Information About Gambling Addiction

What is a Gambling Addiction?

A gambling addiction can happen to anyone, at any time. At first, gambling seems like a fun thing to do. Whether you were doing it to pass time, because you had an extra dollar, or just for fun, it's enjoyable. It's something that a lot of people do on a regular basis. The problem is that some people are more prone to turning it into an addiction than others.

Gambling Addiction Information

There are many different forms of gambling, just like there are many forms of other addictions. The issue isn't the act of betting money in hopes of winning money. The real issue is that for a growing number of people, gambling quickly becomes an obsession. The question is, how do you know whether or not that has happened to you?

You may have a number of different questions, like:

  • If I like to gamble, is that a problem that needs professional help?
  • If I'm a gambler, how do I know if I need help to recover?
  • If I'm not a regular gambler, addiction isn't likely, is it?
  • What is it that makes gambling so addictive?
  • How did I develop a gambling disorder?

Getting the answers to these and any other questions you might have is very important. Unless your questions get answered, you're not likely to get the help you need to recover. If you do have a gambling addiction, you need to know.

At Northpoint Washington, we work with a lot of people with addictions. There are so many different types of addictions, and process addictions are one type. These addictions can be just as dangerous as substance abuse problems. Other addiction treatment centers may not treat them the same, but we do.

If you struggle with gambling, you might be wondering if you have an actual addiction to it. We'd love to help you find the answers you're looking for.

What is Compulsive Gambling?

Compulsive gambling goes by a number of different names. It might be called a gambling addiction, pathological gambling or a gambling disorder. It is actually an impulse control disorder. For someone who suffers from a gambling addiction, they can't control the need to gamble. It doesn't matter if there are negative consequences attached to it or not. They will gamble, nonetheless.

For compulsive gamblers, they are not concerned about the odds. They're often not aware of whether or not they can afford to lose. These issues don't mean anything to them. Gambling is something they feel they have to act on. Their lives are disrupted as a result of these behaviors. They may have serious problems in their relationships and issues at work because of gambling.

It's important to understand that having a gambling addiction doesn't necessarily mean gambling all the time. Compulsive gambling can take many different forms. There are people who will spend all day gambling. There are also those who will take breaks from it. However, once they start, they're not able to stop.

Gambling addiction is usually associated with one or more underlying conditions. People who gamble compulsively will frequently suffer from:

  • A lot of stress in their lives
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Some type of substance abuse disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • ADHD

When these disorders occur simultaneously with gambling, they are called co-occurring disorders. Getting treatment for gambling and the underlying cause is crucial for a successful recovery.

Different Types of Gambling Addiction

It is not always completely obvious when someone is addicted to gambling. There are several different forms of gambling, and these include:

  • Using slot machines
  • Playing cards
  • Visiting casinos
  • Buying lottery tickets
  • Internet games
  • Entering raffles
  • Making bets with friends
  • Betting on horseraces
  • Betting on sporting events

Quite often, gambling addictions form when people have financial problems. They believe that they should gamble what they have to try to get more money. This can end up leading to a terrible addiction cycle that is very difficult to break. The gambler feels that he or she must try to re-coup their losses. The behavior will continue until help is sought for the gambling addiction.

Why is Gambling Addictive?

According to the Scientific American, as many as two million people in the United States are addicted to gambling. In addition, 20 million additional people suffer from problem gambling. This means that the habit greatly interferes with their lives in a number of different ways. The question is, why? What is it that makes gambling so addictive?

Today, we know so much more about addiction and the brain than we did just a few years ago. Any type of addiction is formed because of increased dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine's job is to make us feel happy, safe and secure. It is directly connected to the reward systems in our brains. Normally, we experience increased dopamine levels during certain times. For example, after eating a delicious meal, dopamine increases. These surges encourage us to continue to do these activities.

For someone who is addicted to gambling, he or she also experiences dopamine surges. However, they occur to a greater degree. These surges have also been seen in the brains of drug addicts and alcoholics. Drugs and alcohol can cause dopamine surges that are ten times more powerful than normal. The same is true for gambling.

Chemical imbalances within the brain can leave some people more vulnerable to addictions. This includes gambling addictions. These individuals may not produce enough dopamine on their own. For them, gambling helps them feel normal. It produces a euphoric high that is unlike anything they've ever experienced.

Signs that You May Have a Gambling Problem

It's possible that you enjoy gambling very much, but you're not sure you have a gambling addiction. It is possible to gamble without becoming addicted to it. However, it's important to be able to tell the difference. You need to know what your own relationship with gambling is.

There are several signs you can look for within yourself that will help you. Have you noticed any of these?

  • You feel that it's necessary to keep your gambling a secret from friends and loved ones.
  • You lie about how much you gamble, or how often you gamble.
  • You fear that other people won't understand your desire to gamble.
  • You have a hard time controlling your gambling.
  • You're not able to walk away from gambling once you start.
  • You will frequently gamble until you've spent your last dollar.
  • You gamble even if you don't have the money to do it.
  • You may borrow, sell or steal items to have gambling money.
  • You have friends and family who are very worried about you.
  • You've tried to stop gambling altogether in the past, but you weren't able to.

There are several emotional symptoms of compulsive gambling that you should look for. It might be difficult to see these within yourself. However, if you're able to notice them, they definitely point toward a serious problem. The emotional symptoms of gambling addiction include:

  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Attempts of suicide
  • Feeling hopeless and worthless

In addition, there are also physical symptoms of gambling addiction. These include:

  • Signs of sleep deprivation
  • Paleness of the skin
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Acne on the skin
  • Dark circles under the eyes

Some of these signs and symptoms of gambling addiction are easy to identify. However, it's also possible to keep them hidden for quite some time. Process addictions like gambling are often referred to as hidden addictions, and for good reason. It's important to consider your condition objectively to see if you fit any of the above symptoms. If you do, you most likely do have a gambling disorder or addiction.

What Causes People to Develop Gambling Disorders?

There are a lot of different reasons why people develop gambling disorders. They may:

  • Have fallen on hard times. Because of this, they look at gambling as a way to make money.
  • Feel a desire to experience the thrill of gambling.
  • Desire to obtain the social status of a successful gambler.
  • Enjoy being a part of the gambling scene.
  • Suffer from a mental illness, and find that gambling helps them feel better.
  • Gamble as a way to escape stress and problems in their lives.

Regardless of the reasons why some people start gambling, once they start, it's hard to stop. The compulsion to gamble can set in very quickly, even if someone has never done it before. It's an addiction that can quickly lead to other problems, and even other addictions.

The Short and Long-Term Effects for the Gambling Addict

Continuing to participate with gambling can have a dramatic effect on a person's life. There are both short-term and long-term effects of gambling.

In the short-term, the individual may experience significant financial problems. He or she may become late on bills, which can cause a lot of stress. Coincidentally, if this does occur, it can only make the gambling problem that much worse. The person quickly becomes convinced that all of the money lost can be won back.

Also in the short-term, relationship problems are very likely. Many marriages have ended because one spouse suffered from a serious gambling problem.

In the long-term, the short-term effects are compounded. Additional problems can result as well. The longer a person gambles, the more anxiety results from that behavior. It's very common for people to turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to ease their anxiety. It is a way for them to self-medicate to help them handle their stress levels. Before long, a secondary addiction forms.

The long and short-term effects of gambling cannot be denied. However, they are often not enough to get people to stop.

The Benefits of Inpatient Rehab for Gambling Addicts

For many people who are addicted to gambling, inpatient rehab is the best way for them to get help. There are a number of reasons why this is the case.

Going to an inpatient rehab setting effectively removes the addict from any possibility of relapse. Outpatient treatment centers don't offer this benefit. That is why so many people go back to gambling when they receive outpatient treatment. Inpatient gambling treatment also provides patients with an excellent level of support. This is something that is desperately needed during this time.

Many gambling addicts also suffer from some other type of addiction. They may be alcoholics or drug addicts. Inpatient rehab is beneficial for these issues as well. In fact, it may be the absolute best form of treatment.

Dual diagnosis treatment refers to the type of treatment that is utilized for co-occurring disorders. It addresses the addiction, and the reasons behind the addiction. For a gambler who is also addicted to drugs or alcohol, this type of treatment is incredibly beneficial. This individual will receive excellent care that will address all of his or her needs. He or she will learn how to manage life without either addiction.

If You Can't Stop Gambling, Help is Available for Recovery

Maybe you've tried to stop gambling time and time again. However, it's a behavior that you just keep going back to. Much like stopping the use of drugs and alcohol cold turkey, the same method rarely works with gambling. It usually requires professional assistance for people to recover from this addiction.

By combining the right kind of treatment, you can find the relief you're looking for. Working with a therapist individually, group therapy, and other methods can make such a difference. At Northpoint Washington, we look at each of our patients as individuals. We know that your addiction is different from what someone else is experiencing. Our goal is to target your treatment to meet your recovery goals.

Do you have a gambling addiction? Are you looking for gambling rehab? We can help you get the help you need. Please contact us right away.