Gambling is a fantastic way to spend leisure time. Who doesn’t enjoy winning easy money in a game? But the fun ends when it becomes addictive.
Gambling can be found in many forms, including slot machines, online casinos, sports betting, and bingo. Compulsive gamblers may win quickly or lose heavily in a few days. The euphoric sensation that comes with winning makes you want more. As a result, it has become habit-forming.
It’s OK to have your type of relaxation, but when gambling costs you a lot of money impacts your daily routine and family ties; something must be done. If you can’t stop gambling or a loved one has developed into a compulsive gambler, you have to act right now.
What is Gambling Addiction?
Pathological gambling, commonly known as gambling addiction, is a condition that causes people to have a strong need to gamble despite possible harmful consequences. It can take over your life and lead to poverty, job loss, poor health, divorce, and crime.
The term pathological is used because gambling has become an obsession for many gamblers. When you become a problem gambler, you cannot control your urges, which may lead you to go bankrupt.
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, about 2 million Americans are addicted gamblers. It is also found that 1 in 5 pathological gamers have attempted suicide because of their gambling problems.
What Causes Gambling Addiction?
1. Influence of the Family
One of the leading reasons behind compulsive gambling is genetics. Some families have a history of problem gambling, which might increase the risk of developing the condition. If you were brought up in such a family or your parents and siblings gambled heavily as you grew up, then blood-relatedness may also play a part in your addiction.
2. Environment and Social Factors
Compulsive gamblers usually come from an environment or community where gambling is typical or valuable. A social environment that does not discourage gambling makes it easier for people to get hooked on its excitement and thrill. Watching TV, reading papers, listening to others talk about gambling, or visiting casinos are the simplest ways to get influenced. For example, if your friends were frequent visitors of online casinos, you might find it more enjoyable too.
3. Chemicals in the Brain
It is found that some neurotransmitters like endorphins and dopamine are directly responsible for making you feel happy after doing something pleasurable. When a person is rewarded, the neurons in the brain release neurotransmitters that make you feel pleased. It has been ascertained that people with gambling addiction have reduced dopamine levels in their system because they constantly gamble, which cannot be controlled by them. While these chemicals are not responsible for triggering addition, it contributes to gambling compulsion, just like drug addiction.
4. Mental Health Problem or Substance Use Disorder
Gambling dependence can be correlated with other mental health disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, anxiety, OCD, etc. Many compulsive gamblers also suffer from substance abuse like alcoholism and illicit drugs. It increases their chances of gambling compulsively.
What are the Warning Signs of Compulsive Gambling?
Gambling addiction, like other kinds of addiction, is not easily recognized. Those addicted to narcotics won’t readily acknowledge it. Alcoholics can’t even tell if they’re getting towards a problem because there’s total denial in the beginning.
Here’s what to know if you’re a recreational gambler or may have developed gambling problems:
- You abandoned your hobbies or passions to gamble.
- For the sake of gambling, you apply for new credit cards or open new bank accounts.
- You spend a large amount of money at the casino. Because you don’t have any cash, you’re unable to pay your bills or mortgage.
- You’re being defensive or secretive about your gaming habit.
- When you gamble, you have no control over how much money you spend.
- Because of your gambling habits, you’ve begun to borrow money, steal money, or are massively in debt.
- You’re starting to feel guilty or ashamed about your gaming habits, but you can’t quit.
- Because you’re at the casino, you’ve begun to deceive your family or loved ones about your location.
- You’re spending too much time on the computer playing in an online casino.
When to Seek Help for Gambling Addiction?
If you or your loved ones suffer from gambling addiction, seek help immediately. One of the most obvious signs is when you cannot control your urge to gamble regardless of knowing that it will cause harm in the future.
Gambling dependence leads people into different problems and issues and, if not appropriately treated, can damage other areas of life. Family relationships, education, career, finances all take a backseat because of this addiction.
You could also seek help by calling the National Council on Problem Gambling Helpline: 1-800-522-4700 or chat online with one of their counselors.