There are many who enjoy a game of cards, betting on sports events, or rolling the dice at a casino from time-to-time. But, for others, gambling becomes a way of life and the progresses to a full-blown gambling addiction. From lotto tickets, to slot machines, to roulette, car and horse races, and boxing events, the ability to participate in gambling is everywhere in our society. The internet has made gambling even that much more accessible.
Unfortunately, those with a gambling disorder may live a life of financial, emotional and social ruin if the disorder is not dealt with in a healthy manner. In fact, once a gambling disorder takes hold, the risk of depression is high, and the risk of suicide attempts is near 20%, higher than what is seen in any other addiction.
Gambling affects males more than females, and when affected, women tend to be affected later in life, though they tend to progress from recreational gambling to pathological gambling much more rapidly than men.
The hallmark of gambling addiction is the continued participation in gambling despite experiencing negative consequences. The DSM-5, published by the American Psychiatric Association lists certain criteria that should be present to diagnose a gambling disorder. In fact, gambling disorder is the only process addiction (behavioral addiction) that currently has a formal set of diagnostic criteria published in the DSM. As more research is done, it is likely that other process addictions will be added in the future.
One with a gambling disorder may exhibit these signs and symptoms (not all are required to make the diagnosis):
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF GAMBLING ADDICTION
- Tolerance – Increased intensity or duration of gambling required to get the same effect
- Withdrawal – Agitation, anxiety, depression or other mood problems when gambling is decreased or stopped
- Inability to stop – Unable to stop or cut down, even when desired
- Preoccupation – Constant thoughts of gambling, planning gambling, fantasizing, reliving previous gambling experiences
- Mood management – Gambles to control or change one’s mood
- Gambles despite losses – Gambles even more when a loss is incurred
- Hiding – Hides or lies about gambling ventures and money spent, lost, or won
- Social problems – Jeopardizes relationships, work, education, and other opportunities
- Borrowing or stealing money – Borrows or uses money from others to fund gambling
Many times, a gambling disorder is associated with other mood and substance-related disorders, such as anxiety, depression, alcoholism, and stimulant addictions. In fact, almost 50% of those who meet the criteria for gambling disorder also meet the criteria for another addictive disorder. This mix makes recovery from one or the other unlikely, unless both disorders are addressed simultaneously. Men with gambling disorders are also more likely to have suffered from childhood trauma, according to a Reuters article. The men included in this study were also many times more likely to experience violence at home and work, and relationship, employment, financial, and housing problems, and to be involved in crime.
Substance users and gamblers both score highly on risk-taking behaviors. Because of this, a gambler may take a drink of alcohol to calm his/her nerves before or during gambling, or may celebrate success by taking a drink. Alternatively, a line or two of cocaine before or during gambling can ramp-up the excitement and cocaine can keep the excitement going, even when the gambling has stopped.
GAMBLING ADDICTION TREATMENT
Gambling addiction is a treatable disorder. Those with co-additions, such as alcoholism and drug addiction are best treated in a residential rehab that can address both conditions, as well as any other psychiatric condition that is present. There are centers that are specialized to treat those who are only addicted to gambling, and do not have another addiction, but they are not easy to locate and can be expensive.
The treatment for gambling disorder is like that of alcoholism and drug addiction. There are also self-help groups that one can attend to facilitate the recovery process. Some medications have been found to be effective in the treatment of gambling addiction, such as antidepressants, naltrexone, and mood stabilizers. Of course, the simultaneous treatment of any coexisting psychiatric disorders and other addictions will greatly benefit the long-term outcome of gambling addiction treatment.
Those with a gambling disorder whose lives are in ruin can locate effective treatment now, instead of shuffling cards, or rolling the dice, or scratching off a lotto ticket one more time. The Addiction Specialists at the National Addiction Institute are here to guide you in locating the resources you need!