What is A gambling addiction?
Many people gamble for fun and engage in things like fantasy football, friendly bets, scratch cards, etc. Las Vegas, one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, is always swarming with tourists that travel far and wide to gamble. Gambling can go from fun to harmful when someone struggles with a gambling addiction. Gambling addictions can negatively affect all aspects of life including relationships, finances, behaviors, physical, mental and emotional health. Addiction in general can cause you to compromise your value system and do things you thought you’d never do. Individuals struggling with a gambling addiction can resort to extreme behaviors like gambling away their very own house. Gambling addiction, which is also known as pathological gambling, compulsive gambling, or gambling disorder, is known as an impulse control disorder. Any substance or action like gambling, can be abused while still having some level of control over their lives but similar to other addictions, those addicted to gambling cannot control their urges to gamble. Whether someone gambles every day or infrequently, gambling becomes a problem as soon as it creates other problems. In order to be diagnosed with a gambling addiction, an individual must meet the criteria in the DSM and be diagnosed by a professional. The criteria listed in DSM includes:
- Need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to feel excitement
- Restlessness or irritability when trying to stop gambling
- Repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop, control, or reduce gambling
- Thinking often about gambling and making plans to gamble
- Gambling when feeling distressed
- Returning to gamble again after losing money
- Lying to conceal gambling activities
- Experiencing relationship or work problems due to gambling
- Depending on others for money to spend on gambling
How common is it and who struggles?
Gambling addictions are quite common and anyone can become victim to this addiction. In the U.S., about ten million people a year report that they have an addiction to gambling or show problem behaviors with gambling. Teenagers and young adults are the most vulnerable to developing a gambling addiction. Furthermore, men tend to gamble more and develop gambling addictions more often than women do. Gambling has become more accessible since technological advances and now most gambling occurs through lap tops and computers.
What causes a gambling addiction?
There is no exact cause that is understood to lead to an addiction to gambling however, often times gambling addiction is associated with other disorders or mental illness. Like many other addictions, gambling addiction may result from a mixture of environmental, biological, and genetic factors. Certain risk factors can make individuals more vulnerable to developing a gambling addiction. Risk factors include: mental health disorders like substance abuse disorder, personality disorders, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, and ADHD, age, sex, societal influence, medications that cause side effects like compulsiveness, and certain personality characteristics like someone who is extremely competitive. Things like retirement, job stress, loneliness, and negative environments can also lead someone to escape by gambling.
There are many symptoms that indicate someone has a gambling problem. Receiving calls from debt collectors is a huge one. Other signs include borrowing money from others to gamble, losing valuables from gambling, irritability and obsessing over gambling, bragging about wins, isolation, being constantly on an electronic device, and relationship problems.
There is no set cure for a gambling addiction but treatment is very possible! Those with a gambling addiction can recover with the help from therapy, medication and self-help groups. CBT is usually the most successful form of therapy used when treating a gambling addiction. Medications like mood stabilizers and anti-depressants are also helpful. Social support like self-help groups are also encouraged for those struggling with a gambling addiction. If you know someone struggling with a gambling addiction you can find resources at :