Gambling Addiction

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Do you, or does someone you love enjoy playing lotto, buying lottery tickets or visiting the casino on a regular basis? Has your desire to gamble ever resulted in your spending money that you really didn’t have to spend, getting in trouble or had negative effects on your relationships with friends or loved ones? Frequent gambling could be a sign of a gambling addiction.

It is estimated that gambling addiction affects somewhere between two to five percent of all American adults in some way. Many different risk factors can lead to a compulsive gambling addiction that is both difficult to cope with and equally difficult to overcome.

Gambling addiction can lead to job loss, family problems, loss of material possessions such as a house or car, health problems, problems with the law and much more.

Fortunately, there is help and treatment has been derived from many different methods of counseling and therapy to assist those who have a compulsive gambling problem with overcoming their desire to gamble and learning how to control their behaviors.

What is Gambling Addiction?

A simple desire to scratch a ticket, play a slot or visit a casino is not necessarily a sign of gambling addiction but when this desire is so compulsive that you just can’t stop thinking about it until you take action, there may be a problem in your life. Gambling addiction is characterized by a compulsive desire to gamble that is marked with an inability to control behaviors when gambling. Those who suffer from gambling addiction will continue to gamble (either daily or possibly just on a binge) despite negative financial, legal and social consequences.

Many people who are addicted to gambling will do things that they never would have done if it weren’t for their addiction such as stealing money from friends or family members or taking part in illegal activities in an effort to get more money either to gamble or to pay debts. Despite a desire to quit, many compulsive gamblers are unable to control their actions without help. The impulsive behaviors often get them into trouble and can lead to serious consequences.

Signs of Gambling Addiction

Often referred to as a “hidden illness” gambling addiction has no obvious physical signs or symptoms that can be quickly or easily spotted. Problem gamblers often go unnoticed for many years before the signs of the addiction finally become evident even to close friends and family members. In fact, because many gambling addicts are able to control their behaviors the majority of the time, it could be very difficult to spot a gambling addiction unless you physically go with the gambler into a situation in which they are actually gambling, then you may quickly realize that they are out of control.

The following behaviors are all potential signs of gambling addiction:

Recognizing Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

Although the signs of gambling addiction are often difficult for others to spot, if you like to gamble, there’s a good chance that you will be able to recognize the symptoms of gambling addiction in yourself early on, well before others will even notice.

You might have a gambling problem if:

Myths & Facts about Gambling Addiction

Myth: Problem gambling is only a problem for those who cannot afford to gamble.

Fact: Compulsive gambling leads to emotional problems, relationship problems and could lead to legal problems in addition to the financial implications. Even if you have the money to spend, gambling too much can become problematic as your social life suffers from your spending too much time on gambling.

Myth: If you don’t gamble everyday then it’s not a problem.

Fact: Gambling in excess, either daily or during a binge, can be problematic. Even if you don’t gamble often, the gambling can still cause problems financially, legally or socially.

Myth: Gambling addicts are driven by their partners behaviors.

Fact: Gambling addicts often place blame on their loved ones in an effort to take the blame off of themselves but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the partner has anything to do with their problem.

Responsible Gambling

Not all gambling is problematic. Responsible gambling is possible and many gaming venues take part in responsible gaming policies that are intended to provide gamblers with an ethical means of having fun without the dangers and risks associated with gambling addiction.

The following components are part of a responsible gambling venue:

Negative Effects of Gambling Addiction

The devastation that gambling addiction can wreak on the life of those who suffer from this illness as well as those around him make this a very dangerous disorder to be reckoned with. Compulsive gambling accounts for as much as five billion dollars spent annually in the United States alone. Many of the people who are addicted to gambling find themselves accruing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

The negative effects of problem gambling include:

Treatment for Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction affects each individual in a different way and each gambler will have unique needs for recovery. The type of treatment that works for one individual will not necessarily work for another. Probably the greatest hurdle in treatment for gambling addiction is to realize and admit that you have a problem and need help. Because gambling is called the “hidden addiction” it can be very, very difficult to attest to your wrongdoing, and admit that you have a gambling problem. This is especially true when a gambling addiction has resulted in extreme financial hardship, broken relationships and certain legal problems along the way.

Treatment for gambling addiction takes many forms and most people who seek help for a gambling addiction participate in Gamblers’ Anonymous (GA). In addition to the social support that is found in the Gamblers’ Anonymous programs, psychotherapy, and especially cognitive behavioral therapy, have proven to be effective at helping those who are addicted to gambling to change their behaviors and take on more positive actions to cope with stress or other potential triggers that would typically lead them to gamble.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for gambling addiction focuses on changing the poor behaviors of a problem gambler into positive thoughts and behaviors. The idea here is to rewire the gambler’s brain into a new way of thinking about their gambling addiction and their desire to gamble.

Some of the changed behaviors that are learned through cognitive behavioral therapy when treating gambling addiction include:

Coping with a Desire to Gamble

During treatment, you will learn many ways to cope with cravings or your desire to gamble. It is completely normal to feel the urge to gamble, especially if you are recovering from a gambling addiction, but it can be difficult to cope with such desires in a positive way. Throughout your struggles with gambling addiction and recovery there will likely be many times that you want to gamble and struggle to make the right choice not to follow through with your desires. The following methods can help you to cope with potential triggers without relapsing:

Gambling Addiction Help

If you or someone you love needs treatment for a gambling problem, it’s important that you seek a treatment approach that will be most appropriate for your individual needs. Finding the right type of treatment for your needs and the right help for a gambling addiction will ensure that you have the greatest chance of recovery. Most of the time, gambling addiction treatment takes place either through social support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous and outpatient therapy or in an inpatient facility.

If your gambling addiction has lead to severe financial, legal or social problems then you may require inpatient treatment for your condition. This type of help for gambling addiction includes around-the-clock supervision in a hospital like setting where the patient will stay while undergoing treatment. The intense therapy, counseling and supervision provided by inpatient treatment centers significantly reduce the risk of relapse while in treatment.

Compulsive gamblers often need the support of friends, family members and additional peers in order to help them stop gambling. Gamblers Anonymous groups can provide peer and social support for those in recovery or for those who wish they could stop gambling. For many, these groups provide a foundation for a successful and long term recovery from addiction to gambling.

Here’s how you can help a family member or loved one who is suffering from a gambling addiction: