Gambling has become so popular in the 21st century that millions of people enjoy this activity on a daily basis. The majority of players consider this type of entertainment funny and exciting, and it has become a hobby for many of them. But there are situations when players can’t control themselves and this simple hobby may turn into a serious addiction. As soon as a player feels any discomfort when playing online casino games or betting, it is evidence of addiction and psychological disorders.
WHAT IS GAMBLING ADDICTION?
Game addiction is described as changes in the mental health of a person caused by playing games. This type of disease received the ICD-10 code in the international directory and it is called “Disruption of an adult personality and behavior” in section 5, “Mental and behavioral disorders”.
When you describe this kind of addiction as a diagnosis, it means the violation of the traditional rules in the form of repeated games leading to negative consequences. It has a detrimental impact on the everyday life of a person and becomes a dominant factor in his finances, social life, and career.
Despite that gambling addiction is associated with the inability to control the desire to play, there is a classification and you can distinguish three types of this problem:
- Game addiction or a temptation to play in order to get pleasure no matter what consequences there are. This type of behavior results in a deterioration of a person’s skills and values (his behavior is changed partially). The distinctive feature of this type is the lack of pronounced desire to play incessantly.
- Obsessive game addiction or so-called mania is associated with eagerness, regular mood swings, and endless playing. This type has pronounced and easy to notice symptoms. Players stop performing their social responsibilities and can’t stop playing which makes a detrimental impact on their sleep, food consumption, and other daily activities. It often happens you can hear lies from such players since they may sell valuable things and refuse from being dependent on anyone.
- Impulsive addiction is a disease when people can’t control their behavior only if they are busy playing. The behavior of these people is traditional and their will to play doesn't bear pronounced character. However, when they get into a stressful situation or attend an entertaining event, they are drawn to gambling. Those impulsive people tend to increase bets each time and have no control over the amounts lost.
Every case of the addition mentioned above develops through several stages and can increase after each other. However, this unbearable wish to gamble leads to the decay of professional life and negative impact on social activities. Each of the aforesaid addictions can result in very serious consequences as well.
If you want to prevent your relatives and family members from any of these addiction types, you should carefully monitor their behavior. If you identify any of the symptoms described in your or some other person behavior, it is necessary to look for qualified assistance.
Below are the first signs of the evolving gambling addiction:
- You think and talk about games more often than before;
- You spend bigger amounts of money to get pleasure from gambling;
- You lie and feel uncomfortable when asked about gambling;
- You deal with any kind of stress via gambling;
- You made attempts to quit gambling but they had no success.
If you have one or some of the above symptoms, it does not mean direct evidence of any mental disorder. However, the combination of those symptoms is a signal to undertake some actions and start treatment.
Please note that there are two groups of symptoms in gambling addiction. They include emotional and physical symptoms that can appear at different stages of dependence and must be cured in different ways as well.
Emotional symptoms are defined as a permanent and overwhelming craving to play that leads to changes in emotions. They are expressed in the form of being anxious, short-tempered, aggressive, mood swings, and refusal to discuss the addiction. Sometimes, thoughts about suicide may occur too.
Physical symptoms may be a consequence of the unstable emotional state. Players get depressed and irritable, they can’t fall asleep, lose weight, become untidy and look sick. Sometimes, players may injure themselves to demonstrate their protest.
If you see that a person neglects his duties, skips classes or work, borrows money regularly, or starts selling valuables without any real necessity, it is time to look for professional help.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF GAMBLING ADDICTION?
The statistical data says that only 2% of players can suffer from Gambling addictions and the age, gender, and social status do not impact this share significantly. Reasons for gambling addiction are different and the dependence is developed gradually. Now, players prefer to play online and it is considered legal in many countries. The variety of online casinos, lotteries, and sports betting venues is popular among players of all ages. However, people should understand that everyone who accesses the online gambling platform can become an addict. It is impossible to distinguish a group of people who are more likely to suffer from psychological problems, but there is a range of factors that can make a person face this serious problem.
Game addiction can start at any age no matter whether it is a youth or elderly years. The scientists have put much effort to detect people with the highest level of vulnerability, but their research has not still helped to understand the reason of addiction and its outcome. The range of factors underlying addiction is quite extensive:
- Biological factors: some studies demonstrate the biological nature of the addiction. There is a similarity between game addition and other obsessions. According to research, the human brain releases special hormones when a person wins a game. A similar reaction takes place when a drug addict has received another dose of a drug. The organism experiences the rush of adrenaline, a hormone responsible for stress and risk, and a player starts willing to play games again. However, it is not the only hormone that is activated by winnings in the human body. It releases 2 other hormones called serotonin (“a good mood” hormone) and dopamine (a hormone responsible for pleasure). A player gets accustomed to the said positive feeling and it grows with every new winning.
- Social factors: there are multiple external factors to impact people significantly. These factors may include difficulties in the career, any financial problems, being socially inactive, no support from close people, etc. People who face such situations try to forget about these challenges playing in casinos and that may provoke the appearance of addiction. In most cases, such dependence may influence other family members if they have a similar attitude to problems.
- Psychological factors: the way people think is one of the most crucial things in gambling. Some players have various misconceptions about how gambling addiction works and its impact on their views and wishes. Gamblers believe that despite a number of subsequent losses, they will once face luck and win much. It is confirmed by the fact that addicts usually prefer playing slots since they can make bets more frequently there than in the lottery, for example.
Not only these factors but other problems can cause dependence as well. Predictably, people with other obsessions like drugs or alcohol are more likely to be hooked by gambling as well. The main reason for that is a desire to get fast money and get what they want at the moment. No control over the gambling dependency also leads to various mental disorders. Teenagers who have a strong passion for computer games have also higher chances to suffer from gambling obsessions.
NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF GAMBLING
Gamblers suffer from negative consequences when they pass through various stages of their addiction. Too much gambling affects all aspects of people's lives. The final stage of addiction is a great desire to play mixed with the feeling of guilt. Gamblers become self-focused and minimize personal contacts. It helps them to minimize any impact of the outer world on them. Scientists distinguish a number of the most apparent changes in people's lives:
Mental health disorders: this negative impact is considered to be the most significant one. Gambling makes people stay in constant mental tension, while obsessive thoughts make players feel apathetic and depressed. The affected people feel anxious and scared all the time. This depressive state forces them to explore the world of gambling much deeper to get away from the existing problems and negative thoughts. Consequently, players try to separate from society and make their dependence heavier.
Suicidal state: addicted people often feel depressed and guilty. The inability to get their money back, the understanding that you are a cause of other people pain, and failures to get rid of the obsession often push the addicts to suicide. The said above is more often met among people with related dependencies (drugs, alcohol, etc.) and those who have already attempted to commit suicide. If you have overwhelming thoughts about committing suicide or are suspicious of another person doing that you should react immediately. There are several steps to minimize suicide risks:
- Take away all the items that can lead to injuries (weapon, knives, strong chemicals);
- Never leave a potential suicide alone. If it is you who have suicidal intentions, tell it to a person you trust and ask for his/her assistance;
- Avoid alcohol and drugs;
- Immediately contact customer service or turn to Befrienders Worldwide for help.
Finances: no control over bets and spendings always results in great financial issues. The lack of control leads not only to significant money losses but debts as well. The consequences of such behavior include poverty, big debts, and a necessity to sell some property. An inner pressure to get the money back may even result in serious crimes;
Relationships: there is always a negative impact on interpersonal relationships caused by gambling. It often happens that addicted people no longer have friends, get divorced, and stay alone. Moreover, dependent people may also influence detrimentally on other family members. They may subject kids to domestic violence or emotional pressure. Even if there are no attempts to cause violence, kids may feel abused, depressed, and have not enough social contacts).
HOW TO STOP ADDICTION?
It is not just players but also their families who suffer from addiction. Therefore, the problem should be recognized as fast as possible and you should do your best to cope with it. The majority of players admitted the inability to control behavior after they managed to get rid of this addiction. They realized that they caused harm to themselves and other people and understood how important it was to stop, but they still went on playing despite all that. Soon they start asking questions of the following kind: “How could it happen?”, “Why have I allowed that?”, “How can I stop?”.
If you start thinking about that, it is proof that your attitude to gambling starts changing and you are ready to start the struggle against your inner enemy. You can try any of the 3 sure ways described how to cope with this addiction alone or being helped by other people you trust. The acceptance of the problem is a whole leap forward to its solution.
Admit and analyze the gambling problem of yours
The recognition of your strange behavior is the first important step. You shouldn't eliminate or reject the addiction. Experts recommend trying to detect the signs of addiction you have to be able to have better control of your behavior. It is important to dedicate more time to job responsibilities, family, and friends to have more opportunities to communicate and feel support from others. Naturally, all the consequences of your past behaviour will stay with you as well. It would be useful to write down all the negative things gambling brought into your life. Don't forget to make up a list of people that you offended. Analyze the written and evaluate possible risks. Think about some other possible losses you may have if you don't stop playing. Remember that honesty is the best policy. Always tell how much you have lost in the casino and remember that this amount can increase every day. The final stage is trying to ask for an excuse from people you have offended and do your best to correct the existing tension in your relationships. You will come to the conclusion that your life can improve – it is enough to cease gambling.
Manage your triggers
Recognition of your incentives leads to taking control over them. Feelings, thoughts, and emotions that encourage you to play are also known as "mind traps" triggers. To define your most apparent stimulus, please describe your behavior in the notebook of observations. When you feel a desire to gamble, make a pause and think what was the reason for that. Their range can be rather wide including your bad mood, desire to win money, and others. When you come up with the idea of what exactly makes you gamble, look for a different way to satisfy your desire. Sign off from online casinos, and avoid visiting terrestrial gambling establishments as well. If your friends suggest playing any game, try to explain this is not the best option and look for some other activity. Try to find negative associations with gambling. Make regular reminders to yourself about irreversible consequences brought about by spontaneous betting. One more important point is to come to terms with the idea that luck will never help you to recoup and look for other ways of earning money. You will still have thoughts like that from time to time, so you should immediately draw parallels with your losses and underachievements. Make up a phrase to pronounce each time you will be tempted. You can also stick papers with it in your dwelling and add one to the front screen of your phone. It is also important to avoid the consumption of alcohol and other substances that may prevent you from controlling yourself. Training your impulse control is useful too, so try to start with easy things like postponing meals if you are hungry and so on. Soon, even if your desire to play appears again, you will be able to control yourself better. Pay more attention to the control of your emotions and avoid depression. Try to spend more time in the circle of friends, think about getting a pet or another exciting hobby too.
Get qualified help
If you find it challenging to cope with your wishes and thoughts yourself, look for external support. Turn to your relatives and friends asking them to help you to gain control over your behavior and remind you of your addiction. Furthermore, it would be useful to communicate with people who had a similar problem and managed to overcome this trouble. Never feel ashamed to discuss this problem with a therapist, who can prescribe you some medicine or psychological treatment. Detailed discussions can help to find the most suitable treatment including medical and antidepressants.
Experts define several ways how to treat gambling dependence. Unfortunately, you will not find a universal method that would guarantee 100% success in addiction treatment. The player’s inclinations and underlying reasons to gamble are the ones that will help to define the most suitable treatment. Naturally, some players try to get rid of the problem themselves, but it will be more effective to ask for external help. A list of ways to treat this problem looks as follows:
- Psychotherapy: this way of addiction treatment is characterized by the highest effectiveness. If the reason for the addiction lies in psychology, it is possible to treat the disease with 100% success. If you want to achieve good results, it is important to find a professional and tell him your psychological problem. You should understand that sharing all the details of your addition with a doctor will be crucial since it is the only way to get help.
- Medications: naturally, you will not find drugs developed specifically to treat gambling addiction, but there are medications to cure emotional state. Usually, they include antidepressants that are also used to cure other dependencies and ones to stabilize mood. Some hormones make people feel anxious playing games instead of feeling simply pleased. However, you should take medications only by doctor prescription. Otherwise, you can harm your health.
- Group support: one of the efficient treatment approaches is group therapy. It is twice more effective if combined with other methods. Every addict appears in the circle of people who have the same problem and realizes not being alone in this trouble. The conversations in a group embrace all the participants into a single union and it is easier for them to believe in their strength. When you face a problem alone, you think there is nobody else suffering from the same problem. However, the surrounding of similar people in search of support encourages them to struggle and win this battle. There are many various programs developed for this kind of treatment, but many experts recognize the efficacy of the “12 steps” program. There is a chain of discussions that take players from getting aware of the problem to searching for reasons. After that, they get motivated and try to find a way to return to the life that they lived before.
The choice of the treatment method depends on different factors including reasons and factors that cause passion for gambling. No matter what reasons there are, it is necessary to cope with them. You should conclude that the existing addiction is not related to one game, so you should prepare for a gradual and time-consuming treatment. No matter how disappointing it may sound but you should move with small steps ahead to achieve a full recovery.
WHAT SUPPORT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE?
If you know a person with a gambling addiction, there are several recognized resources developed for them. Every web resource contains lots of information on therapies and algorithms of actions. It can be everything from group discussions to personal consultations with doctors. You can try any of the following centers to combat the problem:
- Gamblers Anonymous: originating in 1957 this organization has been helping over 2,000 private groups of gamblers around the US. Currently, such circles are appearing in many other countries too. This program takes gamblers through 12 steps in order to cope with the problem. Any person who wishes to forget past gambling experiences like a terrible dream can join these groups. The organization puts much effort into relieving any existing pressure and coping with all the problems no matter whether these are financial, legal, or emotional ones.
- BeGambleAware: this UK-based charitable organization received financial support from the gambling industry and offers help to people who cannot stop playing. Gamblers can receive some services to be treated or informed about addiction. The main purpose of the company is the prevention of the problem, its timely identification, and solution at early stages.
- The National Council on Problem Gambling: this council was created to take care of both addicts and their families. There are several ways undertaken by the organization for preventing gambling addiction. There are lots of details on the topic of gambling addictions and approaches to treating them as well as contact information for players. Gamblers can also turn to 24/7 hotline and ask for help or advice;
- GamCare: the UK’s most important organization that deals with gambling dependency providing help and giving recommendations. It is the place where you can be supported and treated being not accused of externally;
- Gambling Therapy: being one of the largest services it provides free recommendations on how to cope with the obsession in practice and emotional assistance. The website of this organization contains lots of useful tips on how to detect obsession and give up this nasty habit. There is online assistance offered there too. Furthermore, the service offers access to forums where addicts discuss their problems and try to cope with them together.
Not only these renowned organizations can help people suffering from addiction. The last ones can join private clubs, register on forums, and similar unions In the countries of their location. Remember that hiding a problem is not a way out. You should turn for professional assistance to get back to your happy life.
WHAT IS THE OUTLOOK FOR GAMBLING ADDICTION?
The majority of countries have legalized gambling and made it easy to access. Hopefully, many players consider this activity only a way to have fun and they are not treated as a problem. At the same time, we can observe an increase in the number of players who get addicted. These are online casinos that have become much more popular and visited, so the number of people who attend casinos has grown too. It led to an increase in the number of dependent players as well.
There is no possibility to find out the exact number of dependent from gambling people. The main reason for that is an inability to admit the existing problem or efforts to cope with it alone.
Every visit to a casino should be associated with possible negative consequences that can be caused when you lose control of yourself. There are no people who are insured from being affected by casino games no matter what age or gender they have. If you see any changes in the behavior of people you love or even yourself, you should ensure this was not caused by gambling. Modern iGaming platforms have introduced several techniques how to protect vulnerable gamblers. They include limits of deposits, the number of spins, and the possibility to exclude yourself for some time.
We have written this article to help every vulnerable person recognize threatening symptoms at the early stage of the disease and put effort into eliminating them. If a player needs help, he should contact customer support immediately.
Keep in mind that the prevention of addiction is much easier than its treatment. Learn to take control of your gambling activity and you will enjoy the process without any negative consequences.