Gambling Addiction

Gambling addictions happens when a person takes having fun playing a game where they have a chance to win to an extreme level. Instead of being an enjoyable pastime, it is something that they feel compelled to do and typically risk everything to continue doing even as losses amass.

What is Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addicts are not in control of whether they will gamble or not. These compulsive gamblers feel a rush or a high from the experience, and they continue doing the behavior to get it over and over.  Both online gambling and real world forms, such as playing poker at a casino, can be extremely addictive.

Signs of Gambling Addiction

If you or someone you know is exhibiting these kinds of behaviors, a gambling addiction may be the cause:

  • Becoming defensive if someone expresses concern about your gambling habits
  • Borrowing money, selling belongings, or stealing so that you can continue to gamble
  • Feeling anxious or depressed when you are unable to gamble
  • Increased frequency of gambling activity
  • Lying about the amount of time you are spending gambling, how much you are betting, and how much you have lost
  • Placing larger bets over time whether you are winning or losing if the amounts being bet are more than you can reasonably afford to lose
  • Taking time away from work or family life to gamble; not telling others when you are going to gamble

These are just some of the symptoms of problem gambling but they are the ones most indicative of a serious problem.

Causes of Addiction

The causes of this type of gaming addiction can be difficult to pin down. There may be a hereditary component; people who have a family history of addiction may be more likely to become addicts themselves. Some research on the subject points to a biological component that makes the person susceptible to addictive behaviors. People who behave compulsively may be doing so because of a lack of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Other causes of gambling addiction include:

  • Emotional immaturity
  • Friends and associates who are involved with gambling
  • Low self esteem
  • Working or living in close proximity to bingo halls, casinos, race tracks, etc.
  • Stress with lack of a good means of releasing it
  • Traumatic experiences early in life

You may think that winning a large sum of money or a prize is a good thing for a person who has an addiction to gambling as they're able to recoup some of their loses. However, it's actually a negative event for that individual. They experience a huge rush of adrenaline from the excitement of winning, and want that experience to continue. The gambling addict is likely to gamble away their winnings (and more money besides) trying to keep it going.

Consequences of Gambling Addiction

Possible consequences of gambling addictions include:

  • Broken relationships, including estrangement from children and loved ones, separation, and divorce
  • Criminal charges if the addict is stealing or selling drugs to finance gambling activities
  • Debts caused by gambling losses or to support the gambling habit
  • Job loss

Help and Treatment for Gambling Addiction

Help for quitting gambling is available from a number of sources. The first step in getting help is acknowledging the symptoms and admitting that there is a problem. A 12-step program, such as Gamblers Anonymous, can be effective. If all that gambling has wreaked havoc on your finances because of debt, joining Debtors Anonymous can also work. Another option when you are wondering how to quit gambling is to consult a therapist who has experience treating this type of addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches clients how to identify their triggers and replace gambling with more positive activities. 

Beyond Quitting: Gambling Recovery and Rehabilitation

Quitting is only the first step. Staying in recovery involves avoiding places where gambling is present, and possibly finding new friends who don't indulge in the activity. You will also need to find new strategies for dealing with stress, since this can act as a trigger for gambling and cause a relapse. Talk to other ex-gamblers to share your experiences and find strength and support.