Gambling Addiction

Imagine yourself spending money on gambling instead of allocating it on basic necessities. If you have a gambling addiction, the act might be as important as having a meal. In short, it has become part of your routine and it seems difficult to do away with. The gambling problem might have had an effect on you and your loved ones already, even if you don’t know it.

Gambling addiction is a common affliction and can have a severe impact on someone’s daily life. The result could be that one would gamble instead of buying the necessities.

What is a Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction, also known as gambling disorder, is defined as persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior. Like drugs and alcohol, this addiction is a result of the brain getting positive stimulus for the action. This addiction affects millions of people throughout the world. Right now, around two million American adults admit to being into “pathological gambling.” The same report revealed that between four to six million total Americans are categorized as “pathological gamblers.”

Pathological gambling is when someone cannot resist the urge to gamble despite the serious consequences it entails. This often leads to problem gambling which refers to your inability to control the habit, increased gambling preoccupation, and observed irritability whenever you try to quit.

The University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) reported that one to two percent of the population is considered to have a gambling addiction. However, the rate is higher in California. Based on the available data, around one in every 25 citizens of California has a gambling addiction. This is not surprising since California has more or less 89 card clubs. Moreover, it has approximately 100 casinos (tribal), several racetracks, and a state lottery. Thus, the high rate of gambling addiction in California can be attributed to being a home to many gambling destinations.

What Causes Gambling Addiction?

study shared that there are several factors that contribute to the risk of developing a gambling addiction. The following can be likely reasons for the problem:

  • Availability: Your access to gambling and closeness to a casino may influence you to go into gambling.
  • Environment: If you are exposed to a social environment that has a culture of gambling you are more likely to end up gambling.
  • Gender, Age, and Socioeconomic Status: Men are said to gamble more than women when it comes to horse racing, gaming machines, and other risky activities. Adolescents tend to gamble more than adults. Someone’s socioeconomic status can be a factor, too. People with lower economic status and lower educational attainment are at higher risk of becoming addicted to gambling.

How Gambling Affects the Brain

Gambling affects the brain a lot like drugs and alcohol. The difference is the brain damage caused by compulsive gambling may be difficult to spot at first. However, the adverse effects of gambling on your brain will be more apparent as time goes on.

You may start developing depression when you lose a game. This may result in feeling ashamed of the thought of losing and feeling guilty for wasting your resources. A study noted that people with gambling problems are more likely to experience depression by 100 percent compared to those who don’t gamble.

On the other hand, anxiety is felt when the person becomes more addicted to gambling. Initially, it serves as an “escape” from stress, but then it can be the cause of anxiety among some people because of the pressure to win. Therefore, if you think that it could be a way to calm down, think again.

Contrary to what others think about gambling being merely the excitement in winning a bet, a medical professional explained that the condition is actually beyond that. Dr. Heidi Sinclair, an expert from the South African Foundation for Responsible Gambling, emphasized that compulsive gamblers have low levels of norepinephrine compared to those who are not into it. As a result, they appear to look for activities that would trigger stress in order to compensate for the lack of the said chemical. Norepinephrine is responsible for preparing the body before a “fight.” This is normally low when the body is at rest or when the person is sleeping.

The Risks of Gambling Addiction

Gambling is associated with various risks. Among them are the following:

  • Broken relationships
  • Non-performance or low productivity at work
  • Poor communication with loved ones
  • Conflict in the family and among friends
  • Reduced stability and security
  • Inconsistent discipline
  • Depleted resources
  • Deception and lies
  • Anger
  • Violence

How Gambling Addiction Relates To Substance Abuse

Studies indicate that there may be a commonality between an individual’s addiction to gambling and propensity for substance abuse. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), pathological gambling (PG) is a form of behavioral addiction that is similar to substance use disorders (SUDs). Due to this, PG has been categorized as an Impulse Control Disorder (ICD). Patients suffering from ICD do not only exhibit impulsive behaviors but also a reduced capacity for them to avoid gambling activities despite its adverse consequences.

The center’s research also showed that those suffering from PG most likely are experiencing serious psychological and financial challenges. This is not surprising considering the “overlap” between the clinical features of PG and SUDs. These observations have prompted the medical community to label PG as a “non-substance” or “behavioral addiction.”

People afflicted with PG and SUDs share the same symptom: diminished self-control over their actions. In order to validate these findings, researchers have carried out a review of genetic, neurobiological, and diagnostic features PG in order to establish its link with SUDs.

PG has a prevalence rate of around 0.5% to 1% compared to earlier estimates of 1% to 2%. Community samples, on the other hand, revealed that PG happens alongside a variety of mental health conditions. This finding confirms that those suffering from PG have a greater chance of developing SUDs, mood, and psychotic disorders.

Treating Gambling Addiction

Someone may not know they are suffering from PG or compulsive gambling. This is where their family and friends need to step in and initiate measures. These measures must make the person realize that they are suffering from a form of addiction and need to get help.

Here are tips for those who would like to lend a hand:

  • You need to have an understanding of the individual’s mental state. As an outsider looking in, you must be careful not to hurt the person’s sensitivities. It is okay to be honest, but you must provide feedback with a level of constraint. You must not give the impression that you are preaching your moral ascendancy. You must also be direct and specific. Since you are dealing with an adult, they should be able to handle a dose of honesty.
  • The person you are helping knows that you would like them to recover from the condition. But this does not mean that you will not allow the individual to experience the gamut of emotions that are necessary to get better. As you give that person sound advice, you must also make them realize that they are largely responsible for their current situation. In short, you must allow the person to go through the pain. It is also perfectly okay for the individual to feel anger, sorrow, and remorse. This will help them turn a new leaf.
  • There comes a point when those who are trying to help a spouse, sibling or friend recover from gambling addiction become personally affected. This happens when they become so personally invested in an individual’s recovery that they may also need some guidance. Seek out people, inpatient rehab, local associations or community-based organizations that provide professional advice. You can also connect with counseling experts via the Internet.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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