Gambling isn’t something new; it is an exciting and fun activity that has been around for thousands of years. The fun it offers is enticing, but perhaps the most significant enticement is the prospect of winning money from it.
Gamblers can wager money on different possible outcomes with expectations of winning some extra cash. This possibility of winning big cash has pushed people to see gambling as more than just a game of excitement and thrills. The hope of winning big is what keeps many gamblers hooked to the dice and cards on casino tables. With continued participation, some people are outrightly unable to stop. They indulge nonstop, throwing in a lot of money in the process.
In such a situation, gambling, which should be a harmless way to relax and have fun, morphs into a dangerous obsession. This is where learning responsible gambling comes in. But first, what is a gambling addiction? Let is find out below.
What exactly is a Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction, also called Ludomania, is an impulse control disorder. It makes a person unable to stop gambling even when it is negatively affecting them and the people around them. Gambling addiction can manifest itself in diverse ways.
The symptoms vary from person to person, depending on the type of gambling involved. Often, gambling starts as an entertaining way to spend one’s time until it gradually eats into time to perform other daily activities. Against popular belief, being a gambling addict doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve completely lost the ability to control your gambling impulse. No, to some extent, some addicted gamblers still retain control over when and when not to indulge in gambling.
Nonetheless, it is still a gambling addition if the time you spend on gambling-related activities seriously disrupts your typical day to day activities.
Types of Gambling Addiction
There are many forms of gambling addictions including:
Compulsive Gambling: Compulsive gamblers are gamblers who have lost a significant amount of control over whether or not to gamble. In other words, gamblers who cannot put their urge or desire to gamble under control are compulsive gamblers. For compulsive gamblers, gambling is pathological and much like an irresistible activity. Compulsive gamblers are usually so deep in their gambling addiction that they’ll usually keep gambling without considering the adverse effects gambling might currently be having on their lives. Their gambling activity could put their loved ones in danger, their finances could be plummeting, and their daily lives could be experiencing a storm, and they’d still be gambling. These gamblers are dangerous risk-takers and are usually willing to make huge wagers even when losing could be disastrous.
Binge Gambling: While compulsive gamblers are like gambling addicts on steroids, binge gamblers are like compulsive gamblers with some sense of control. They can go for a considerably long period (several weeks or months) without exhibiting addiction symptoms. Nonetheless, their addition is usually hunkering down, waiting for the right time to raise its ugly head. In Binge gamblers, the addictive behavior pops out of nowhere occasionally and starts wreaking havoc. Even for binge gamblers, when the addictive behavior surfaces, it’s usually almost impossible for them to stop themselves from gambling unless some drastic actions are taken.
Problem Gambling: Problem gambling is a kind of gambling addiction that keeps a gambler continually thinking about gambling or loss-chasing. Problem gambling gives a gambler room to nip the urge to gamble in the bud. However, they are also likely to keep aside their responsibilities to indulge in gambling. Ultimately, their mindset, which is overly focused on gambling, can stand in the way of them living their everyday lives.
Symptoms and Signs of Gambling Addiction
The physical symptoms or signs of gambling addiction is usually not as pronounced as alcohol or drug addiction. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Because it isn’t pronounced, much attention isn’t given to it. Thus, addicted gamblers can keep gambling till they start experiencing severe financial problems or even till they lose their jobs. While gambling addiction signs may be easily visible in compulsive gamblers, they are quite subtle in binge and problem gamblers.
However, there are some symptoms or signs that’s indicative of a possible gambling addiction problem. Based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM—5) standard, a gambler must show at least four of some common gambling symptoms with a period of 12 months to be adjudged a gambling addict. The standard gambling symptoms to check against include;
Indulging in gambling for emotional validation such as when depressed, distressed, feeling guilty, or anxious.
Unusual agitation and uneasiness when trying to consciously stop being involved in gambling activities
Failing repeatedly at trying to control, stop or reduce gambling activities
Being always preoccupied with thoughts that revolve around gambling and making plans for when to gamble next
Loss-chasing or frequently trying to win back money lost during gambling even more.
Keeping gambling activities hidden from loved ones and friends either by keeping gambling activities clandestine or lying to them about it
Suffering setbacks at a job or problems in relationships or career due to gambling
Asking others for money for gambling
While these symptoms could very much likely point to a gambling addiction, it shouldn’t on any account replace qualified medical advice.
If you find yourself experiencing at least four of the listed symptoms, then you should meet a qualified medical practitioner for assistance. To be specific, the kind of medical practitioner to meet should be mental health professionals such as psychiatrists.
A psychiatrist will be better suited to determine whether you have gambling addiction or only exhibit symptoms of another mental health condition. Many people with gambling addiction usually suffer other mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, ADHD, and depressive disorder.
Causes of Gambling Addiction
The exact causes of gambling addiction are still shrouded in mystery. However, there are a handful of factors that could potentially contribute to gambling addiction. These factors include mental health problems, huge first wins, and profound desperation for money.
Biological Causes: One of the most common causes of gambling addiction is how the human brain reacts to gambling or betting. Several credible researches show that the human brain responds to a gambling win similarly as the brain reacts to a dose of cocaine. Research shows a correlation between deficiencies in our brain’s feel-good chemical (serotonin) and our body’s neurotransmitter and stress hormone (norepinephrine) to compulsive gambling. Surprisingly, other biological causes of gambling can be traced to an individual’s genes. In other words, gambling may be hereditary (to some extent), and some individuals could be genetically predisposed to gambling addiction.
Psychological Causes: What an individual thinks of gambling can play a massive part in deciding whether they would fall victim to gambling addiction. Most people with gambling problems usually have a somewhat distorted point of view regarding gambling. Most of them are generally unnecessarily optimistic about winning, so much so that they keep going down the rabbit hole until it caves in on them. This optimism barely wanes even if they keep losing. Mere news of others winning big could be a huge catalyst to rekindle any gambling spark that might have been dying in them. Gamblers hold on to the hope that maybe the next bet would offer something exciting. They live in denial of the toll gambling has taken on them. Additionally, for gamblers who use slot machines, the possibility of winning as many times as possible could get an individual hooked on gambling. They’re also individuals who get hooked on gambling immediately after winning for the first time. The urge to gamble more could be even stronger if the first win is massive. In such cases, gamblers believe they’ve covered the losses accumulated on previous unsuccessful trials. They also think they have enough “free money” to play with since they won it. Usually, the hope of another massive win combined with the perception of having “free money” to play with is a big push to keep gambling.
Social Causes: Social factors also play a crucial role in pushing individuals towards gambling in a way that eventually leads to addiction. Job loss, stress, desperation, and depression are social factors that can trigger the urge to gamble and, subsequently, compulsive gambling. Also, through direct influence or teaching, gambling addiction can be passed on from older family members to younger ones. Having a casino close to your home of being among friends who gamble frequently can also trigger gambling addiction.
Medications: Though medications have not been proven to directly cause gambling addiction, the use of certain medicines could trigger addiction. For example, the use of medications like antipsychotics and dopamine agonists have been linked with an increased chance of being addicted to gambling.
Recognizing Gambling Addiction
Because gambling addictions can be subtle at times, many people don’t usually notice the problem until it has eaten deep into their lives. Most individuals only see they have a gambling problem when they’ve incurred huge debts, lost their jobs, or become pushed into criminal activities to source funds for gambling. This usually results in problems with the law. Fortunately, things don’t have to get out of hand before you know you have a problem.
Whenever you notice some of the symptoms listed above, you must recognize and accept the fact that you’re potentially dealing with a gambling addiction problem. One of the issues with people that have gambling problems is living in denial. Once you notice even the subtlest of signs, you must accept the real possibility of dealing with an addiction problem and take steps to fix it. Denying will only further plunge you deeper into the issue. If you feel like you’re visiting gambling sites a little too often or your family members are beginning to express concerns over your gambling activities, it might be time to pause and seek help.
Top Six Advice for Responsible Gambling
Many people who understand that they have a problem don’t know how to engage in responsible gambling. The following are a few tips that can help with that.
Set and Stick to A Budget: The key to avoid being dragged more in-depth into the gambling rabbit hole is setting and sticking to a gambling budget. Whenever you want to gamble, make sure you’ve already taken out the amount you want to gamble and bring only that amount with you to the gambling table and nothing more. Once you bring a realistic amount to the table and run out of it, you’ll be left with only one option — quit!
Check Your Mood Before Gambling: Responsible gambling is ideally done to relax and have a good time. Your head should be clear and devoid of anger or any form of agitation. Also, gambling after taking alcohol or drugs is very unadvisable; many things could go wrong.
Prepare for Losses: While you certainly don’t want to lose your money while gambling, you should always remember that somehow, the house always wins. This means while you head to the casino to have some fun, prepare for losses, and don’t get overly invested in the game.
Limit the Time You Spend Gambling: Another great way to keep your gambling impulses in check is to set and stick to a gambling time limit. Just the same way you stick to your budget, stick to your time. Even if your budget isn’t exhausted, stop playing. When gambling, time can seem to move much faster. To avoid spending productive time on nothing but gambling, set a strict time limit. An alarm on your phone or wristwatch could come quite handy.
Take Periodic Breaks: It is easy for gamblers who frequently indulge to feel sucked in and unable to break free. A great way to fix this is to take periodic breaks from gambling. If you gamble online, you can block access to gambling sites on your devices for some time. If your residence is very close to a casino, you can relocate to some casino-free neighborhood for some time. Pause from time to time, if need be, reflect on your gambling activities, and bounce back in good spirit.
Seek Help: If you are concerned about your gambling behavior or that of a loved one at any point in time, you can seek counseling from the customer service units of some licensed casinos. It is also possible to rake some tests online to get a clear glimpse of your gambling health.
Some Self-help Strategies for Gambling Addiction
The first step to deal with your gambling problem is recognizing and accepting that you have a problem. It is only after this that you can genuinely make conscious efforts towards fixing it. Luckily, there are several self-help strategies you can employ to combat gambling addiction. Some of such techniques include:
Get support: One of the most effective self-help strategies you can use to rid yourself of gambling addiction is seeking support from others. Fighting off addiction of any kind is much easier when you get support either from close friends or family. While you may be tempted to keep your gambling problem under the radar, when people care about you get involved, your chances of success can increase significantly.
Try out other fun activities you enjoy: The thrill and excitement of gambling are what keeps some gamblers going back to the casinos time and time again. An excellent way to combat this is to engage in another activity that’s just as entertaining and thrilling. Ensure that they are activities you enjoy. It could be playing football, playing video games, or seeing movies.
Divert to healthier alternatives: If you use gambling to relieve stress or a way to avoid unpleasant feelings, then you need to seek out better and healthier options that don’t come at such a great cost as being addicted to gambling.
Some people get stuck with gambling because they see it as a vehicle to socialize and meet new people. However, gambling isn’t necessarily isn’t the only way to meet new people. Exercising at the gym, watching a football match, and attending social events are much better options.
Another excellent self-help strategy to fight gambling addiction is to redesign your life. Your participation in gambling activities could result from having friends who are die-hard gamblers or being a part of a social circle that encourages gambling. Your lifestyle and people within your circle hold an enormous influence over your life — your attitude towards gambling is not an exception.
Joining a local peer support group is also a good self-help strategy for people with gambling problems. In peer support groups, you’ll find individuals struggling with similar issues. By sharing your challenges with people with similar problems, you’ll find comfort, support, and gain essential insights on how other people handled identical issues that you may be facing. Some support groups will also give you access to professionals who can guide you as you work your way out of the stranglehold that gambling has on your life.
Treatment for Gambling Addiction
Altogether quitting gambling is not a walk in the park. It’s quite challenging. However, it is not an impossible task—there several forms of remedy available for the problem and compulsive gamblers. Unfortunately, there’s no officially recommended treatment for gambling addiction. Nonetheless, the methods listed below can come quite handy:
Psychotherapy has over the years proven to be quite an effective remedy for gambling addiction. Series of counseling sessions with a well-trained therapist or psychiatrist can help put a lid on gambling behaviors and habits that are dragging you down. Therapy could be exceptionally very effective if gambling addiction is a result of an underlying psychological problem.
Thanks to advancement in medical research, there are certain medications that can now be used to curtail the constant desire to gamble. These medications have been proven to effectively reduce a gambler’s urge to visit online betting sites, a casino, or take part in other everyday gambling activities. Antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs are some medications that have been quite promising in this regard. However, don’t take medicines with recommendations from a qualified medical practitioner.
Prevalence of Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction affects many people; unfortunately, there are no effective ways to collate data for gambling addiction. Most of the official stats of people with gambling addiction are collated by self-reporting by addicted gamblers. This means it is hard to get an obvious picture of how many people suffer from gambling addiction. However, there’s still a rough picture of how things are.
Check out the following stats:
In Canada, around 3 percent of the population is estimated to have a gambling addiction. The number of Canadians with a gambling problem is estimated at about 1.1 million.
Similarly, around 2 to 3 percent of the US population is estimated to have gambling problems. Approximately 1 percent of the population is said to be dealing with gambling addiction. Those numbers experience spikes in areas like Nevada, where gambling is deeply ingrained in the local culture.
In the UK, the numbers are slightly higher. YouGov’s surveys show that up to 2.7% of adults in the United Kingdom, which is around 1.4 million people, have a gambling problem. However, that stat is primarily considered a rough estimate. The official government data cited by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission indicates that around 0.7 percent of the UK population have gambling problems.
In all the instances, men took the highest stake. This means males are much more likely to have a gambling problem or become addicted to gambling than females.
Stopping Suicide in People with Gambling Addiction
Suicide is quite common among compulsive gamblers. If you’re contemplating suicide due to gambling-related problems or know someone who is, you should immediately seek help by calling suicide helplines.
Below are some helplines for suicide prevention for US, Canada, UK, and Australia:
The United States – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255)
United Kingdom – Samaritans UK (+ 44 (0) 20 8394 8300)
Australia – Lifeline Australia (13 11 14)
Helpful Resources for Gambling Addictions and Responsible Gambling
If you need help for gambling addiction in the United States, New Jersey, there are many organizations available to help. They offer various forms of treatments including counselling, group meetings and medications.
Below are a few options that can make your journey to responsible gambling much easier:
Overcoming your gambling addictions and adopting responsible gambling is not an easy task. However, it is possible with the right information like those we have provided above and a good level of commitment.
Gambling should be an entertaining activity, that does not disrupt your life. You owe it to yourself and those you love to get past your addiction and start to gamble responsibly.