Occasional gambling may be a pleasurable activity. But when gambling becomes addictive, it can take a heavy toll on the life, finances, health and wellbeing of gamblers and their loved ones.
Compulsive gamblers can win or lose a huge amount of money within a few hours or days. The euphoria that accompanies gambling can become so intoxicating that gamblers keep playing to regain their high.
At one time, gambling only occurred in casinos, but today it takes on many forms. Betting, gaming and wagering takes place online 24/7 and affects both genders from teens to adults. Data shows that about 5 million U.S. residents are into compulsive gambling, but less than 10% of them will seek help at gambling addiction treatment centers. Obtaining treatment for compulsive gambling can help address this destructive process and give people full control of their lives again.
What Is Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction or compulsive gambling occurs when a person keeps gambling even when they are experiencing the adverse effects of their activities. They can no longer control compulsive gambling, and they continue to gamble even when they’ve lost all their money. A person who doesn’t have this illness will usually stop when they reach a predefined maximum loss.
What Are Common Gambling Addiction Symptoms?
There are many signs of gambling addiction. Identifying these signs should be the first step toward getting help. It’s important to identify the signs of compulsive gambling, so you can prevent any damaging effects:
- Placing very large bets or taking more dangerous risks such as borrowing from illegal sources
- Inability to resist the urge to gamble
- Losing control of the amount of money spent in a gambling session
- Experiencing trouble at work due to gambling
- Behaving secretly about gambling activities
- Having a large amount of cash that suddenly disappears
- Applying for new credit cards without any observable need for money
- Staying away from family, friends and hobbies to gamble
- Lying about spending habits
- Spending plenty of time online without talking about the activity
- Requesting loans from family and friends without giving a good reason for the cash
What Causes Gambling Addiction?
Gambling may be a recreation activity without feeling any compulsion to do it. While the actual causes of compulsive gambling aren’t always easy to identify, certain risk factors can make someone vulnerable.
The first factor is another co-occurring mental illness. Another factor that influences the development of compulsive gambling is living or working close to a casino. People who live about 50 miles or less from a popular casino are more likely to become compulsive gamblers. Although this may seem unreasonable, people who have a low income or are unemployed are more likely to develop a gambling addiction.
People who have a substance use disorder are also at risk of developing a gambling addiction. For example, studies show those who were addicted to cocaine were more likely to become compulsive gamblers than those who did not have a cocaine addiction.
Who Is at a Greater Risk of Developing a Gambling Addiction?
Anyone who falls into these categories should take extra caution when gambling:
- Young people between 16 to 35
- Those who have a family member with an addictive disorder or gambling addiction
- People with a mental illness such as depression
- Individuals struggling with a substance use disorder
Treatment for Gambling Addiction
Treatment for pathological gambling or gambling addiction is highly effective. If the person gambling can admit they need help, then the following therapy can work:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): The therapist challenges the person’s wrong beliefs and then replaces them with new and more accurate beliefs. During CBT, the person’s feelings change, and they modify their gambling behavior.
- Medication: Antidepressants may treat any co-occurring problems such as depression and anxiety. This could reduce the urge to gamble. Narcotic antagonists may also reduce the craving to gamble.
- Support groups: Joining a support group can give individuals a chance to enjoy self-help. 12-step fellowships such as those offered at Gateway Foundation can also help people receive encouragement to abstain from gambling.
Get Gambling Addiction Help in Chicago
If you want to quit gambling or you have a loved one who needs to stop compulsive gambling, we’re here to help you. Gateway Foundation offers effective, life-saving gambling addiction treatment in Chicago. We’ve been helping people with addiction in Illinois for over 50 years.
Give us a call at 877.505.4673 or fill our contact form and book an appointment for evidence-based gambling addiction help that will set you back on a path to a sober and fulfilling life.