Whether it’s scratch cards from the gas station, horses on a rack track, or roulette at the casino, it’s easy for people to find something they enjoy placing bets on. Gambling can be a fun, harmless diversion for anyone, but it can have serious consequences when it becomes an unhealthy obsession.
What is Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction is an impulse-control disorder. Gambling addiction may sometimes also be referred to as gambling disorder, pathological gambling, or compulsive gambling.
It is an addiction characterized by the impulsive need to gamble despite the various negative consequences – no matter what you call it.
The Impact of Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction can have a serious impact on a person’s life.
If gambling gets to the point where a person becomes preoccupied with it, spending more and more money and time, despite their debts and losses, they likely have a gambling addiction.
What is Problem Gambling?
Anyone with a gambling addiction is said to have a gambling problem. However, it’s worth noting that a person can have a gambling problem without being completely out of control.
“Problem gambling” describes individuals facing adverse consequences from their gambling. However, they do not meet the criteria for their behavior to be considered gambling addiction or pathological gambling.
Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
Sometimes understood as a “hidden illness,” gambling addiction does not show up through noticeable physical indicators or symptoms like those seen in other addictions, such as drug or alcohol dependence. Not to mention, problem gamblers frequently conceal or downplay the issue to others and even themselves.
However, there are still a few signs to look out for if you think that you or a loved one is a compulsive gambler:
Feel the need to be secretive about problem gambling – playing in secret to keep gambling behavior concealed from others.
Lying about gambling behavior – lying to cover up the extent of involvement with gambling activities.
Have trouble controlling gambling – feeling like you can’t stop or that you have to keep gambling despite harmful consequences.
Negative impacts in various areas of life – jeopardizing relationships, work, or education opportunities due to gambling.
Gambling more money than intended – frequently attempting to chase losses.
Feeling irritable or restless when attempting to stop gambling – finding it difficult to quit and feeling a strong urge to continue playing.
Unable to limit the time spent on gambling activities – spending more and more time trying to gamble, often at the expense of other important life areas.
Need to increase the amount of money gambled – to feel the same buzz or rush as before, a person needs to increase the amount of money they gamble with. A gambling addiction may feel bored with gambling unless they raise their bets.
Feeling guilty about gambling – feeling remorse or regret after gambling activities.
Borrowing or stealing money – excessive gambling usually leads to financial difficulties and high debt. A person with a gambling addiction may resort to selling personal possessions, taking out cash advances from credit cards, relying on family members or friends for financial support, or even committing theft.
How to Overcome Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction is a very serious problem. It can often be accompanied by other mood or behavior disorders, such as substance abuse, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, stress, and unmanaged ADHD.
Once you decide that you need help with your gambling addiction, there are some steps to take:
Talk to someone
The first step is always talking about it with a friend, family member, or therapist. Admit that you have a problem and want to get better, and ask for help.
Many excellent resources are available for people with gambling addictions, including counseling and therapy, support groups, and medication.
Individual Therapy – Online or In-Person
If you seek counseling or therapy for managing your gambling addiction and find an underlying condition present, they can help you address it.
Identifying and addressing these issues is an important part of overcoming your addiction. It is also incredibly important as these problems will remain even when you recover from gambling addiction.
Family Therapy or Couple’s Counseling
If your gambling addiction has caused problems with your partner or family members, you may want to consider therapy sessions that include them.
For example, if your spouse has been helping cover gambling expenses and is now in debt due to this behavior, they might need help dealing with the financial crisis.
Join a support group
Join a support group like Gamblers Anonymous (GA), which can provide accountability from other people and offer guidance on staying away from gambling.
Get help from your doctor
Your doctor can also provide resources and assistance in overcoming a gambling addiction. If you struggle with other mental health conditions and gambling addiction, they can help treat those conditions.
Medication options also help reduce the cravings associated with gambling addiction. Talk to your doctor to determine if this is a necessary option for you.
Ways to Help Manage Gambling Addiction for Good
One aspect of addiction treatment that is just as important as the first step is avoiding relapse. That is, quitting gambling addiction and quitting for good.
Maintaining your recovery depends on applying what you learned in therapy or a support group and continuing to make healthy decisions, including:
Stop and think
All actions and behaviors start with a choice. If you feel the urge to gamble, stop doing it and think about the potential consequences. Visualize how you feel after you gamble and your money is gone. Think about that disappointing feeling and how it would affect others too.
Have a plan
When you feel the urge to gamble, have a plan in place to resist the temptation. This may include distracting yourself with productive activities like exercise or hobbies or relaxation techniques like meditating.
Having a plan in place is helpful regardless of whether you tend to gamble when you’re lonely, bored, stressed, upset, or wanting to relieve unpleasant emotions.
Cut yourself off
You cannot gamble if you don’t have money. There are several ways to limit yourself from problem gambling, such as getting rid of your credit cards and online betting accounts. In some cases, it can be incredibly helpful to have someone else take charge of your accounts or have a financial consultant or bank help you find solutions to restrict them.
Stay away from gambling environments
If there are any casinos or gambling establishments you frequent, contact them asking them to restrict you from coming in. Be sure to block and remove gambling apps and sites from your devices.
Final Thoughts on Overcoming Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction is a serious issue that can detrimentally impact your life and the lives of those around you. If you are struggling with this issue, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Many resources are available to people who want to get better, including counseling, therapy, and peer support.
When overcoming gambling addiction, it’s important to remember that it will be a journey, not a quick fix. It will take time and effort to rebuild relationships, finances, and trust. But with the right resources and support, it is possible to overcome gambling addiction and regain control of your life.