Addiction – When Gambling Becomes a Problem

While most people enjoy casino gambling, sports betting, lottery and bingo playing for the fun and excitement it provides, others may experience gambling as an addictive and distractive habit. Statistics show that while 85 percent of the adult population in the US enjoys some type of gambling every year, between 2 and 3 percent of will develop a gambling problem and 1 percent of them are diagnosed as pathological gamblers.

Where can you draw the line between harmless gambling to problem gambling? How can you tell if you or your friend are compulsive gamblers? Here you can find answers to these questions and other questions regarding problem gambling and gambling addiction.

What is the Meaning of Problem Gambling?

Problem gambling or compulsive gambling is defined as an uncontrollable urge to gamble despite the destructive effect of gambling on the gamblers life and despite feelings of guilt and remorse. Problem gambling tends to have a negative effect on the gamblers financial state, relationships and daily life. Severe cases of problem gambling can be defined as pathological gambling.

Am I a Compulsive Gambler?

1) Do you gamble until your last penny runs out?

2) Do you gamble to win back your former losses or debts?

3) Did you ever had to borrow money to continue gamble?

4) Did your gambling habit ever made you lie to your friends or family?

5) Did you ever skip work or other obligation to gamble?

6) Do you tend to gamble to forget about your personal problems or to celebrate happy occasions?

7) Does gambling have a negative affect on your daily life or relationships?

If you have answered yes on at least one of the questions listed above, then you have a problem.

Can Anyone Become a Compulsive Gambler?

Theoretically, yes. Any gambler can develop gambling problem regardless to the type of gambling he is occupied with, the amount of money and time he is spending on gambling. Researches show that slot machines that can be found in bars and convenient stores are the most addictive type of gambling activity, while lottery draws and bingo games are located on the other end of the scale. Gambling addiction is an emotional problem; its symptoms, causes and treatments are similar to any other form of addiction.

How Can I treat Gambling Addiction?

1) Group Therapy:

Gamblers Anonymous offers a 12 step self help program similar to the one offered to alcohol addicts in Alcoholics Anonymous. Group therapy also offers gambling addicts advice and support from professional counselors and other gambling addicts in different phases of their recovery process. Gambler Anonymous centers are available in more than 1,200 locations statewide.

2) Individual Therapy:

Cognitive or behavior therapy can help gambling addicts to identify their unaware thinking and acting patterns, which led them to gamble compulsively, and to replace them with controllable and healthier ways of thinking.

3) Psychiatric Medication:

It has recently been proven that antidepressant medications from the family of SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can be affective in treatment of gambling addicts.

Online Gambling Problems

The advances in broadband and wireless technology have made the world come together closer than never before. Now virtually everything is possible on the net-shopping, clinching business deals, social networking, and even gambling, the ever-favorite pastime of men. Online gambling first emerged in the early part of the 1990s and had become an instant hit, with an estimated 3000 online websites on the net today. It totally radicalized the gambling industry and has seen takers from across age groups. However, just like the land version, even internet gambling is fraught with problems. The addiction problem prevails in the online world as well.

What is problem gambling?

Problem gambling is an impulse-control disorder that leads to major disruptions in all areas of life: psychological, social, vocational or physical. It also includes the stage of ‘pathological’ or ‘compulsive’ gambling. Problem gambling is characterized by an increasing preoccupation with gambling. They have an urge to bet money more frequently and become restless or irritable, if anyone tries to stop. They usually are aware of the mounting, serious, negative problems but staying off the bet becomes the most difficult thing for them.

Online problem gambling is a manifestation of the aforementioned problems. But a study has shown that people who indulge in online gambling have more serious addiction problems than those who use the lottery or play slot machines. Online gambling problems are on the rise because of the explosive growth of the internet.

Causes leading to Internet Gambling

o The privacy and anonymous nature of the internet space has led to people taking to gambling without any hesitation.

o Easy accessibility of online games in the internet has led to people spending more time on gambling.

o Those who work on the internet most of the time can easily avail of online games. This gradually leads to addiction.

Signs of problem Gambling

o Gambling much longer than intended.

o Gambling until you spend the last penny.

o Using up incomes or even saving to gamble, while bills remain unpaid.

o Borrowing money continuously to finance your gambling needs.

o Neglecting your family and professional responsibilities.

o Stoop to stealing, cheating or selling household stuff to get gambling money.

o Gamble with the hope that it will solve financial woes or even win back losses.

o Relieve feelings of depression.

o They can easily set up a gambling account and there are a variety of forms of gambling – right from traditional betting, to casino gambling, lotteries and bingo. All this makes online gambling tremendously appealing.

o There is no time limit and in the absence of a supervisor, a person can go on gambling for up to 24 hours a day.

o As you play, there is a decreased perception of the value of cash and players frequently forget that they are playing with cash.

Online Gambling and its effects

Though many believe that legalized gambling is just harmless entertainment, but people already affected by it and continuous study results have veered on its deceptive nature. In fact, it is considered to cause even more harm than playing in a live casino building. The health and emotional difficulties associated with gambling disorders includes depression, circulatory disease, substance abuse and even risky sexual behavior. Recent studies have concluded that online gambling comprised basically of unmarried and younger participants over people who never gamble. Contrary to the fact that internet is associated with high education level and higher income strata, the study pointed out that online gambler addicts belong to lower education and income levels. Online gambling is one of the fastest growing addictions to afflict the youth today.

The American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a study wherein they found that 74% of online gamblers are problematic or pathological gamblers. Among this, the group that is most at risk is the teens. Online problem gamblers spend much more money on the online gambling websites than the amount teenagers spend on drugs. The worse bit of online gambling is its anonymity. Earlier, a person had to go to a gambling house in order to satisfy their urge to gamble and everybody knew how you fare or how much you lost. But now, you just walk into your office or bedroom and there goes your savings in thin air, and not a soul gets a whiff of it. The lenient regulation measures of the online gambling industry have only added on to the problem.

Treatment for Online Problem Gambling

Those addicted to online gambling need to take the following steps to avoid and get over such problems. Its very important to remember the onus of the entire treatment process lies, first and foremost, with you. You should wake up and take control, before you reach the point of no return. The first steps are always the hardest and once you can overcome them; the rest will be a breeze of air.

o Be honest with yourself and accept your problem.

o Manage your money and keep track of the amount you are spending. Gamers should remember to spend only what they can afford to lose. Chasing losses will only lead to a further downward spiral.

o Postpone your gambling urges. Next time you want to play, catch a movie or go out for dinner. Playing sudoku will take off your mind from gambling for a while.

o When you have leisure time, indulge in recreation that has nothing to with gambling.

o Use software to block access to gambling sites and make it password protected. You should not know the password.

o Get professional help as soon as possible.

Online problem gambling may affect anyone. One should be aware of one’s gambling behavior. There are many gory examples of problem gambling which should serve as eye openers for the affected. Any form of addiction is a choice. It becomes a disease because of your loss of control. Speak to your near and dear ones. Help is never far away. One precious lifetime is all you get, and it would be incredibly foolish to attempt to ruin even a second of it by way of unnecessary problems.

When The Fun In Gambling Is No Longer Fun

Gambling is all fun and games until you hit the point where you cease seeing the fun in it, or you become irredeemably addicted.

Admittedly, most people do not see it coming. They start gambling for very noble reasons including,

1. The need to take time away from work and family pressures
2. Escape route from depressing thoughts on other issues.
3. Hopes of winning a fortune and living lavishly ever after
4. To bring a tinge of excitement into their otherwise dull lives
5. A chance to go out there, socialize and make new friends.

As you can see from the above points, no one anticipates that gambling will grow into the Frankenstein that now threatens to push them off the sanity cliff. A lot of people are able to keep their gambling under rein. They do it for fun, to pass some time and to socialize. Others lose it completely. They become slaves to online and offline gambling. It throws their lives off-balance. They start putting more time and money into gambling, and they gradually neglect other aspects of their lives.

At this point, problem gamblers look back at their lives and get surprised at how and when it happened. For a lot of people, the problem starts with a shift in mentality. A big loss or a big win, and you are hooked. You start gambling more money than you had planned to spend on gambling, you invest a lot of time in the casinos and before you know it, you are a slave to gambling. You can’t eat, sleep nor breathe without thinking gambling.

To help you understand how gambling addiction works, I have analyzed some of the most common factors that pull people deeper and deeper into addiction.

1. Illusion that You Can be in command of Chance
No one can control chance. It doesn’t favor anyone, smart or otherwise. Unfortunately many problem gamblers think that they can manage to overturn their luck on the tables through sheer power of the mind. They have this skewed illusion that they can win if only they can learn the tricks of the game. They spent hours on end in the casinos trying to perfect their game. They fail to acknowledge the fact that gambling is 100% chance and not something to be learned. There are no tricks and knowledge that will all of a suddenly overturn the tables to your favor.

2. The Lure of the Jackpot
Winning a few hands on the tables can make you feel unconquerable. Everyone loves winning, and science has proved that people remember their victories more than they remember their losses. Fortunately, or probably unfortunately in this case, new gamblers have what is commonly referred as ‘beginner’s luck’. They begin their gambling hobbies on the right foot. They become obsessed with the idea of winning the jackpot.

3. Faith of Changing Luck
In life, we are encouraged to get up after every fall. We will make it in the end. We will accomplish our goals if we do not quit. After all, who wants to quit while the gold vein could be just a few inches away. There is only one place where this advice does not apply. If your quests are governed by pure luck, there is very little chance that you will ever make it. The statistics are open for anyone who wants to take a look. Gambling only ends up in massive losses, debts and frayed social relationships. There is no better time to quit than now. Lady Luck will not smile at you anytime soon.

How To Know If You Are Addicted To Gambling
Although there are clear pointers that indicate you are going down the addiction lane, it can be extremely difficult to identify them if you do not know what they are. This is probably the saddest thing about addiction. We never know we are addicted until we take a step back and look at ourselves in hindsight, at which time the damage has already been done.

In this section, we will discuss the 5 major red flags to watch out for.

1. You Just Can’t Stop
Remember the wise Gambler who Kenny Rogers sings about? Every wise gambler knows when to hold and when to fold. Compulsive gamblers on the other hand do not have limits. They will gamble everything they have thinking that they are having bouts of fun, when in actuality they are driven by compulsions beyond their control.

2. Gambling with Money Not Meant for Fun
Problem gamblers will gamble with money that they can’t stand to lose. They do not have a set gambling budget and will often risk money meant for important things such medical bills and other utility bills.

3. Gambling to Win or to Recover Losses
If you find yourself gambling more for the sole purpose of hitting the jackpot than for fun, you need to reevaluate yourself. Same case applies if the main driving force behind gambling is to recover losses that you had suffered earlier.

4. Obsessively Thinking about Gambling
If you eat, drink and sleep thinking about gambling, you might already be too deep in the trench.

5. Borrowing to Finance Gambling
Have you ever borrowed money to finance gambling? Chances are if you have, things are not looking so good.

What other key pointers do you think indicate a problem with gambling? I believe that you know them better. You know what triggers that red flag and siren at the back of your mind. A lot of gamblers realize the symptoms that point to problematic gambling in their lives, yet stopping becomes a quagmire.