Compulsive gamblers can’t control the urge to gamble, even when they know it has negative consequences that will hurt themselves and their families through strained relationships and financial problems. Unpleasant feelings can worsen the disorder, such as:
Compulsive gamblers continue to gamble though they know the odds are against them, and they can’t afford to lose. These individuals may or may not plan to gamble, but it generally fulfills an immediate, conscious need; however, they often feel anguished and a loss of control over their lives from their actions.
According to an article published in the Scientific American, four in five Americans say they have gambled at least once in their lives. With the exception of Hawaii and Utah, every state in the country offers some form of legalized gambling. And today you do not even need to leave your house to gamble—all you need is an Internet connection or a phone. Various surveys have determined that around two million people in the U.S. are addicted to gambling, and for as many as 20 million citizens the habit seriously interferes with work and social life.
Studies have shown that individuals who anticipate winning while gambling appear to react much like a person reacting to euphoria-inducing drugs. During one study subjects who were gambling had blood flow to the brain change in ways similar to that seen in other experiments during an infusion of cocaine in subjects addicted to that drug and to low doses of morphine in drug-free individuals.
The changes varied in accordance with the amount of money involved and a broadly distributed set of brain regions were involved in anticipating a win. The more money involved, the more excited the person became.
Signs of a Gambling Addiction
With gambling, the odds are never in your favor whether it is poker, blackjack, lottery tickets or entering a raffle; gambling is a successful industry because the house always wins.
Common signs of gambling addiction include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Feeling the need to be secretive about gambling
- Having trouble controlling gambling habits
- Gambling when you cannot afford to
- Your friends and family express concern about your gambling
- Anxiety about quitting or stopping
- Strong emotional reaction to gambling or about stopping such as:
- Suicidal thoughts
Other addictions frequently co-occur with gambling addiction as they serve as coping mechanisms for individuals stressed out by their activity. Many gamblers turn to drugs, alcohol, sexual addiction, and other behaviors to alleviate the anxiety brought on by the gambling lifestyle.
Even if a person never experiences a financial loss because of gambling, they may struggle with a substance addiction for the rest of life due to self-medicating to deal with the stress brought on by the lifestyle. Also, relationships are often permanently damaged as a result of gambling.
How To Get Help For Gambling Addiction
Just as alcoholics and drug addicts develop a tolerance to alcohol and drugs, the gambler will need to gamble more and more to achieve the same effect. The continuous search for that “high” ultimately develops into an addiction.
At The Meadows, we utilize cutting-edge therapies and other techniques to help clients change unhealthy gambling behaviors. Problem gamblers learn how to control their urges, deal with uncomfortable emotions and resolve underlying issues that brought about the addiction through individualized gambling addiction treatment.
To learn more about our program or to seek help for yourself or a loved one, please call 800-244-4949 or visit our website today. All communication is kept strictly confidential.