When Does Gambling Become a Problem?
Many behaviors can develop into addictions that may be just as strong and destructive as addictions to drugs and alcohol. Obsessive gambling is one such behavioral addiction. Understanding the risks and recognizing the signs of a gambling problem can help people avoid developing an addiction.
How Gambling Can Become an Addiction
The brain uses a complicated and fragile system of chemical signals to manage a variety of behaviors and psychological processes. The part of the brain called the reward center works to reinforce behaviors through the release of naturally-occurring chemicals in the bloodstream. Any activity that leads to the release of these chemicals may begin to be craved by the brain. Several behaviors can cause spikes in adrenaline, endorphins and similar substances, including the following:
- Thrilling, risky or dangerous activities
- Sexual activities
- Physical exertion or exercise
- Behavior that results in a financial or material reward
Gambling can pose an especially dangerous threat to this chemical system because it involves both the risk of loss and the promise of potential reward. Similar behaviors such as shoplifting and lying can lead to problems in the same way. Casinos often use flashing lights, startling sounds, provocative images and alcohol to further increase the potential for gamblers to become addicted. Once a behavioral addiction is established, the behavior is often driven by the addict’s emotional core rather than rational choices.
Signs of Gambling Addiction
Many people can engage in some form of gambling periodically without developing an addiction, but for millions of gambling addicts, that is not the case. A number of symptoms may indicate that gambling has become an addiction, including the following:
- Inability to stop gambling
- Risking money that is needed for basic life responsibilities
- Gambling that is frequently accompanied by alcohol or drug abuse
- Constant preoccupation with gambling
- Gambling with credit cards
- Frequent use of online gambling sites
With help from professional treatment, gambling addicts can achieve healing in this area of their minds. If left untreated, however, this disease can lead to devastating results, including the following:
- Financial problems such as bankruptcy
- Substance abuse and chemical dependency
- Legal problems and prison
Gambling addiction can make life frustrating for the addict and addicts often self-medicate through substance abuse or other compulsive behaviors such as sex addiction.
Components of Gambling Addiction Treatment
Treatment for gambling addiction can be similar to rehab for drug and alcohol dependency. The first step is often for the patient to stop gambling and detoxify his mind from the chemical dependency. After the detox process, treatment professionals can help the patient to restore balance to his mind through a variety of therapy techniques, including the following:
- Individual counseling
- Support group meetings
- Education about the causes and triggers of addiction
- Self-discipline training
- Education about healthy new behaviors and activities
Finding Help for Gambling Addiction
If you or someone you love is struggling with a gambling problem, please call our toll-free helpline now. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions about gambling addiction and to help connect you with the best treatment program for your situation. Please call now.