Responsible Gambling

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Gambling Addiction

Gambling is an activity that offers excitement and fun. People have engaged in gambling activities for thousands of years due to this fact. Players can stake their cash on a variety of outcomes and stand the opportunity to win extra cash. However, gambling has transcended beyond a game of fun and excitement for many people and instead become a necessity. This is because of the chance it offers to win huge rewards, which has gotten many people addicted to the dice and cards of the casino tables. Over time, they cannot control their gambling, and this game that is meant to be a fun activity becomes an obsession that poses a danger to them and those around them. This is the moment that evident signs of gambling addiction start to show.

What is a Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction is an impulse control disorder that is also referred to as Ludomania. It is a situation when an individual keeps on gambling even when it is having a negative impact on them and those in their immediate environment. Everyone showcases different gambling addiction symptoms, depending on the kind of gambling activity they engage in. For individuals who gamble compulsively, gambling first begins as an activity for entertainment, but when they win huge cash, gambling can transform into a huge problem. Sometimes, compulsive gamblers don’t have to land a huge win before they get hooked, and it becomes a problem. Many people believe that all gambling addicts are unable to control their urge to gambling, but this is not entirely true. There are gamblers that can make a decision regarding when to gamble and when not to. However, if the activity hinders their everyday activity, then it has developed into gambling addiction.

Common Types of Gambling Addiction

Compulsive Gambling

When a person has no control over their gambling urge or desire, they are categorized as compulsive gamblers. This kind of gambling which is also referred to as pathological gambling, makes a person surpass his or her limit. Compulsive gamblers find gambling irresistible, and they will continue to gamble, not minding the negative impacts their gambling is having on them, their finances, their loved ones, and their everyday lives. Even though they know they don’t have the resources to handle any further gambling activity, they don’t care and will still make massive wagers playing their favorite games.

Binge Gambling

The binge gambler shares some similarities with a compulsive gambler. The only difference is that they still have some form of control and can go for a period without displaying any signs of gambling addiction. There are binge gamblers that can go weeks and even months without gambling. But the compulsive gambling behavior can show up without warning anytime these individuals begin to beg. When it happens, neither they nor those around them can stop them from gambling without some major efforts. Sometimes, it is almost impossible.

Problem Gambling

When a person continues to gamble even after losing consistently or can’t seem to stop thinking about placing bets, they can be categorized as problem gamblers. Even though these individuals may try to resist the urge or desire to gamble, they tend to ignore their responsibilities and still start betting. Eventually, their gambling activities cause a disruption to their everyday lives and negatively affect them and their loved ones.

Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

The physical symptoms and signs of gambling are not prominent and can be extremely difficult to spot. This is unlike alcohol or drug addiction which comes with glaring symptoms. The implication of these hidden signs is that a person can continue gambling till they get into financial problems or even lose their jobs without them or those around them knowing it. This case is worse in binge and problem gamblers because the signs are almost impossible to spot.

But if a person showcases or experiences some of the symptoms covered below, then they are dealing with a gambling addiction. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) states that an individual must display not less than 4 of the symptoms below within a duration of 12 months to be categorized as a gambling addict. They include:

Even though these symptoms can help you determine whether you have a gambling addiction, a proper medical diagnosis is still required as it is more accurate. If you have experienced no less than four of the above symptoms, you will need to get the help of a mental health expert like a psychiatrist.

These experts are well versed and better suited in determining if you are dealing with a gambling addiction or showing symptoms of an underlying medical condition. Tons of individuals dealing with a gambling addiction usually deal with other disorders like substance use disorders, depressive disorders, bipolar disorders, and ADHD.

Causes of Gambling Addiction

Nobody fully understands what causes a person to develop a gambling addiction. However, there are numerous factors that can contribute towards it, including huge first wins, mental health problems, and an urge for money.

Biological Causes

One of the core reasons why people suffer from a gambling addiction, particularly problem gambling, is the manner the brain reacts to gambling. According to scientific research, the brain produces a neurological response when a person wins while gambling. This response is like what happens to cocaine addicts when they consume a dose of the drug. In addition to this, compulsive gambling has been associated with deficiencies in the feel-good chemical known as serotonin alongside norepinephrine which is a stress hormone. There are also other biological causes that have been found to be present in the genes. The implication of this is that there are a group of people that are more genetically inclined to develop a gambling addiction disorder.

Psychological Causes

The way a person perceives gambling may also have an influence on if he or she has a likelihood of developing a gambling problem. Loss-chasing, which is common in gambling, is a factor that can eventually trigger a gambling addiction. As the gambler keeps hoping to win the next bet, they continue to deny the impact of their gambling habits in their lives and go further into this vicious cycle. These individuals hold a high level of hope even as they continue to experience losses.

What’s more, the likelihood and excitement of winning numerous times possible on a slot machine can make a person susceptible to a gambling problem. This is usually common among fast-paced gamblers who enjoy fast-paced games or slot machines as opposed to the lottery. Furthermore, there are people who land their first win gambling and become attached or hooked. This is particularly the case when their first win is huge and helps in recouping all the cash they lost betting previously. These individuals have a higher possibility of experiencing gambling addiction when they constantly place bets in the belief that they will land another huge win. There are instances when some of these individuals place double the initial stake so they can land double the wins. This strategy hardly does any good since gambling is a game of chance where your next win is not guaranteed.

Social Causes

Compulsive gambling could be triggered by the desperate urge for money, job loss, and stress. Even though gambling addiction is not a genetic problem, an older member of the family can pass it down to the younger ones in the family. This could be through direct teaching or influence. In addition, social elements like having friends who frequently bet or proximity to gambling options could also trigger gambling addiction.

Medications

Medications may not cause a gambling addiction directly, but there are specific ones that could cause this issue. For example, antipsychotic medications and dopamine agonists have been associated with a higher likelihood of gambling addiction.

Recognizing Gambling Addiction

Many people dealing with gambling addiction fail to notice the issue until it has done irreversible damage. This is when they have already lost their jobs, entered huge financial debts, lost their relationships, or gotten into problems in the law when they engage in criminal activities to get the finance to fund their gambling.

The good news is that there are gambling addiction signs that pop up before it gets so bad, which means you can easily determine if you are dealing with a gambling addiction and need a check-up.

If you realize that you have any of the symptoms of gambling addiction we covered above, the first thing you should do is accept and recognize that you have an issue. Many people who are dealing with gambling addiction continue to deny the fact that they have a problem even when the signs are so evident. If you believe you are starting to get addicted to gambling on online betting platforms or those around you have begun to show concern about the influence of your gambling habits, then it is important that you seek help.

There are instances where gamblers may try to justify the problems around their gambling addiction to make it feel like they have not lost control or to hide the fundamental issue. Even though this is something compulsive gamblers can’t do, problem gamblers can do this without issues. This may seem like a good idea, but the downside is that it extends the issue and makes it hard to stop when the time comes.

Self-help Strategies for Gambling Problems

The first step towards dealing with a gambling addiction is recognizing and accepting that you have an issue. The next step is to work towards freeing yourself from the addiction. Thankfully, there are numerous self-help strategies that you could use to assist you in overcoming your gambling addiction and free yourself for the remainder of your life. Some of these strategies are listed below.

Treatment for Gambling Addiction

It is not easy to quit gambling; however, it is possible. There are numerous types of treatment options available for the problem and compulsive gamblers alike. No treatment has been stated as the official option for gambling addiction. However, there are methods that can be of help:

Therapy

Psychotherapy has been known to effectively treat gambling issues and can even help deal with relapses. The expertise of a professional therapist or psychiatrist during counseling could help in improving gambling behaviors and habits. This strategy would be more beneficial if the gambler has another psychiatric issue that brings about his/her urge to gamble. With the help of a professional, treating both conditions is possible.

Medication

There are specific medications that could help in minimizing the constant urge to head to an online betting platform or visit a land-based casino to play slots. Medications like anti-seizure drugs and antidepressants have shown promise in helping deal with gambling addiction.

Prevalence of Gambling Addiction

Many of the official records of individuals dealing with gambling addiction stem from gamblers self-reporting themselves. Thus, it is not easy to determine the number of people experiencing this issue.

In Canada, the number of individuals dealing with a gambling addiction makes up 3% of the population. More than 1 million Canadians are dealing with a gambling problem. In the United States, problem gambling falls between 2-3% of the entire population. While gambling addiction is less and makes up for 1% of the whole population.

In Australia, the numbers are no better since the Problem Gambling Severity Index standard use estimates that around 1.1 million everyday gamblers have acted in ways that caused or put them in danger of gambling-related issues.

However, the numbers are a bit higher in the UK. A survey carried out by YouGov showed that about 2.7% of UK adults, which is around 1.4million individuals, have issues with gambling. But this figure is not official and are just estimates as the UK Gambling commission places the official estimates at 0.7%.

From the figures above, men seem to have the highest numbers. This means that men have a higher likelihood of experiencing gambling problems or becoming gambling addicts as opposed to women. And the worse part is that even though there are numerous treatments for gambling addiction, many men don’t find treatment or join organizations that can help them. Sometimes, a few are lucky enough to correct their gambling habits by changing their behavior, lifestyle, or through support from family and friends. However, many of them continue to groom this habit and lose a major part of their lives to problem gambling and its effects without getting the help they need.

Effects of Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction causes numerous short- and long-term negative impacts in the lives of individuals. Some of these are easy to point out, while others may need one to look closely to spot them.

Financial Ruin

Individuals dealing with gambling addiction tend to end up in serious financial problems. In most cases, they can amass debts and sometimes gamble away their cars, homes, and other valuables. For people with compulsive gambling, their finances are not the only ones on the line, but that of their family, friends, and acquaintances. Sometimes they could wager funds from work, investors, etc., and this could cause legal problems and even time in jail.

Mental Health

Mental and psychological problems tend to stem from betting continuously. This happens because this problem causes a disruption to the way the person thinks and lives. The effect could be an increase in social issues and strained relationships. Gambling addiction could also trigger other mental issues like suicide, anxiety, and depression.

Relationship

Compulsive gamblers tend to suffer, but they don’t suffer alone and tend to drag their families into it too. Research states that children with problem gambling parents may experience child abuse and other types of domestic violence. In addition, they have a higher likelihood of developing other forms of addictions and mental health issues as they grow older.

How To Help Someone With Gambling Problems Or Addiction

Since it is possible for the signs of gambling addiction to be hidden, particularly in the case of problem gamblers, it may not be easy for relatives to observe that someone close to them is dealing with a gambling addiction until it has caused severe damage. However, there are signs to watch out for that can help you determine if something is off.

These are signs that indicate that there is an issue. However, the moment that you find out your friend or someone close to you has an issue; it is crucial that you don’t ridicule or judge them because of their gambling problem. This does not help in any way, neither does forcing or threatening them to stop. Instead, it will encourage them to hide the problem and any other problems from you until it is too late.

The instant you observe these signs, the first and most critical move you can make is to get an education on the matter. You need to support them so that they can overcome their gambling addiction. However, you should not render any financial help or help them clear off debts. Rather, you can participate in their treatment process and help them find a financial service that could clear out their debts.

Helping Someone with a Gambling Addiction Seek Treatment

It can be hard to help a family member or friend dealing with gambling addiction to get treatment. This is except they are ready to do the task themselves but don’t have the needed resources to achieve it. Sometimes, you can convince a person to get treatment if you speak to them about their gambling and how it has negatively affected their lives and that of those around them.

For the process to go seamlessly, you need to be loving and show positivity while showing concern for their behavior. Reaching out to close friends and family members to occasionally confront the gambler is also a method that can work.

In other cases, your best bet of helping a problem gambler get treatment is to speak to an expert first. You can reach out to professional bodies using their helplines to get direction from experts that will provide you with the appropriate steps to deal with a loved one who has a gambling problem. An example of an organization like this is Gambling Help Online (I800 858 858)

Stopping Suicide In People With Gambling Addiction

Suicide is prominent among compulsive gamblers. If you observe that a loved one is battling depression, or is becoming more introverted than usual, or if you are having suicidal thoughts, it is best to reach out to the suicidal helpline for assistance. The following are some national organizations that help with suicide prevention in various countries.

Gambling Addiction Resources in Australia

If you need help with your gambling addiction, there are numerous organizations in Australia that specialize in this and would be happy to assist. These organizations provide treatment which ranges from counseling, group meetings with individuals dealing with similar conditions, and sometimes advanced treatment programs that may be combined with medication. While there are tons of organizations available today, here are some of the top and most reliable options in Australia that can help every compulsive and problem gambler unhook from casinos.

  1. Gambling Help Online(https://www.gamblinghelponline.org.au/): Gambling Help Online is an organization that provides Australians with the chance to get counseling and resources when they are unable to get face-to-face services for problem gambling. It consists of professional counselors who are experienced in issues surrounding problem gambling, and the website also provides amazing content and self-help content alongside links where individuals in Australia can get further help. If you want to reach out to this body, you can do so with 1800858858.
  2. Relationships Australia (http://www.relationships.org.au/): This is a leading body that provides relationship support services to families and individuals dealing with various issues, including gambling problems. They provide various services around Australia, including Counselling, Family dispute resolution, among others that have been damaged by a member’s gambling problem. You can contact them via phone on 1300 364 277.
  3. Gambler’s Help: (https://gamblershelp.com.au/): Gambling help provides numerous services related to helping those with problem gambling. Some of these include counseling which encompasses financial counseling, peer support from individuals who have experienced gambling harm, education regarding gambling harm, etc.

Other Gambling Addiction Resources

In addition to the options we have covered above, there are resources that can help you with your gambling addiction regardless of where you are in the world. Below are a few of the top options you can try out today.

  1. Addiction Center: (http://www.addictioncenter.com): Addiction Center was developed in 2014 and has offered guidance and assistance to people dealing with various mental disorders, one of which is gambling addiction. This organization is owned by Recovery Worldwide and plays the role of a middleman between people experiencing problem gambling and treatment solutions. They work alongside some of the top and renowned treatment centers to offer treatment solutions, including counseling, rehab placement, and financial solutions for those in need of help.
  2. Gamblers Anonymous: (http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga): Gamblers Anonymous has been around for decades. It was developed in 1957 and has been dedicated to helping individuals with problem gambling get the needed help. Via its local groups, it has kept on providing assistance for gamblers and their loved ones.
  3. The National Council on Problem Gambling: (https://www.ncpgambling.org/): The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) was developed by Robert Custer, Irving Sacher, and Joseph Dunne in 1972. And now, it has risen to become one of the core supporters of problem gamblers. Now, it focuses on assisting addicts to overcome the unsavory grip of gambling addiction. The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) also offers informational guides that will aid individuals battling with gambling addiction get treatment. This body does not support or stand against gambling activities.
  4. Responsible Gambling Council (https://www.responsiblegambling.org): The Responsible Gaming Council is another body gamblers or their loved ones can contact for helpful resources., This organization is dedicated to minimizing the dangers of gambling addiction via innovation, discovery, and awareness. Their contact information is +1 (416) 499-9800.
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Last updated: June 4, 2021