Gambling addiction is a kind of behavioral addiction. It’s also known as pathological gambling, compulsive gambling, or gambling disorder. Usually, it starts as just a pastime or a hobby, but it can soon turn into an uncontrollable habit. Most people with this addiction also have other conditions alongside it, such as alcohol abuse, depression, and anxiety.
If you’d like to know more about what gambling addiction is and how serious it is, here are some facts about it.
About 10 million Americans suffer from gambling addiction
These are the numbers from 2016, so the numbers may be different today. Of these 10 million people, about 15 percent of them gamble once a week. Also, 40 percent of gamblers start at the age of 17 or younger, and teens are 2 to 3 times more prone to developing an addiction than adults.
More than one factor leads to gambling addiction
There is no single cause of this addiction. Rather, it’s a combination of multiple issues, like environment, substance abuse, biological, and psychological factors.
Most people are vulnerable when they are financially in need. Some people see gambling as a get-rich-quick scheme, so they turn to it in the hopes of getting a quick buck. While it isn’t really an easy way to earn money, people can take home a huge sum of cash in a short time if they get lucky. This is what most people are banking on.
A lot of people also love the thrill of the game. Gaining an edge over competitors is a particularly exciting experience, and gamblers love this. The feeling of having outsmarted others and gaining rewards is similar to the addictive highs of illicit substances.
Being in the company of other people who gamble a lot is another risk factor. If individuals are always exposed to these kinds of people and environments, they will most likely develop compulsive gambling behaviors as well. Moreover, the sense of belongingness they feel makes the problem worse.
Many studies also link substance abuse to pathological gambling. Most of the time, alcohol abuse is an issue alongside gambling. The euphoria provided by illicit substances is enhanced by the adrenaline rush felt during gambling. Additionally, substance abusers have more incentive to gamble as they can earn more money to buy more drugs.
People with depression also take some time to gamble, especially those going through financial trouble. Often, they gamble to forget about their present problems, or they think it’s a quick way to solve their problems. They also turn the thrill of gambling into a coping mechanism for their depression.
Family and friends are usually not aware of a loved one’s gambling addiction
For people addicted to gambling, they are often discreet about their activities. They let no one else know, especially their families and friends for fear of being shamed. But when they are with fellow gamblers, they are very open to discussing everything about their practices. Soon enough, though, clear signs of addiction would show up.
Then, once they keep losing money regularly, it’s evidence that something’s wrong. What first began as a pastime is developing into a bad habit as they spend more and more of their time and cash in casinos. They would also take on greater risks, betting more money to win back their losses. Eventually, they would run out of money, but the gambling habits would still be there. They may even end up in debt. Also, they would become restless and irritable when their loved ones attempt to get them out of their gambling habits.
Gambling addiction can alter a person’s body
Compulsive gamblers may develop anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness because they always think about how to get back their losses. Through these, the following symptoms may soon show up:
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Pale skin
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
- Weight loss or gain
- Acne (from lack of sleep)
Gambling addiction ruins a person’s social life
Pathological gamblers usually do not have good relationships with their families and friends. They become distant and only talk to them when they have to ask for money. Moreover, they may become verbally and physically abusive to their family members. Statistics show that 23 percent of spouses and 17 percent of children experience abuse from family members with this addiction. Worse still, the compulsive behavior may lead to divorce. Data shows that about 24 percent of divorce cases are linked to spouses suffering from this addiction.
Gambling addiction drastically changes a person’s behavior
Compulsive gambling makes people lose discipline and direction in life, leading to the following consequences:
- Elevated anxiety and depression
- Higher chance of deceiving others
- Pathological lying
- Feelings of intense shame and guilt
- Bipolar disorder (1 to 3 percent of cases)
- Schizophrenia (1 to 3 percent of cases)
- Impulsive decision-making
- Higher risk of substance abuse
- Suicidal behavior (20 percent of cases)
Several treatment options for gambling addiction are available
Going to a rehab center is often not required for treating gambling addiction, but it might help. The first step is to recognize that an addiction exists, and it must be addressed promptly.
One intervention is developing healthier recreational activities. Instead of going to casinos, gamblers can resort to cycling, jogging, sports, or other physical activities. These are best done with family or friends.
Speaking of which, keeping communication open with important people is key. Often, compulsive gamblers get addicted because it’s their only resort when experiencing distress. But if they can openly share their struggles with family and friends, they are less likely to resort to gambling.
If pathological gamblers are far from family and friends, they may opt to join support groups. Here, they will receive professional help as well as become part of communities of people with similar struggles. This way, they would get lots of helpful advice from others who have the same problems.
In extreme cases, medication may be required. But first, they must consult a doctor and get prescriptions before buying any medicine.