Some addictions are not always viewed as addictions.
These addictions are sometimes categorized as some other aberrant behavior outside the normal purview of accepted addictive criteria. These compulsions do not always appear to have the usual suspects like drugs or alcohol involved.
Yet, these compulsive behaviors can stimulate the brain’s reward system as if the person had taken drugs or been drinking. One such addiction that fits this definition is gambling. As with alcohol gambling is not always a problem for most of society but for a few it becomes a serious condition that not only effects the gambler but all of their significant others.
It is a serious condition that left unaddressed can destroy lives.
The treatment for compulsive gambling can be as challenging as any other addictive behavioral condition. As with other addictions it usually follows a certain course.
There are rare instances were a person becomes addicted from the first bet but generally the trouble progresses over time. As with alcohol the gambler may enjoy years of problem free gambling just as an alcoholic may drink for years not experiencing harmful consequences.
Casual gambling can be altered into an addiction by life stresses, depression and thrill seeking just to name a few causes. “The bigger the bet the bigger the thrill.” This can lead to an increasing preoccupation of chasing and sustaining “the high” that excessive betting will produce. Those bets usually involve sums of money or property that the gambler cannot afford to lose.
Gaining an increasing thrill from pursuing larger and larger gambling risks is a hallmark for gambling addiction.
A simple definition for gambling is risking something of value such as money, property or anything considered worthy and hoping to receive something in return of greater value. The non-compulsive gambler is not compelled to gamble. On the other hand the compulsive gambler will continue to gamble in spite of the terrible toll it takes with their life. Symptoms that help identify a gambling problem may include accumulation of debt, betting on anything, chasing bets, hiding the betting, depletion of savings and eventually may incorporate fraud, theft or other criminal activities.
There may also be failed efforts to cut back on the gambling, remorse and guilt feelings, lying or taking time away from family and work. Another symptom is borrowing money, reliving past gambling experiences as euphoric recall or the use of gambling as a way to escape personal problems. The problem gambler may exaggerate their winnings or minimize their losses as well. These are not the totality of symptoms of problematic gambling but can be the tip of the “iceberg” that will eventually sink the gambler’s life.
Just as it is with alcohol or substance abuse one bet is too many and a thousand is not enough. The problem gambler must avoid taking “the first bet” just as the alcoholic or addict must avoid the first drink or drug. Abstinence is the gold standard and one bet typically leads to another. There are solutions and I have listed some of them at the Ohio for Responsible Gambling website at the end of this blog.
At that website there are listed many possible problem solving ideas and concepts one may explore. If you are or know someone who might have a gambling addiction searching that site is a good starting point.
The first step in any resolution to an addiction issues is to recognize that there is a problem and with that simple admission the road to recovery may begin.