As is typical of other addictions, the biggest step to overcoming this disorder is realizing that you have a disorder. Gambling addiction is also known as:
- Gambling disorder
- Pathological gambling
- Compulsive gambling
It takes a lot of strength to admit to this problem, especially if you have lost a lot of money and broken relationships along the way. But, there is a treatment for compulsive gambling. Many other people have been in your shoes and have been able to break out of this trap and rebuild their lives. So can you.
Is Gambling Addiction a Mental Illness?
Gambling addiction is a progressive addiction that can cause many psychological, physical, and social consequences. It is classified as an impulse-control disorder and is included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition (DSM-5).
Problem gambling is hurtful to psychological and physical health. Individuals who live with this addiction may experience
- Intestinal disorders
- Anxiety-related problems.
As in the case of other addictions, the consequences of gambling can lead to feelings of despair and helplessness. Sometimes this can lead to attempts at suicide. The rate of problem gambling has risen around the world in the past several years. In 2012, about 5.77 million people had a gambling disorder that required treatment.
People who gamble compulsively often have substance abuse problems, personality disorders, depression, or anxiety. Because of the detrimental consequences, gambling addiction has become an important public health consideration in many countries.
Even though most people who play cards or make bets never develop a gambling problem, there are certain factors that are more often associated with pathological gambling.
Mental health disorders
People who compulsively gamble often have SUDs, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, OCD, or ADHD.
Gambling addiction is more common in younger and middle-aged people. And, like substance addiction, gambling during childhood or the teen years increases the risk of developing the addiction. Still, gambling among retired adults can also be a problem.
Gambling disorder is more common in men than women. Treatment for gambling addiction can be gender-specific.
Influence of family or friend
If you have family or friends with a gambling addiction, the chances are greater that you will too.
Medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease and restless leg syndrome are called dopamine agonists and may result in compulsive behaviors.
Being highly competitive, a workaholic, restless, impulsive, or easily bored may increase your risk.
Triggers To Compulsive Gambling
Gambling can lead to a variety of problems, but the addiction can happen to anyone. There is no way to predict who will develop an addiction to gambling. Gambling becomes a problem when it can’t be controlled and when it interferes with relationships, finances, and the workplace. Nevertheless, it may take the individual sometime before they realize they have a problem.
Many people who develop a gambling addiction are generally considered responsible and dependable, but there are factors that can lead to a change in behavior. These factors may include:
- Traumatic situation
- Job-related stress
- Emotional changes such as depression or anxiety
- Presence of other addictions
- Environmental factors such as friends or available opportunities
There have been studies that suggest that people whit a tendency to one addiction may have a higher risk of developing another. Genetic, environmental, and neurological factors may also play a part.
Additionally, people who are affected by gambling may also have a problem with drugs or alcohol. This could possibly be due to a predisposition for addiction. And the use of some medications has been tied to a higher risk of gambling addiction.
Secondary addictions can also happen in an attempt to reduce the negative feelings caused by the gambling addiction. Therefore, it’s possible to develop a substance use disorder (SUD) while trying to relieve the guilt of the gambling disorder. However, some people who gamble never experience any secondary addiction.
4 Signs of Gambling Addiction
Addiction to gambling is sometimes referred to as a “hidden illness” because it doesn’t have any physical signs like a drug or alcohol addiction. Typically, compulsive gamblers will try to deny or play down the problem–even to themselves. Here are some signs and symptoms of gambling addiction:
- You feel the need to be secretive about gambling
You might lie about how much you gamble or gamble in secret. You believe that other people won’t understand and you will surprise them with a big win.
- You have trouble controlling your gambling
Are you able to walk away once you start gambling? Or are you driven to gamble until you spend your last dollar? Do you raise your bets in an attempt to win back the money you’ve lost?
- You gamble even when you don’t have the money
When you gamble until you’ve spent your last dollar, do you move on to money you don’t have–such as the money to pay bills and credit cards, or things for your children? You might feel the urge to borrow, sell, or even steal things for gambling money.
- Family and friends are worried about you
Denial keeps compulsive gambling going. You should listen to your friends and family who are worried about you. It isn’t a sign of weakness to ask for help. A lot of older gamblers are unwilling to reach out to their grown children if they’ve gambled away their inheritance. But there is treatment available and it’s never too late to get help.
Myths and Facts About Gambling Addiction
Myth 1: You have to gamble every day to be considered a problem gambler
Fact: Gambling is a problem if it causes problems. A problem gambler may gamble infrequently or frequently.
Myth 2: It’s not really a problem if the gambler can afford it.
Fact: Financial problems aren’t the only ones caused by excessive gambling. Spending too much time on gambling can lead to:
- legal and relationship problems,
- job loss,
- mental health issues including
- Depression and anxiety, and
Myth 3: Having a gambling problem is simply a case of being weak, irresponsible, or unintelligent.
Fact: People with all levels of intelligence and backgrounds can be affected by gambling compulsion. People who were previously considered responsible and strong-willed are just as likely to develop a gambling addiction as anyone else.
Myth 4: People are often driven to gamble by their partners or loved ones.
Fact: Problem gamblers frequently try to explain away their behavior. Blaming others is a way to avoid taking responsibility for their own action. This includes what is needed to overcome the problem.
Myth 5: If a problem gambler accumulates a debt, you should help them pay it.
Fact: Quick-fix solutions might seem to be the right thing to do. But bailing a compulsive gambler out of debt could actually make things worse by enabling their addiction.
4 Tips Family Members Can Start Using Right Now
Start by helping yourself: You have the right to take care of yourself emotionally and financially. Never blame yourself for the gambler’s problems. And don’t let their addiction take over your life. Ignoring your own needs is a way to burn out quickly.
- Don’t try to handle it alone: Coping with a loved one’s gambling addiction can seem so overwhelming that it might seem easier to rationalize their requests “one more time.” You might feel ashamed like you are the only person who has problems like this. If you reach out for support, you will realize that many families have had to deal with this problem.
- Set limits in managing money: To make sure the gambler stays accountable and to prevent relapse, plan to take over the family finances. But this doesn’t mean that you are responsible for controlling every one of the gambler’s impulses to gamble. Your first priorities are to make sure that your own finances and credit aren’t at risk.
- Consider how to handle requests for money: Pathological gamblers often become very good at requesting money either directly or indirectly. They may use manipulation, pleading, or even threats to get it. Sometimes it takes practice to make sure that you aren’t enabling their addiction.
Gambling Addiction Treatment
Overcoming a gambling addiction is not easy and seeking professional help doesn’t mean that you’re weak or can’t handle your issues. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that every gambler is unique so you will need a recovery program developed specifically for your situation. You need to talk to a doctor or mental health professional about different types of gambling addiction programs.
Residential or Inpatient Programs
These programs are for those people who have a severe gambling addiction and are not able to avoid gambling without 24-hour supervision and support. If you no longer have a job or school to be concerned about, and you have no support at home, this may be a necessary option.
There are different levels of care in outpatient programs. They are:
Partial Care (PC) or Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
This type of program is a lower level of care than Residential programs, But similar in daily structure. In PC or PHP your days are spent in the safety and security of the treatment center, usually 5 days per week. Days will be structured with therapy programs, building a life, communication, and relationship skills, and learning relapse prevention.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
In the IOP, you will spend your time at the treatment facility in much the same activities. However, you will only go 3-5 days a week. This leaves more flexibility and freedom to schedule work, family, or school obligations.
Outpatient Program (OP)
OPs are good for people who don’t have a severe or long-term addiction. You have more freedom than in the IOP in that it requires less time at the treatment facility. OPs are also good for people who have completed a higher level of care but don’t feel quite confident enough to totally end treatment and be on their own.
Therapy Treatment In Gambling Rehab
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT for gambling addiction looks at how to change unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts. This includes rationalizations and false beliefs. It can also teach you how to fight the urges to gamble and solve financial, work, and relationship problems caused by gambling. CBT can give you the skills for coping with your addiction that will last a lifetime.
When one person in a family is addicted, all members are affected by it. It is almost certain that your family relationships have been negatively affected by your gambling disorder. Family therapy offers a chance to educate family members and rebuild communication skills, trust, and relationships if they choose.
Career and Credit Counseling
These are most likely issues that have been created by compulsive gambling and can be addressed in counseling sessions.
Treatment for Co-Occurring Conditions
There may be a co-existing condition that contributes to your gambling addiction. It may be:
- Substance abuse
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar Disorder
When a person has an addiction and a mental disorder, it is called a dual diagnosis and it needs to be treated along with the addiction. Dual diagnoses are common in many types of addiction. Problem gambling is sometimes a symptom of bipolar disorder so this will need to be evaluated before making a diagnosis.
Getting Treatment in New Jersey
This is your time to come out of hiding that gambling problem you’ve been trying to cover up. You can do yourself, your family, and your friends a favor by making that one step into recovery. You are not the only person to suffer from a gambling addiction.
At Kingsway Recovery, we can guarantee you that. And we are one of the few facilities that have a dedicated treatment program for gambling addiction along with our accredited substance use disorder programs. We care about every client because many of us have been in your place. Call us now. This can be turned around and you can start now.