Gambling Addiction Guide – A Supportive Guide for Dealing With and Recognizing Gambling Addiction

Gambling is not a game, pun intended. There are many people that make their living from gambling and it comes with very high stakes. In moderation, whether professionally or as a hobby, gambling can be a thrilling game that provides a huge rush and large payoffs both emotionally and financially. On the other hand, there are people that lose their lives, family, friends, and livelihood because of gambling. Unfortunately, the latter is a much easier situation to fall victim to. Very few people have accidentally found themselves poker superstars, but thousands of Americans lose their homes to gambling addictions every year.

People with gambling addictions, also referred to as compulsive gamblers, will often deny their problems, sometimes until the brink of destruction. In the United States alone, there are at over 700,000 young people between the ages of 14 and 21 with a gambling problem, some of these difficulties arising while in college. Another study shows that mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, and drug/substance abuse, are more likely to develop in someone with a gambling addiction. Regrettably these are very sad statistics. When people begin gambling at a young age, it can become  difficult to stop the addiction and the recover process becomes harder as well, especially if the former gambler   spiral into debt and potentially go down the substance abuse path. Along with young people, those that suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a very high chance of falling into compulsive debt. Roughly 12.5 to 29 percent of PTSD sufferers may suffer from gambling addictions as well, only toughening their burdens.

There are a number of myths associated with gambling addiction. Myths such as daily gambling being one of the only signs of gambling addiction, or that if you have the means and can  afford to compulsively gamble then it’s not an  issue , and of course  if you know someone with a gambling addiction, you should help them by paying off their debts. None of these are true. As with any addiction, an individual might be reluctant or refuse to open up about their situation.  There are many self-help options available and specialized therapy for gamblers. however, choices for how to deal with addiction after acknowledging the problem can be deeply personal.  While many addiction myths are more clichés than facts, it is 100% true that a gambler acknowledging they have a problem is the first and most essential step towards getting better.

Since there is no true “cure” for a gambling addiction, an individual will find it difficult to restrain themselves from gambling. This is because, according to recent studies in psychology, neuroscience and genetics, gambling is much more similar to a drug addiction than we think. As an addiction develops,   a series of circuits in the middle of our brain known as the “reward system” links other regions of the brain. When we do something that keeps us alive, this reward center releases the chemical messenger dopamine that makes us feel good. That’s why having sex or eating your favorite food is so satisfying, however, when one takes drugs, the dopamine released is substantially larger which leads us to crave this feeling again. Similarly to a drug addiction, gambling changes many of the brain circuits. Nevertheless in times of “withdrawal”, gamblers  have to learn to depend on support systems to help them recover.     There are many perks to recovery   which may include saving money, healing personal bonds which may have been broken or strained, and even gaining time, the most valuable commodity.. Most importantly, people that seek treatment are able to get a steady handle back on their lives. Although the road may not be easy, it is worth it.

If you feel like you may have a gambling addiction, know that it is OK to seek help and you’re making the right decision for wanting to make a change. If you’re not sure you have a gambling addiction and want an opinion from someone outside your normal circle of friends and family, please call the United States National Gambling Hotline at 1-800-522-4700. They have people available to speak to you 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Along with having someone to speak to about your questions anonymously, they can provide you with helpful resources that are available in each state and are designed to assist you on the road to recovery. If you are located internationally, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) has resources listed on their website for various countries. The NCPG also has excellent resources available for those affected by someone with a gambling addiction and an online list of International Certified Gambling Counselors and a list of inpatient and residential treatment facilities.

Ultimately, gambling can be an exciting   pastime, which has the potential to make someone money, and create new friendships. Despite this, it’s important to note that it should be done in moderation and safely. In the event you begin to head down a negative road, please stop and seek help immediately. If family, friends, or colleagues approach you with their observations, please listen. They have your best interest in mind and are only trying to help you and truly have your best interest in mind. If you are going to gamble, exercise caution and be sure not to become overly boastful. Know when to set limits for yourself and know when to walk away. If you keep these things in mind, gambling will be one of the best pastimes to enjoy.