Gambling addiction is a serious problem that can lead to financial ruin, legal problems, and destroyed relationships. People with gambling addiction may feel like they can’t stop gambling, even when they are in debt or losing money. Understanding problem gambling can help you, or your loved one, get the support needed to overcome this disorder.
What is Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction, also called pathological gambling, is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite negative consequences. When a person gambles, it means they are willing to risk something of value in the hope of winning something of even greater value. While gambling can be a social and recreational activity, it can become a problem when it leads to problems in your personal, professional, or financial life.
What Causes a Gambling Addiction?
There is no single cause of gambling addiction. It is believed that pathological gambling may be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
For some people, gambling can become a way to cope with stress or escape from problems. Gambling can also be a way to make money, but it often results in financial problems over time. Gambling addiction can also stem from mental health disorders like ADHD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and impulse control disorder.
An addiction to gambling can also be seen when the reward pathways in the brain are altered. When a person has a gambling addiction their brain’s reward system becomes stimulated in the same way as a person struggling with alcohol or drug addiction.
Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
The signs and symptoms of gambling addiction can vary from person to person but some common signs and symptoms include:
- Chasing losses by gambling more money in an attempt to win back what was lost
- Betting more money than one can afford to lose
- Lying to friends and family about gambling habits or hiding evidence of gambling
- Feeling anxious, irritable, or restless when not gambling
- Needing to gamble with larger amounts of money to get the same feeling
- Gambling even when there is no money to spare
- Borrowing money to gamble or not paying debts in order to gamble more
- Sacrificing work, school, or family time in order to gamble
- Having thoughts about suicide or self-harm as a result of gambling losses
- Denying the concerns of family and friends regarding gambling behavior
Effects of Gambling Addiction
Although the effects of pathological gambling are more difficult to see compared to substance abuse, they can still be very detrimental to a person’s quality of life. Some of the negative effects of gambling addiction include:
- Financial Problems: Gambling addiction can lead to financial ruin. People with gambling addictions may spend large amounts of money on gambling. They may also borrow money to gamble or sell possessions to get money to gamble. This can lead to debt, foreclosure, and bankruptcy.
- Relationship Problems: Gambling addiction can destroy relationships. People with gambling addictions often lie to their loved ones about their gambling habits. They may also neglect their responsibilities at home or work in order to gamble. This can lead to arguments and conflict within relationships.
- Legal Problems: People with gambling addiction may also get into legal trouble. They may gamble illegally or commit illegal acts to get money to gamble. This can lead to arrest and jail time.
- Physical and Mental Health Problems: The stress related to pathological gambling can cause a variety of physical and mental health issues including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stomach issues. Problem gamblers may also turn to substances to alleviate unwanted mental health side effects.
Gambling Addiction Treatment
If you or someone you know is struggling with gambling addiction there is help available. Gambling addiction is a treatable disorder and there are many resources available. Treatment for gambling addiction can vary depending on the severity of the addiction and may include a combination of therapy, medication, and support groups.
Williamsville Wellness offers comprehensive, residential gambling addiction treatment in Richmond, VA. Our program focuses on uncovering the root cause of your pathological gambling through individual and group therapy sessions. As a dual diagnosis treatment center, we can also treat co-occurring alcohol or substance abuse issues related to your gambling. For mild to moderate compulsive gambling, we offer online outpatient treatment as well.