Gambling is a popular pastime. Up to 85% of American adults report having gambled at least once, and 60% say they’ve done it in the last year. As a simple diversion, the risks of gambling are well-known and can be responsibly managed by most people. Unfortunately, 1%-3% of adults have some variety of gambling addiction, which can quickly drain people of their resources, break up families and cause multiple secondary problems, such as problem drinking and depression, that could devastate a person’s life. If you have trouble controlling your gambling or know someone who might, finding a gambling rehab near you might be the most important decision you can make to get better.
What Is Gambling Addiction?
Gambling describes basically any game of chance that’s played for money. Slot machines, poker games, casino blackjack, sports betting and state lottery tickets are some of the best-known and most popular venues for gambling. It’s debatable whether high-risk and speculative investments are also a form of gambling, but the rewards they offer can feel to the person involved like the rush compulsive gamblers often describe.
Gambling addiction is a compulsive need to keep betting, even when the negative consequences of doing it start to mount. Escalating use in the face of negative consequences is a classic definition of addictive behavior, and gambling behavior is unusually likely to produce this effect. What makes addictive gambling so dangerous is how quickly it can spiral out of control. While there’s only so much alcohol a person can drink, and there are limits to the drugs a person can consume in any given time period, a problem gambler can throw hundreds of thousands of dollars away as quickly as the bets can be laid. Given unlimited resources, it’s possible to spend a lifetime’s worth of drug money on a single afternoon’s losing streak at the casino.
Common Forms of Addictive Gambling
There are many ways to gamble, and likewise, there are many ways people can fall into gambling addiction. In the United States, sports betting and state lotteries are some of the most popular venues for gambling, with casinos and horse races running close behind. Personal bets, such as a private poker game held at somebody’s house, are also very common, but numbers vary wildly on the prevalence of this basically secret activity. Internet casino betting is illegal in the United States, but it’s legal elsewhere, and a gambler with access to a VPN can generally get around local laws to bet real money online.
Many people bring cash with them to their chosen betting venue or use their debit cards to lay bets online or over the phone with a bookie. In some cases, people who’ve run out of ready money to gamble with will access their credit cards from the ATM at the casino or use their cards online to replenish funds in their accounts. This is especially dangerous for problem gamblers because any losses will have to be paid to the house, and the resulting debt comes with interest payments that can rapidly spiral out of control.
Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction can develop with alarming speed, so the signs and symptoms of a gambling problem might not be visible for very long before the issue has caused long-term damage to a person’s life. The signs of problem gambling are fairly similar to the signs of any other addiction, with a few extra symptoms that are specifically money oriented. Signs that you or somebody you know might have a problem with gambling include:
- A preoccupation with gambling, frequent trips to casinos and the track and regular discussions of gambling, money for gambling and gambling strategies that might increase a person’s win percentage
- Increasing the amount of money being laid on bets in an apparent effort to get the same thrill out of higher and higher stakes
- Chasing losses by betting more after losing money, or a feeling that a losing streak will soon end if only the person keeps betting
- Unsuccessful attempts to cut back or to stop gambling
- Feelings of restlessness, agitation, anxiety or irritation when unable to gamble
- Gambling as a coping strategy to manage feelings of depression, anxiety or life stress, including stress directly or indirectly caused by gambling, such as lack of money or relationship issues
- Losing important relationships as a result of gambling, such as romantic relationships or a job, or running the risk of losing these connections because of gambling
- Lying about gambling, concealing the frequency of gambling sessions, hiding amounts lost and becoming defensive when questioned
- Asking for loans, handouts, help with household bills or other financial assistance to cover losses caused by gambling
Gambling Rehab Near You
Gambling addiction, like any other addiction, is not a failure caused by weak willpower or a bad character. The compulsive need to gamble is very similar to the chemical dependence caused by many drugs, and the treatment options for it are similar. A person with a gambling problem must first acknowledge that their gambling is not under control and that it’s having serious negative consequences on themselves and on the people around them. Any treatment for addiction, including for gambling addiction, is far more likely to succeed when the person getting help accepts their addiction and resolves to work through the steps of gambling addiction rehab. Studies suggest that up to 80% of problem gamblers can’t admit they have an issue, which makes getting started with rehab for gambling addiction the biggest hurdle in successful treatment of the disorder.
Treatment can begin immediately after a person resolves to get help. Unlike chemical dependencies, such as alcohol and drugs, there aren’t any habit-forming substances in the gambler’s body that need to be detoxed, so the inpatient phase of typical addiction treatments isn’t generally needed. An exception to this is if the person seeking treatment has secondary addiction issues, such as heavy drinking, which may have to be medically managed during the initial treatment phase. After that, most gambling rehab focuses on cognitive behavioral therapy, in which the person learns the triggers for problem gambling and develops strategies for maintaining remission.
Help for Gambling Addiction Is Available
Gambling addiction is insidious and pervasive. People who have it find it easy to be in denial, and the damage caused by huge, high-speed losses could take a lifetime to repair. If you or a person you care for is struggling with gambling or you need a referral to rehab for gambling, the compassionate counselors at FHE are available 24/7 for a free, confidential consultation. Contact us today.