Initially, gambling might be a social experience or a novelty, but it can quickly turn into a problem if it becomes more important than other activities. Gambling, while once considered an enjoyable activity, should be limited to an occasional outing. If, however, it becomes a serious problem, the stress it can cause can be substantial. Understanding why you gamble may help you make changes to your behaviour. Alternatively, there are organisations that can help you manage your gambling, provide counselling, and even support you and your family if you are concerned about your problem.
Problem gambling is a continuum
The spectrum of problem gambling ranges from compulsive gambling to pathological gambling. A problem gambler is someone whose gambling behaviors have become unmanageable, resulting in an increasing need to gamble with increasingly larger amounts of money. Often, this behavior is the result of pressure, time constraints, or other factors. Regardless of the specific type of gambling, there are many common traits among all problem gamblers.
There are two main levels of costs associated with problem gambling. The personal costs are mostly unrecognized, but include not only the person suffering from gambling, but also their family and relationships. These costs are reflected in the overall costs of problem gambling to society. The social costs of problem gambling are enormous. A single person’s gambling-related expenditures may cost more than seven billion dollars each year. The costs of problem gambling can have a devastating impact on a family, community, and even society.
It can affect anyone from any walk of life
There are many negative effects of gambling, including the ruination of relationships, increasing conflict with partners, losing friends, and losing a job. Compulsive gambling can even cause people to steal to pay for their losses. This behavior is so common, in fact, that it can be difficult to distinguish the difference between compulsive gambling and addiction to drugs or alcohol. But the bottom line is that gambling can affect anyone from any walk of life, from professional athletes to housewives.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat gambling addiction. You can seek help from Gamblers Anonymous. This 12-step program, patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous, helps people break the cycle of addiction. Those who are recovering from gambling can work toward reclaiming their lives by finding a sponsor, a former gambler who can provide guidance and support. Remember, gambling starts with the decision to gamble. If you feel the urge to gamble, think about the consequences of your actions and find something else to do.
It is similar to substance abuse
Problem gambling is thought to be similar to drug addiction. In fact, gambling releases huge amounts of dopamine, a chemical related to pleasure, into the brain. Cocaine and gambling both affect the brain in similar ways. Problem gamblers lie to family and friends about their gambling habits and use more money to play. They can’t stop. These people are considered “pathological gamblers” by the American Psychiatric Association.
Biologically, both problem gambling and substance use disorders are hereditary. Problem gamblers cannot control their genetics, and it is highly likely that the first big win will trigger a lifetime of problem gambling. People with a low socioeconomic status may be more prone to problem gambling, as the first win will lead to greater euphoria when they win. It is also common for gambling to develop in people with depression.
It can be treated
Problem gambling can be treated, just as any other addiction can be. Gambling addiction is usually treated with cognitive behavioural therapy, which addresses the ways in which a person thinks and behaves while gambling. A gambler with an addiction may think that he or she is more likely to win, believe that rituals bring luck, or believe that doubling up on their wagers will make them a winner. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps an individual identify and change these beliefs, as well as their behavior.
Problem gambling can cause serious problems for the individual. Gambling treatment uses the same techniques for treating substance addictions, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of talking therapy that helps people understand their behaviors and break them down into manageable parts. Alternatively, it can be helpful to seek support from a gambling helpline or self-help guides. Fortunately, these treatments do not require an upfront financial investment.