For individuals with an addiction to gambling, the behaviours, financial and legal difficulties as well as family relationship issues that occur are similar to the ways that addicts and families suffer when a person struggles with other types of addictions. Compulsive or pathological gambling has the potential to lead happy, successful individuals down a path of emotional, financial and family ruin. In fact, gambling addiction may co-exist with other addictions.
For the fun of it
Some individuals enjoy playing the lottery or purchasing raffle tickets, while others prefer occasionally playing bingo, casino slot machines or the tables. Some gamblers prefer to bet on horse or dog races just for the fun of it. For those who view occasional gambling as a hobby or way to enjoy the company of family, neighbours or favourite social group, gambling offers the possibility of winning while enjoying a leisurely day of taking in the sights, sounds and excitement of the casino, bingo hall or race track.
On the other hand, there is most likely no family or friends with the person suffering from gambling addiction because he or she probably drives to the casino alone. When an individual suffers from an addiction to gambling, there is no “for the fun of it.” Gambling is like the drug craved by the body and mind of a drug addict that has to have a fix as soon as possible. The only friends with the gambling addict are likely other gambling addicts.
An addict is an addict
Just because the person addicted to gambling is not drinking, popping pills, snorting, ingesting or shooting up does not mean he or she cannot suffer an addiction. The gambling addict displays many of the same behaviours as other addicts. The alcoholic has to have alcohol and will go to almost any lengths to drink, regardless of the effects on health, relationships with family and friends and no matter if there are bills to pay. An individual addicted to gambling often exhibits these same behaviours and characteristics.
The drug addict burns bridges with family and friends, as does the gambling addict, becoming angry when loved ones no longer believe the same old lines about needing a loan to keep the electric on or the phone bill paid when the money is really for gambling. People addicted to gambling sometimes manage to steal personal information of family and friends for financial gain, may sell personal possessions or commit crimes to get money for gambling.
The gambler knows the toll that losing excessive amounts of money has on finances and family relationships. But like every other kind of addict, the gambler wakes up and goes to sleep thinking about gambling.
Like most addicts, the individual addicted to gambling is often in denial. Other behaviours or symptoms that potentially indicate a gambling problem include committing crimes to get money for gambling, taking advantage of family or friends, committing identity theft to get new credit cards, loans or other accounts after the gambling addict maxes out credit cards or had accounts closed due to non-payment.
The gambling addict eventually starts to gamble larger amounts of money to regain previous losses or to feel the same rush of excitement previously felt when gambling in smaller amounts. The individual likely severs ties with close friends or even close family members if they refuse to comply when the gambler wants to “borrow” money. Addicts also lie about gambling or what happened to the money lost while gambling.
Gambling addiction affects men and women of all ages; however, it is more common at younger ages. The Mayo Clinic indicates in ‘Compulsive Gambling’ that people with compulsive gambling issues often suffer from other behaviour or mood disorders. Additionally, highly competitive individuals are potentially at higher risk of developing an addiction to gambling.
Treatment for gambling addiction
As with other addictions, no one can help the gambling addict until the addict wants help. Gamblers Anonymous believes that the gambler must accept that he or she is suffering from a progressive illness and have the desire to “get well.” Gamblers Anonymous will not work for a person who “will not face squarely the facts about this illness.” Cognitive behavioural therapy, often used in treating gambling addiction, focuses on replacing unhealthy, negative, irrational beliefs with healthy, positive beliefs.
In some cases, medications potentially help the addict suffering from gambling addiction. Narcotic antagonists, used to treat some individuals suffering from drug addiction, possibly prove helpful in treating gambling addiction. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers are potentially helpful in some cases of gambling addiction.
Gambling addiction recovery
Casual exposure to gambling at multiple locations, such as lottery machines in some businesses, the a number of states legalizing gambling and increase in the number of casinos increases exposure to gambling. The person with a gambling addiction likely finds it difficult to limit exposure to gambling.The individual suffering from gambling addiction likely benefits from active participation in a support group or from services of a therapist that specializes in treating gambling addiction. The addict likely benefits from having a sponsor when the urge to gamble becomes too much for the gambler to resist.
The gambling addict, like other addicts, cannot be cured. When the person addicted to gambling accepts support and treatment and demonstrates the determination to deal with the addiction, an individual likely has the best chance to get back on track and lead a productive, healthy life free of gambling.