiction because the gambler keeps going deeper down the rabbit hole while holding on to the next bet and denying that their gambling habits are having a negative effect on them.
People with gambling addiction usually have a vague view of gambling as they are usually optimistic even when they keep on losing. Also, an individual can become prone to problem gambling because of the possibility and excitement of winning many times on a slot machine. This is most common to fast-paced gamblers who prefer any fast-paced game like slot machines to the lottery.
Some individuals get hooked up after their first massive win, especially when it covers the losses they incurred in their previous wagers. These individuals are more disposed to addiction if they continue placing bets with the hope of getting another massive win. They sometimes try to win twice the initial massive win by doubling their winning wager.
Although the use of some medications might not likely cause gambling addiction, it could trigger the problem. For instance, antipsychotics and dopamine agonists have been associated with increased chances of gambling addiction.
Depression, job loss, desperation for money, and stress are some of the factors that trigger compulsive gambling. Although gambling addictions are not genetic, they can be passed from older to younger ones in the family either by direct teaching or by influence.
Social factors like available of gambling options and keeping friends that bet frequently can also trigger gambling addiction.
Most persons with gambling addiction do not often notice the problem until it becomes too late and they lose their jobs, run into financial debts. The gamblers could even get caught by the law when they venture into crime to get money to gamble. This is why symptoms of gambling are essential such that once a player notices any of the signs, he/she can quickly go for a medical checkup to determine whether they have gambling addiction or not.
If a player notices any of the above-listed gambling addictions, he must first admit that he has a problem and needs help. Many people with gambling addiction often deny that they do even when the signs are obvious. If you feel you are getting addicted to betting on online betting sites, or your family members and loved ones are concerned about your gambling habits, or they notice a change in your behavior, then you probably need help.
Gamblers sometimes try to make excuses for their gambling addiction to shield the major problem and make it look like they can control their gambling habits. This is most common with problem gamblers but impossible with compulsive gamblers, and it ends up prolonging the problem making it harder to stop the gambling addiction.
The first step is for players to recognize and admit that they have a gambling problem, followed by working towards conquering the addiction. There are self-help tactics that gamblers can apply to help them overcome their gambling addiction. The strategies include:
It is not easy to quit gambling, but it is also not impossible. Although there is currently no official treatment for gambling addiction, there are many types of treatment for the problem and compulsive gamblers. The following treatment methods can be useful:
Some medications can help gamblers to reduce the urge to sit with a land-based casino slot machine or visit online betting sites. Such medications as anti-seizure drugs and antidepressants have been effective so far in handling gambling addiction.
Psychotherapy has proven effective in treating gambling problems over the years, and it also helps with relapses. It is usually done with the help of a seasoned therapist or psychiatrist and comes in the form of counseling to help effectively improve the gambler’s behaviors and habits. The therapy treatment would be very effective if the gambler has other underlying psychiatric issues that trigger him to gamble. In such cases, a professional will help him to treat both conditions.
It is difficult to ascertain the exact number of people with gambling addiction because most of the official records come from the gamblers’ self-report. The number of people suffering from gambling addiction in Canada is around 1.1 million, representing around 3% of the entire population. Similarly, people with problem gambling in the US are around 2-3% of the entire population. There are fewer people with gambling problems as they make up for 1 percent or less of the entire population. However, this figure increases in areas with high gambling rates, such as Nevada.
On the other hand, the number of gamblers in the UK seems to be quite higher. A survey carried out by YouGov shows that about 1.4 million people making for 2.7% of adults, have a gambling problem. However, according to the UK Gambling Commission, these figures are just an estimate as the official figure remains 0.7%. According to the figures, men bet more than women; this implies that men are more prone to become gambling addicts or have a gambling problem or than women.
Unfortunately, many gamblers are reluctant to join groups and organizations that will help them overcome a gambling problem or seek treatment despite all the treatment methods for gambling addiction. Some gambling addicts may simply overcome the habits when they change their behavior or lifestyle with support from friends and families. However, many others continue to gamble and lose several years of their lives to the harmful act without making an effort to seek help.
Like every other addiction, gambling addiction comes with several long-term and short-term negative effects, some of which are glaring while others can only be noticed after a closer look. The negative effects of gambling addiction include:
People suffering from gambling addiction or gambling problems often find themselves in a deep financial crisis, like accumulating huge debts. In contrast, some others even gamble away their most prized assets like cars, homes, etc. Compulsive gamblers are worse; not only do they lose their finances, but they also put the finances of their colleagues, friends, and families at stake. In severe cases, compulsive gamblers even put investors’ funds and their jobs at stake, and this could lead to legal tussles and even jail terms.
It is not only a compulsive gambler that suffers the effect of gambling addiction; the families are also affected. Research has revealed that children of problem gamblers may suffer various forms of domestic violence and child abuse. They are more likely to suffer from mental health conditions and addictions later in life.
Constant betting often results in psychological and mental issues because the disorders affect the individual’s way of life and thinking, leading to strained relationships among other social problems and mental problems such as suicide, anxiety, and depression.
As we earlier mentioned, the signs of a gambling problem or addiction are not usually glaring sometimes, especially in problem gamblers. Even their family members living with them may not easily notice that they have a gambling addiction until it becomes too late.
Here are certain signs to look out for in a gambler to know if something is wrong:
Once you notice any of the above-listed signs in your loved ones, know that it is a red flag and a problem. Do not ridicule them, threaten them to stop, or judge them because they may become withdrawn and reluctant to share their problems with you. What you should do as a concerned and caring loved one, friend, or family when you notice any of these signs is to first educate yourself on how to help them overcome the gambling addiction. You must show them that you are ready to support them and help them overcome their gambling addiction.
Avoid offering them financial assistance or volunteering to pay their debts because that might encourage them to gamble more, knowing that you will pay off their debt if they accrue losses. The best way to help problem gamblers and others with gambling addiction is to participate in their treatment process. You can also connect them to a financial service provider who will draw out a plan to settle their debts.
It is often difficult to help a family member or friend with a gambling problem to seek treatment, except they desire the treatment themselves, but they do not have the resources. Sometimes, speaking to the problem or compulsive gambler about how gambling has affected those around them and even convincing them to start treatment is your best bet.
You must remain positive and loving if you want the treatment to be successful. Acknowledge that it might take time, but with your support and show of concern, the person will get over the addiction. It can also be effective to get more close friends and family members to confront the gambler occasionally.
In some instances, the best way to help someone with a gambling addiction is to get over it by seeking treatment is to converse with a professional first. There are helplines from professional organizations that you can use to seek guidance from well-trained professionals who advise you on handling a friend, colleague, or family member with a gambling problem. The National Problem Gambling Network is an example of such an organization.
In many cases, compulsive gamblers often choose suicide as their last resort when they finally lose control. Suppose you notice that your friends, colleague, or family member is constantly withdrawing from meetings or hangout or feeling depressed; you can help them to get help by dialing the suicidal helpline.
Different countries have set up national organizations of suicide prevention with suicide helplines to help people with suicidal thoughts due to gambling addiction or other causes; here are some of the helplines:
In addition to those resources in New Zealand, there have been several organizations set up around the world to help people with gambling addictions. The organizations treat problem gamblers using several treatment methods ranging from counseling, psychotherapy to group meetings with other people with similar conditions.
Similarly, the organizations use advanced treatment programs that sometimes involve the use of medication. Although there are plenty of these organizations in the world, we recommend some of the most trusted ones to help every compulsive and problem gambler overcome their addiction.
They are listed below: