Gambling is one of the most insidious of human vices, as it presents the illusion of easy money yet can quickly lead to financial ruin. The odds are never in your favor whether it is poker, blackjack or anything else; gambling is a successful industry because the house always wins. Read on to find out about the symptoms, causes and effects of gambling addiction.
Are There Different Types of Gambling Addiction?
Gambling is a diverse activity, so different types of gambling addiction exist as well. It is not always obvious when someone is addicted to gambling. Contrary to popular belief, the act of gambling is not restricted to slot machines, cards and casinos. Purchasing a lottery ticket, entering a raffle or making a bet with a friend are also forms of gambling.
Gambling addiction can occur when a person feels that they are in financial ruin and can only solve their problems by gambling what little they have in an attempt to get a large sum of money. Unfortunately, this almost always leads to a cycle in which the gambler feels they must win back their losses, and the cycle goes on until the person is forced to seek rehabilitation to break their habit.
Another type of gambling addiction results when a gambler plays the games and makes risky bets to experience the emotional high associated with taking huge risks that occasionally pay off. In both cases, the person affected by this addiction must have the desire to stop the behavior, not just to please family and friends.
What Causes an Addiction to Gambling?
Many factors can contribute to a gambling addiction, including desperation for money, the desire to experience thrills and highs, the social status associated with being a successful gambler, and the entertaining atmosphere of the mainstream gambling scene. Unfortunately, once a gambling addiction takes hold, breaking the cycle is difficult. Severe addictions can take hold when someone feels desperate financially and wants to make back what they have lost. Once the person finally wins, while they may end up collecting a massive amount of money from that win, it is rarely enough to cover what has already been lost. Most gamblers never even come close to breaking even.
What Are the Signs of a Gambling Problem?
The signs of a gambling problem are often the same as the signs of other addictions. Common signs of 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
Of course, as with any other addiction, the hallmark sign of a gambling problem is that you feel you cannot stop. If you feel like you need to try just one more time, or if you feel anxious when you think about quitting, it is highly likely you are suffering from a gambling addiction.
Emotional Symptoms of Excessive Gambling
Excessive gambling often causes a multitude of emotional symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts and tendencies. In extreme situations, these thoughts may lead a gambler to actually making an attempt to end their life. Losing everything to gambling is devastating and leaves many people feeling completely hopeless.
Physical Symptoms of Excessive Gambling
Because gambling can cause depression, anxiety and self-harming tendencies, several physical signs are to be watched out for. Depression and anxiety sometimes lead to sleep deprivation, which may result in pale skin, weight gain or weight loss, acne and dark circles under the eyes.
Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of a Gambling Addiction
Gambling is associated with many additional effects, in both the short- and long-term. Gambling addiction frequently results in other addictions that serve as coping mechanisms for people who are stressed out by the activity. Many gamblers turn to drugs, alcohol and other activities to alleviate the anxiety brought on by the gambling lifestyle. Even if a gambler never experiences financial ruin as a result of the lifestyle, they may struggle with drug and alcohol addiction for the rest of life after self-medicating to deal with the stress. Also, relationships are often permanently damaged as a result of gambling.
Is There a Test or Self-Assessment I Can Do?
If you think you may have a gambling problem, ask yourself whether you would be okay if you stopped gambling right now. If you feel anxious or as if you shouldn’t stop yet, chances are you are suffering from a gambling addiction.
Medication: Are There Drug Options for Gambling Disorders?
While gambling cannot be directly treated with medication, it is possible to alleviate the anxiety and depression that results from gambling and often lead to it in the first place.
Drugs: Possible Options
The most common way to treat a gambling problem with medication is to prescribe anti-anxiety and antidepressant medicines. Feeling depressed and anxious often exacerbates gambling addiction, so treating these disorders may make it easier to break the cycle and get back to a normal life.
Medication Side Effects
As with just about any medication, certain side effects are associated with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. Some of these medications may make you feel worse before you feel better. For detailed information on the side effects of various depression and anxiety medications, consult a psychiatrist for advice. Remember, you should never try to self-medicate for anxiety or depression. These disorders are serious, and self-medication can be extremely dangerous.
Antidepressant Drug Addiction, Dependence and Withdrawal in Gamblers
While anxiety and depression medications are often highly successful helpers on the path to recovery, it is possible to become addicted to these medications as well. For this reason, it is often a good idea to enroll in an inpatient treatment center while you recover from your addiction, so a trained team of professionals can monitor you for dependence and withdrawal symptoms related to your medications.
One of the major problems associated with medications is that many of them do provide a high if you take more than the prescribed amount. Many gamblers are looking for that high, so prescription drug abuse is rampant among gamblers who are in the process of recovery and feel the need to get that high from something else. Overdose is one of many risks associated with substance abuse, and it is one of the reasons inpatient treatment centers are always recommended for anyone recovering from an addiction to gambling.
Depression and Gambling
Because gambling addiction is often associated with depression, watch out for signs that you are, or your loved one is, suffering from this debilitating disorder. Lethargy, fatigue, change in appetite and unhappiness are several symptoms out of many that someone is suffering from depression. Depression is often not something that can be controlled easily.
Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse and Gambling
A dual diagnosis means that someone who is suffering from an addiction to substances or gambling is diagnosed with the addiction along with a mental health disorder. Dual diagnosis treatment is needed to effectively address both issues.
Getting Help to Quit Gambling
Quitting gambling is no easy feat, but it can be done with the help of a solid support group and treatment program. It can be difficult to get started on the path to recovery without the assistance of professionals who have helped people through the process before. Supportive friends and family are vital to a full recovery, but they might not know how best to help you.