Symptoms Or Tips For Identifying Gambling Addiction

 

           Source: addiction.com

It is necessary to be able to prevent a problem before it becomes uncontrollable and to do this, careful and precise attention must be placed at noticing the signs attributed to the problem. Gambling addiction has its symptoms and these symptoms make it easy to unravel the involvement of someone; and also to check one’s self towards preventing a great fall.

There are various possible means to understanding or realizing people that are already addicted, apart from having a talk therapy; that will be intended at figuring out someone’s intention and involvement, other symptoms can be taken note of as well.

It is not enough to talk about the symptoms for identifying gambling addictions without taking a brief look at this addiction.

Gambling Addiction

          Source: casinoz.club

Gambling is the willingness to sacrifice something of value in other to acquire something of greater value compared to what was sacrificed. So, gambling addiction is the consistent urge for gambling irrespective of the adverse effects it will have on one’s life. It is that point when gambling becomes a habit and there’s really nothing that can stop a person from gambling even after losing.

“Even those who have never been to a casino and likely never will can still become addicted gamblers because of the proliferation of gambling websites.” –Dr. David Hodgson

It is also referred to as problem gambling; it is an addictive disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) and has also been tagged as an impulse control disorder according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) based on the study on pathological gambling.

Gambling addiction can be caused by an excessive hunger for gambling and it is at that point when nothing else appears paramount except gambling. Though it is possible to have control over your gambling habit, this is rare and might even end up leading to an addiction.

Symptoms and Tips

           Source: meridianhealthcare.net

It is necessary to be able to help those that are addicted and also to keep one’s self in check, there are various things that can be taken into consideration to know when to quit or when to seek help. As it is hard to give up easily on addiction, it is better to be conscious of the symptoms or signs of addiction.

So, what signs must be seen to know that gambling addiction is occurring to someone?

  1. Financial instability: One of the most obvious signs is finance as the person will have to struggle to meet up with his/her daily target and the hunger for more will always be there. As Eric Dammann, PhD used to say, “We all have money issues and quirks of one kind or another. If we don’t know what those quirks are, they will emerge in a time of real stress or panic.” When a person that gambles begin to have issues with finance and then still continues to gamble in that instability; then it’s time to stop because the same feeling he/she gets with a lesser amount of money, will not be able to be met by the same amount; which leads to an increasing amount of money spent daily.
  2. Keeping Secrets: When the problem persists, the gambler begins to keep secrets of his/her movements and even of their spending. They are very much interested in placing bets and putting a large sum of money into gambling than any other thing, so the need for secrecy begins. When this is noticed, seek help.
  3. Spending time away: Addicted gamblers derive so much pleasure in giving a large chunk of their time to gambling, this allows them to spend time away from their family and even friends. They can decide to come home late from work or just head out after work and come back very late, the time they spend increases as the addiction grows. They also neglect to gather with people who are not gamblers because that’s where they feel they fit in.
  4. Desperation: When there is a desperate need for money and they are willing to do anything it’ll take to get more, just so they will have more money to gamble, and they can even consider theft or fraud, then that is another sign to identify gambling addiction. They can even spend time talking about gambling and express how it makes them feel.
  5. Source of happiness: “Happy people do things differently. They make their emotional wellbeing a priority and practice daily and weekly habits that help them create joy, happiness and satisfaction in their lives.” Dr. Chantal Gagnon PhD LMHC said. But there are those who tend to get enough satisfaction from gambling than any other thing. It becomes their number one priority and ultimately becomes their source of happiness. They derive pleasure in gambling any time and no love is shown by the family of friends will seem enough to match their burning desire for gambling.

When questions begin to bug our minds about our stand with gambling and we find ourselves testing positive to them instead of having negative responses, it’s a call to check ourselves. Questions like:

  • Do you spend so much on gambling than any other thing?
  • Do you find pleasure in meeting with friends or spending that time in a casino?
  • Do you constantly fall into debts and then continue to still borrow to quench your desire to gamble?
  • Do you neglect family time just to meet up with a gambling activity?
  • Do you continuously find yourself going back to gamble after you have decided to quit?

It means there’s a lot to be done and help is very much needed as quickly as possible.

Reasons Why I Gamble

I am a fan of gambling. I like anything that involves betting a considerable amount of cash onto something. This type of habit that I have supports my desire for a different level of thrill and excitement. I get to feel energized every time I win, and I also feel motivated whenever I lose. But that is just me. I don’t know how gambling affects other people because I understand that every person had different views and opinions on that particular matter.

source: pexels.com

Source Of Entertainment

Perhaps you will agree with me that gambling seems entirely designed for entertainment. Those flashing lights with all the colorful slot machines, it fits perfectly with the idea of a party themed environment. It pretty much appears to be a place for fun and relaxation. But of course, kids are not allowed in there. Presumably, it is a haven only for adults that are young at hearts. So yeah, part of the reason why I gamble is to entertain myself. As Dr. Chantal Gagnon PhD LMHC explains, “Happy people do things differently. They make their emotional wellbeing a priority and practice daily and weekly habits that help them create joy, happiness and satisfaction in their lives.”

Source: pexels.com

Earn Cash Instantly

Admittedly, my primary reason for gambling is to earn a lot of cash instantly. Seriously, who wouldn’t want that these days? I know so many people who dream of winning a lot of money by betting everything, and I am one of them. You see, gambling, if you are lucky, is all about bringing you tons of cash without sweating so hard for it. Gambling, for me, is all about getting doubled or tripled the amount of money without hard work. That is something.

Challenge Luck

The truth is, a lot of gamblers are mentally oriented, but not all of them are emotionally prepared. Meaning, an avid gambler like me knows when things are turning my way. I understand that there are times where I see no luck at all. But I believe in this particular instinct that somehow tells me to try my luck over and over again. But despite that optimism, I get to feel anxious and scared inside. Like any other hard gamblers, I also think the fear of luck moving away from me from time to time. “As long as we feel like we’re doing average and have basic needs met, such as food and shelter, there is no correlation between money and happiness.” Brad Klontz, PsyD explains.

Source: pexels.com

 

The Truth About My Habit

“As long as you talk about it, a saver and a spender can figure out how to manage things so they’re both happy,” says Eric Dammann, PhD. Of course I know there are only two results that might happen – winning and losing. When you lose, you just got to try again. When you win, you merely celebrate. But with all the different views of people have, including what’s mine, one thing is sure. Gambling is not a habit. It is an addiction, and I am addicted to it.

Sadly, it seems too late for me to instantly distance myself from the detrimental habit I build up for so long. I was wrong to think that gambling is a form of entertainment. It is not even useful for interactive social growth. There are no long-term benefits to it, to be honest. Not only it does takes so much of my time, money, and energy, it does not also allow me to develop overall emotional and psychological strength. Now it becomes a question of “what I think is right” and “how I see things right.”

Roles Of Family And Friend As A Support System For Gambling Addicts

 

            Source: hamrah.co

Gambling doesn’t just affect the gambler. It can have serious consequences for the people around them too. Its far-reaching consequences involve the lives of spouses, children, friends, employers, and co-workers, but most especially is the immediate family.

Gambling addicts rarely see the problem with gambling; to them, it is just a game of luck. A person with a gambling problem uses defense mechanisms and manipulation to protect their habit and it becomes very hard to convince them of a need for change. Heather Berlin, a neuroscientist at Mt. Sinai, says that like drug addicts, problem gamblers are unable to stop gambling even when the behavior becomes destructive. “They’ll do it at the cost of losing their job, destroying their relationships, or losing their money,” she says. “Gambling addicts just can’t seem to stop themselves from engaging in this negative or detrimental behavior.” Here are some helpful tips for friends and family on how you can be a support to a loved one who is a gambling addict.

Understand the trigger

            Source: rehabs.com

“Because gambling is known to trigger these addiction pathways, it is often considered to be a behavioral addiction – or behavior that can become compulsive over time, causing a lot of harm to people’s lives,” says Hailey Shafir, LPCS, LCAS, CCS-I. Family and friends need to understand what triggered your loved one into gambling, could it have been reasons of desperation for money, the desire to experience the thrills and highs, the social status associated with being a successful gambler, or the entertaining atmosphere of the mainstream gambling scene or plain depression. In this way, you are able to relate and support them from that angle. Avoid trying to protect them by giving in to their whims and schemes. Don’t envision him or her as the enemy. Envision the addiction as the problem that must be overcome.

Understand the struggle

Overcoming a gambling addiction is a tough process, it’s a tough battle to beat down addiction and they need all the right support to stop gambling and act responsibly.  Gambling is also everywhere; readily available to suck them back into the old pattern. So help them resist the desire to gamble again by being supportive. Help your loved one understand that you see him or her as more than a person with a problem by telling them explicitly how much you care about them and their wellbeing. Offer to be someone the person can call or talk to when they find themselves in a stressful situation or on the verge of a relapse. Because “Suffering has complicated factors that interface including: physical, psychological, social, emotional and neurological.” says Karen Doll, Psy.D., L.P.

Show Respect

            Source: express.co.uk

Remember it takes tremendous strength and courage to own up to one’s inadequacies, especially if they have lost a lot of money and strained or broken relationships along the way. Respect them as a person not for the wrong choice they made but for who they really are. More importantly, relate to them as an equal person and not as a disappointment. Remind them of their many positive attributes, good qualities, and past accomplishments. This will help build their self-esteem and confidence.  

Be kind

When a loved one has chosen to give up gambling and realizes he or she has a problem which is the first step towards overcoming the addiction and recovery. He or she may often feel alone, depressed, ashamed and have low self-esteem. They may feel out of control and embarrassed about their actions and the consequence it has brought upon them. This feeling can lead them into a state of relapse and sometimes contemplate suicide. This crucial period we need to support them in their struggle and that they are not alone, relate to them as an equal person.

As Jennifer L. Taitz, PsyD once stated, “I’m pretty blown away by the idea of Loving-Kindness Meditation. Meaning, instead of drowning in sadness, purposefully spending a few minutes wishing people well (from you to a mentor to a stranger to a person you know struggling) can actually lead to productive actions and increase your joy.” With that, you must be cautious with your interactions and dialogue, keep your temper in check, be patient with his or her treatment and recovery and make sure you don’t exclude them from the family. Offer to be someone the person can call or talk to when they find themselves in a stressful situation or on the verge of a relapse. Be kind

Breaking The Habit: Stop Gambling

Gambling is one of the detrimental types of addictions that an individual can have. Yes, it may not seem to be that intense compared to other mental health illnesses. But it sure creates massive destruction not only to the person experiencing it but to the people around him as well. It never supports growth and development. It never exists to create a better environment for someone who needs emotional and mental stability.

Source: maxpixel.net

The Sad Truth

Gambling is a big lie. “Gambling Disorder is characterized by a pattern of compulsive gambling that becomes problematic and leads to the experience of negative consequences in an individual’s life.” Hailey Shafir, LPCS, LCAS, CCS-I said. It was merely created to allow people to hold onto false hope. It makes everyone believe that it is a form of entertainment that focuses only on providing happy and encouraging emotions. But those ideologies are all lies. It will never support any emotional and psychological development at all angles because it feeds with anxiety and depression. It only caters to self-destruction.

Sadly, people do not see it. Or should I say, they do not tend to acknowledge its destructive components. Gambling may seem a perfect solution for an instant burst of thrill and excitement. But it will never create lasting benefits to every aspect of life. Not only gambling makes someone financially unstable, but it also adds to the pressure of always wanting to get more and even bigger expectations, which is by the way not healthy for both emotional and psychological states. That is due to the “Problem gamblers tend to minimize their problem or deny that their gambling has become uncontrolled.” That is according to Jeremy Frank PhD CADC, a Philadelphia Psychologist & Addiction Counselor.

Source: pixabay.com

Honestly, the ironic part is that a lot of people are still into gambling. A lot of them are looking at the habit indifferently. Some say it is merely for entertainment. Others use it for adrenaline booster, while some are viewing it as a source for a chance of a lifetime. You see, gamblers are not thinking straight. And the reason why almost a considerable percentage of these people are addicted to gambling is because of their perception of what the habit is. Most gamblers often love to excuse themselves by telling people that gambling (for them) is advantageous because it makes them happy. However, contrary to that point of view, gambling – in connection with losing a lot of money – pushes someone to become unpredictably greedy, hopeless, anxious, and depressed.

But with everybody’s defense, I am not saying that an individual that gamble is already addicted to the habit. There are just those individuals who get considered because of the unsurprising negative life changes they experience after getting hooked with gambling. Seriously, what is it in gambling that makes a lot of people addicted?

Source: maxpixel.net

Why You Need To Stop

If you are still in denial of yourself that you cannot admit to being a gambling addict, you might want to reconsider. Look at yourself and picture out how massive the changes in your life have been. Calculate all the money you spent betting a lot without considering ten times fold chances of losing. Look at your surroundings and think about those people who used to stay by your side. If negative things that impact all of these factors don’t affect you, please seek professional help immediately. As psychiatrist Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones said, “If people were able to say ‘I am a problem gambler’ in the same way that they say ‘I am an alcoholic’ then it would protect them.”

Physical Health Effects Of Gambling

 

           Source: buzzle.com

 

The issues related to gambling and gambling in itself is a global phenomenon that is constantly increasing in terms of the number of new people who become hooked on it. The level of accessibility to gambling activities is at an all-time high so there is a great need for the government and private stakeholders responsible for its continuous growth to ensure that there are adequate orientation and awareness of the risks and dangers involved in it.

“Just like our feelings give us information about our needs, so do our bodies through physiological feedback,” –Eliza Chamblin, LCSW

Those actively involved in providing and allowing (especially the government) gambling services need to ensure that when their clients unavoidably become hooked or addicted to gambling that it is adequate up to date research, treatment facility and so on. Ultimately, the onus is on the government to ensure that its citizens are aware of the dangers of gambling so that they are able to make informed decisions and prevent themselves from getting addicted to gambling.

         Source: .addictions.com

 

The problems associated or caused directly by gambling addiction can be very adverse and may have long-lasting effects on the family, relationships, finance, work and even the society at large. Though, a psychiatrist Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones wants to be specific when she said, “Families suffer terribly from gambling. They lose homes, the kids become depressed. This is not the worst case by any means.”

Research has shown that gambling is associated with a number of physical, mental and emotional health issues. Some of the physical issues linked with gambling include muscular tension, insomnia, colitis, high blood pressure, fatigue, heart disease, migraines, stomach ailments, and skin problems. Some of the mental problems include obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity, depression, manic and clinical depression and a decline in self-worth. It should be noted that most gamblers are likely to result in smoking and drinking habits which create other health problems.

            Source: betterhealth.vic.gov.au

 

Heart Disease: Gambling pre-exposes you to a wide range of heart conditions which include blood vessel diseases like the coronary artery disease and also heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias). Due to the high pressure that comes with gambling, the risks of the blood vessels constricting or getting blocked increases greatly, chest pains, stroke, and heart attack can also occur.

High Blood Pressure: Hypertension is one of the most likely consequences of gambling. When the body is always anxious and stressed trying to figure out the outcomes and the looking forward to a favorable one even though most times it turns out to be the opposite.

Muscular Tension: This is common for gamblers and those who place their valuables on the outcome of specific events. This tension is produced as a result of the cross-bridges formed between the actin and the myosin filaments in each muscle fiber of the body, the resultant force acts on the bones through the tendons and connective tissues causing external tension.

Insomnia: The inability to sleep which is very crucial to the body can be an effect of compulsive gambling. Staying up all night can seriously affect your physical wellbeing making you fatigued and drowsy. The consequence of chronic insomnia can be very adverse as it will lead to diabetes, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and so on. Witht that, Staci Lee Schnell, MS, CS, LMFT emphasizes that “Patients who experience continued insomnia are less likely to respond to medication and psychotherapy treatment than those without sleep problems.”

Consistent Gambling simply increases the risk of hypertension by ensuring that your blood pressure is over the healthy limit which can lead to heart diseases, kidney diseases, and even stroke.

Migraines: Gambling requires that you are always playing the odds in your head even before you place your bets. Recurrent headaches are one of those health issues gamblers have to deal with. It is usually characterized by a sharp, throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head which can be disabling.

Fatigue: The feeling of exhaustion, lack of energy and lack of motivation is quite common among gamblers.

Colitis: the inflammation of the inner lining of the colon commonly called colitis is another physical health issue that can be triggered by excessive gambling. 

The Unfortunate Things That Happened Due To Gambling Addiction

Honestly, it was not easy to admit that I have a mental health problem. I did not even consider looking at myself as an addict because I believe that the things I do are in control. I understand that there are consequences for what I do. But I never came to realize that I could lose everything in an instant. I firmly believed that my enthusiast for gambling is somehow comparable to a hobby. Little did I know it was entirely the opposite of what I thought it used to be.

Source: maxpixel.net

It Fast-Forwarded Time

As I got stuck in the mentality of “living life to the fullest,” I intended to spend all my time into gambling leisure. I thought I was getting an exemption by wasting my time because of the idea that I need to be happy doing things that I enjoyed the most. With that type of perception, I never entirely care about anything else aside from the momentary enjoyment and thrill I experienced with gambling. But then, the realization hit me so hard that it was already too late to realize that I lost a lot of time in different casinos. With that, the last thing I know is that I am now old and broke. Therefore, I realized Karla Helbert, LPC, E-RYT, C-IAYT when she says, “Putting things in perspective and treating yourself with love and compassion can be such a gift.”

Source: pixabay.com

It Destroyed My Marital Relationship

Yes, it was fun gambling with friends. I honestly enjoyed spending moments together with the people who supported my gambling addiction. For me, it was a perfect life. However, I was too focused on the particular habit that I ignored essential people in my life. I lost communication with my wife. I never knew I was slowly pushing my family away from me. I was not aware that I am putting myself in a box and shutting down the only person who honestly wants to save me from the psychological condition I experienced. I ruined my marriage. Now I guess psychiatrist Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones was right after all when she said, “Families suffer terribly from gambling. They lose homes, the kids become depressed. This is not the worst case by any means.”

Source: pixabay.com

It Made Me Hate Myself

Again, I was too focused on giving myself the life I have always dreamed of, regardless of the consequences that I knew could happen. Honestly, I somehow understood that gambling would soon take me into my doom. But then, I chose not to pay much attention to that. But after I lost a lot of money, time, and energy, I began to hate myself. I hated myself for not winning consistently, and I hated myself for not being able to control the mental condition.

How It Changed My Life

My gambling addiction became worse over time. It ended up destroying my fortune, my relationships with people, as well as my overall health. It became something I valued more than anything else. As a result, it took everything away from me. Yes, this may seem a bit exaggerated, but it is the truth. I now do not have a stable financial income, I do not have someone to support me, and I do not know if the time left if enough to make me change things. Gambling is not and never will become comparable to a hobby like what I used to believe in. It is a mental condition. So if you are in the least same situation as mine, consider asking for professional help immediately. “Not everyone who gambles has a problem with it. It is important to determine whether or not the other person has an addiction,” says Natalia S. David, PsyD.

Effects Of Problem Gambling On Families

 

            Source: pixabay.com

Gambling problems can be of great damage more than you’ll ever know. It will not only harm the gambler himself but worse, it can be of harm to his immediate family as well. And with this, the impact is even much pain.

Why Can’t They Stop Gambling?

The majority of the people with gambling addiction lost grasp of their money and time. As a result, many aspects of their lives deem to suffer because of their being irresponsible. Some of these people with gambling problems are in denial that the root cause of their problems in life is the gambling itself. Some tried to put to a stop on this addiction before but mostly failed. That is why they are not willing to change since they have this notion that they will still fail in the end. Yes,  “Families suffer terribly from gambling. They lose homes, the kids become depressed. This is not the worst case by any means.” says psychiatrist Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones.

Deep inside these people who are problem gamblers have that deep guilt in their hearts. They are very much aware of the effects of their actions on their loved ones and as well as to themselves. Most of these people get into a huge debt that in the end, they get in trouble with the lenders. They want to quit gambling, but the leisure, fun, and excitement it brings are too much just to let go.

Some would attempt to quit to keep the situation from their loved ones. However, it drove them more into the situation to the level wherein they could not give up already. They keep playing in the hope that they win big to cover their losses and when this happens, they will stop and rebuild their lives. But this notion very seldom happens. “Because gambling is known to trigger these addiction pathways, it is often considered to be a behavioral addiction – or behavior that can become compulsive over time, causing a lot of harm to people’s lives.” Hailey Shafir, LPCS, LCAS, CCS-I said. Therefore, it must be stopped.

           Source: pixabay.com

How Are The Families Affected?

Money Problems

Loss of financial control is the direct effect of gambling addiction. Brad Klontz, PsyD once said, “if you’re under significant financial strain, it’s associated with depression, anxiety, relationship conflicts, and a sense of loss of personal control.” Because of that urgency to gamble, unnecessary dispensing of money from personal money takes place. And then, later on, it will affect the family savings, investments, belongings, and even properties. Because of this, the families of the people with gambling problems feel betrayed, angry and even scared of the consequences of the situation they got into.

Emotional Isolation And Problems

The family of a person who gambles too much would feel confused, angry, betrayed, hurt and even ashamed. But the person involved in gambling would deny that his actions are causing problems.

Isolation

Partners of the person who gambles would distance themselves from the person with the problem and the situation itself. They do this to protect themselves from the pain. People with the said problem tear away themselves from their social circle, friends, and acquaintances due to shame. Some friendships and relationships ended due to bad debts.

Physical And Mental Health

Because of the stress gambling can bring, the person in question and his family are on the verge of having some health problems. Mental health problems are also very much possible since the depression, anxiety and other emotional problems may take place.

Burnout

Because of the consequences of gambling, families are thriving and trying to cope. One member would usually stand out and will get the family afloat during the situation. This member will take care of the responsibilities, keep the family together and keep the household running. But eventually, this family member will feel worn out or burned out.

Emotional And Physical Abuse

One common consequence of gambling in the family is the abuse in the emotional and physical aspects. If this ever happens, notify the authorities at once.

Impact on The Children

The children under the guardianship of a person with a gambling dilemma are also greatly affected by the situation. Emotional problems take place as most of them could feel that deep resentment and depression. Some would even blame themselves, and because of the negligence of the person that has gambling conditions, children are forced to take responsibilities into their shoulders. Responsibilities that should be executed by the person in question.

Children in this kind of situation are often caught between choosing which parent to go with, will have trust issues and get into so much trouble. Some kids would engage in something illegal or vices just to distract themselves from their problems. Below are some of the things children may get into:

  • Gambling
  • Use of drugs
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Breaking the law

If the situation reaches this point, it should then be instilled in these children’s minds that the family’s problem is not and will never their fault.

                 Source: pixabay.com

Depression And Anxiety

Depression, stress, and anxiety are common emotions for people with problems with gambling. And because of this, the following may take place:

  • Lost interest with the usual routine
  • Feel irritable and down
  • Sleep pattern changes
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight problems
  • The feeling of hopelessness, and helplessness
  • Memory problems
  • Feeling guilty all the time
  • Thinking about the problems most of the time
  • No appetite for sex
  • Restlessness
  • Angry
  • Suicidal

If these signs and symptoms are present, seek professional help at once.

Suicide Risk

Suicide incidents are also found in families that are affected by gambling. Some think that this is their only way out of the situation.

Suicidal Thoughts? Things To Take Note

If you are having thoughts of committing suicide, here are the things you can do:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Stay away from objects that can be used to harm yourself.
  • Talk to someone about your feeling.
  • Call a local distress center for assistance.
  • Notify your doctor.
  • Stay away from drugs and alcohol.
  • Contact a gambling hotline in your locality.

What to do when a family member wants to commit suicide?

Indicators of suicidal person:

  • Changes in mood and appearance
  • Depressed and withdrawn
  • Giving away his prized possessions
  • Talks about suicidal plans
  • Makes final wishes

If this happens to a family member:

  • Take the act seriously
  • Stay calm
  • Let the person talk to you
  • Accept whatever he is saying
  • Ask about his suicidal plans
  • Remove anything that can be used to harm himself
  • Get professional help
  • Notify the doctor

The Vulnerability To Gambling Addiction

It is entirely essential to start recognizing mental conditions by defining it correctly. The truth is, a lot of us are not aware of the exact definition of all the different types of psychological illnesses out there. That includes addiction. For most of us, we used to think that addiction only resonates with alcohol and substance abuse alone. That the need for this stuff dramatically influences our ability to function. It is even though there are tons of scenarios that get associated with addiction, such as gambling.

Let’s Talk About Gambling

“Compulsive gambling is a serious addiction that can cause severe consequences.” That is according to Natalia S. David, PsyD. Despite the negative consequences of losing a lot of money frequently, what most of us do not understand is every individual’s interest in what they do. Yes, some might argue that gambling is something that anyone can get rid of whenever they want to. However, that is not often the case. You see, our brain works differently. So the assumption of letting go or quitting on to something that gives us pleasure takes more than just an instant resolution. Sometimes the process of quitting unto it requires a lot of effort and time. In unfortunate events, gambling that results in addiction will eventually need treatments such as therapy or counseling. And that is something no one would genuinely want to happen. At least, not one can easily acknowledge at first.

The Vulnerability

So why do we gamble? Honestly, it is all because of the intensity of our current excitement. You see, we gamble because of the positive energy we have that allows us to maintain a positive aspect in terms of winning. That explains why we often want to continue betting more every time we end up gaining more. It’s as if there’s a sense of fulfillment that pushes us to try gambling over and over again because of the assurance of a streak. “Because gambling is known to trigger these addiction pathways, it is often considered to be a behavioral addiction – or behavior that can become compulsive over time, causing a lot of harm to people’s lives.” Hailey Shafir, LPCS, LCAS, CCS-I said.

However, that particular scenario is not always the case. Sometimes, the opposite turn of events can become a contributing factor for our gambling addiction as well. That is because the mental torture of losing everything makes us want to bet more to get things even. Yes, we sometimes gamble, not because we want to win. But instead, we choose to get back on those losses we previously made. You see, the opposite is a clear representation of why gambling addiction becomes so rampant.

The vulnerability of gambling lies in winning and losing. Unfortunately, its addiction sticks mostly on the continuation of losing. A lot of us often do not mind what we get from winning, but we often look forward to getting back what we lost. However, that particular mental state leads us to become in denial of our actions and view our gambling addiction as a hobby. But of course, we know it is not at all like that. “Gambling addiction is often referred to as the “hidden illness” because there are no physical signs or symptoms that accompany it as is the case with many alcohol or drug abusers.” As explained by Jeremy Frank PhD CADC, a Philadelphia Psychologist & Addiction Counselor.

For now, we might not consider gambling addiction as something intensely harmful and damaging (not at least). However, the severity of the desire or drive that makes us want to gamble every time is enough to conclude that we are trapped in a mental condition.

Targeting The Psychological Mechanisms Of Gambling Addiction

Several years ago, people believed that true addictions could only be based on addictive substances such as drugs or alcohol. Activities such as gambling were not considered to be able to cause addiction, and people who were unable to control their gambling sprees were labeled as stupid and reckless.

However, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical  Manual of Mental Disorders, the gold standard for categorizing mental illnesses, finally classified pathological gambling as an addiction. People are starting to recognize the addictive nature of gambling, and this increased understanding will hopefully lead to more action to solve this issue.

“Not everyone who gambles has a problem with it. It is important to determine whether or not the other person has an addiction.” –Natalia S. David, PsyD.

Around two million individuals in America alone grapple with gambling addiction, and several million more face similar dilemmas around the globe. Many people believe that gambling is something that anyone can quit easily, but there is more to it than just willpower. The mechanisms by which the act of gambling becomes addictive are deeply rooted in psychology and cognitive science, and understanding these can help us design more effective therapies to cure people of this addiction.

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The Reward System

Becoming addicted to behaviors such as gambling shares similar mechanisms with addiction due to substances. A particular region in the brain contains neural circuits that activate when people engage in pleasure-seeking activities such as eating or sex. Thus, this part is called the reward system of the brain, and it connects to several other brain regions that influence memory, pleasure, and motivation. The reward system serves a beneficial role by rewarding behavior that helps in survival, such as eating, or that helps in perpetuating the species, such as sex. This effect increases the motivation to seek out these activities in the future.

“If people were able to say ‘I am a problem gambler’ in the same way that they say ‘I am an alcoholic’ then it would protect them.” -Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones

However, you can also abuse the reward system. The thrill of gambling also produces the same feel-good neurotransmitters that other pleasurable acts can produce. Gambling activates the reward center, marking the activity as something that should be sought after in the future. As the addiction grows, connections of the reward center with the prefrontal cortex weaken. The prefrontal cortex influences decision-making and impulse control, and the weaker connections result in a greater difficulty to stop the addiction from progressing.

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Mistaken Beliefs

Many addicted gamblers hold beliefs that make them more vulnerable to losing control. For example, the common gamblers’ fallacy is the mistaken belief that a massive win must eventually follow a series of losses. Some people, then, take this as a sign to keep placing bets, even if they have already accumulated large losses.

Some specific gambling mechanisms also take advantage of the psychology of gambling. Some devices have random periods where they give rewards more frequently and generously, encouraging gamblers to stick around in the hopes of placing a bet during these high-reward times. Other devices entice losing players to keep on playing by increasing reward pots after a series of losses. Almost all machines used for gambling are adorned with bright lights and warm colors, and most casinos use classy decor that denotes a high-brow culture. All of these can subtly associate gambling with eventual riches in the minds of the players.

“Although any kind of gambling can become addictive, video slot and poker machines are the most seductive because they offer the greatest escape.” – Psychologist Robert Hunter

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These mechanisms underscore the need for holistic treatments to stop gambling, such as therapies that include medication and counseling. Interventions on the part of casinos themselves, such as policies meant to discourage people from falling into addiction, are also necessary. Only a multisector approach can solve problems as complex as addiction.

Betting On The Other Side Of You: Bipolar Disorder And Gambling Addiction

Bipolar disorder also known as manic depression is a severe mental health issue demonstrated by mood swings and abrupt change in behavior. At times, people with this condition experience extreme sorrow or depression and at times happiness and power.

“Bipolar Disorder is a mental health issue where neurological differences can be observed between those who have and do not have this diagnosis.” Catherine “Katie” Ness, MA, LCPC said. Bipolar disorder can be hereditary. If one of the parents has a mood disorder, there is a high risk that the child will have the condition too. About 50% of people diagnosed with this condition have a family member with the same mental health issue or mood disorder such as depression.

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However, bipolar disorder is mainly biological. There is an area in the brain which functions differently due to malfunction in neurotransmitters such as the norepinephrine or the stress hormone. It makes us think faster; increases our heart rate which pumps more blood; increases glucose release; increases breathing rate providing more oxygen to the brain; and finally, restricts metabolic processes which then passes the energyto the brain and other muscles, making them function faster thus explaining the mania.

On the other hand, he could also experience the opposite and drown in severe depression. It could cause him to shut the world out and express resentment. He would have terrible mood swings, and it is likely that he will fall into addiction as well. It could be substance abuse, alcohol, or maybe even gambling. 

What Is It Like To Have A Bipolar Disorder And A Gambling Addiction?

“Compulsive gambling is a serious addiction that can cause severe consequences,”  says Natalia S. David, PsyD. When you are winning in a gamble, there is a feeling of power and superiority which is what’s addictive in the first place. It satisfies the mania – the aspect of bipolar disorder which describes the heightened energy level.

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When a person with bipolar disorder switches moods and becomes sad, he could lose the interest in gambling, but then there will also be a tendency that he will still turn to it to appease the overwhelming sadness.

Do People With Bipolar Disorder Favor A Personality Over Another?

No. People with bipolar disorder couldn’t choose what to feel. Their brains function unusually in a random place or time. There could still be triggers such as stress, environment, and social pressure, but most of the time, they are unable to control their emotions.

What Is The Connection Between Bipolar Disorder And Addiction?

Since bipolar disorder is a problem with mood and behavior, it could also influence the brain to be vulnerable with overwhelming emotions. We could easily be tempted and persuaded as we tend to act based on what our brain demands which most of the time is to contain and respond to our feelings, which then, again, can be due to brain malfunction. Yes, John Preston, PsyD.  seems right when he said, “Bipolar disorder is probably the main psychiatric disorder where medication is absolutely essential.”

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We couldn’t exactly tell how a person with bipolar disorder feels. He might prefer a feeling over another, but sadly, he doesn’t have the power to choose. He could always bet on being happy and active, but having a bipolar disorder means you have to deal with the other facet of it, too.