A form of entertainment, gambling involves risking something of value on a random event in hopes of winning money or other prizes. For some people, gambling becomes a harmful habit that causes long term harm. While most of us are aware that gambling is addictive, we may not understand how gambling addiction develops and why it can be so difficult to quit. In my work in problem gambling treatment and prevention, I have discovered that there are several common factors to help explain why people become addicted to gambling. These include the following:
A large part of gambling’s appeal is that it provides a short term escape from boredom or stress. Gambling can send massive surges of dopamine through the brain, a chemical that is typically used to reward positive experiences and motivate one to keep doing something that is pleasurable. However, when someone has a problem with gambling, these rewards are no longer satisfying. Instead, the brain craves more and more of these artificially induced surges of dopamine and will stop seeking satisfaction from healthier activities.
Symptoms of compulsive gambling can begin in childhood or adolescence and can persist throughout adulthood. They can also affect men and women differently. Men tend to start gambling earlier and more often, while women are more likely to start gambling later in life and may become addicted more slowly. Family members and close friends who have a gambling problem can also influence a person to become a gambler.
The biggest step in overcoming a gambling problem is admitting you have a problem. This takes courage and strength, especially if you have lost a lot of money or have damaged your relationships with family and friends as a result of your gambling. Once you acknowledge that you have a problem, there are many treatment options available. These include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, group therapy and family therapy.
It is important to remove the temptations that can lead to gambling addiction by getting rid of credit cards, putting someone else in charge of your finances, closing online betting accounts and keeping only a small amount of cash on you. It is also essential to find other activities that you enjoy, like spending time with friends, engaging in hobbies or working on a passion project. Lastly, never gamble with money that you need to pay bills or rent. You can also seek support by joining a gambling recovery program, such as Gamblers Anonymous. These programs use a 12-step approach and can be a great source of motivation and moral support. You can also receive guidance and support from a sponsor, who is a former gambler with experience remaining free of gambling addiction. The therapists at Recovery Connections are all licensed and vetted, and can match you with the best therapist for your needs. Get started today and be matched with a therapist in as little as 48 hours.