In the 21st century, almost every second person on the planet plays gambling. Gambling is fun and very exciting entertainment for most people. Fortunately for many players, this is just a pleasant hobby. However, sometimes, gambling turns into something more than just a hobby, and players lose control of their habits. When gambling starts to create discomfort for the player and others, this indicates psychological severe disorders and dependence.
What is Gambling Addiction?
Game addiction is defined as a change in a person’s mental health. In the international directory of diseases ICD-10, game addiction is classified as “Disruption of an adult personality and behavior” in section 5, “Mental and behavioral disorders”. Game addiction as a diagnosis can be described as follows – a violation that is expressed by a regular and often-repeated game with negative consequences. It influences a person’s usual way of life and dominates their material, social, and professional values.
However, even though gambling addiction is always an uncontrollable desire to play, psychologists still share several types. Most often, there are three types of gambling addiction:
- Addiction to the game or a strong desire to play for the purpose of pleasure, regardless of the consequences. This behavior leads to a decrease in other skills and values of the person (the player only partially changes their behavior). The characteristic difference is not pronounced arousal of a person with a constant obsessive desire to play;
- Mania (or manic game addiction) is characterized with strong excitement, frequent mood swings, tireless gaming. In this case, the symptoms are pronounced and noticeable. The player not only ceases to perform their social duties, but also can play day and night to the detriment of sleep, dinner, and so on. Often, such gamers start lying to acquaintances and relatives, sell property, and deny the fact of dependence;
- Impulsive dependence is a form of gambling when a person ceases to control themselves only during the game. Basically, these players usually behave and do not suffer from a pronounced desire to play. But under the influence of stress, or too joyful events are returned to the game. During the game, a person suffering from impulsive addiction all the time increases the stakes and does not control the losing amount.
Each of these types of dependencies has different stages and, moreover, can sometimes grow from one to another. In any case, the uncontrolled craving for gambling entails a loss of professional skills and detrimental to social life. The consequences of this dependence can be very serious.
To warn a loved one of serious dependence, it is necessary to monitor their behavior carefully. If you notice one some of the symptoms relating to yourself or your loved ones, you should immediately seek qualified help.
The first signs of gambling addiction are:
- Frequent thoughts and conversations about games;
- The need to spend large sums of money to satisfy the game;
- Stealth and lies regarding gambling;
- Gambling is used as a means to alleviate stress every time a player is upset;
- There are unsuccessful attempts to stop playing;
Each individual symptom does not necessarily speak of serious psychological disorders, but in combination, it can be an alarming signal for the player and their relatives.
At the same time, the symptoms of gambling addiction can be divided into emotional and physical. Each of the symptoms is characteristic of a different stage of dependence and requires different treatments.
- Emotional symptoms (frequent and excessive enthusiasm for games can lead to several emotional changes, such as excessive anxiety, frequent mood changes, irascibility, a negative reaction to addiction talk. In critical cases, the player may have suicidal thoughts);
- Physical symptoms (these symptoms occur as a result of the player’s emotional instability. Depression and irritability often lead to loss of sleep, rapid weight loss, unhealthy complexion, untidiness. In rare cases, the player can cause injury to themselves).
If you notice that one of your friends neglects their duties, misses work or college, often asks to lend them money or sells a property while continually spending time on the Internet. This can be a wake-up signal and an occasion to turn to a specialist.
What Causes Gambling Addiction?
According to statistics, gambling addiction affects about 2% of all players, regardless of age, social status, and gender. There is not the only reason for which people start to play, and the game develops into dependence. Gambling is readily available online and legalized in many countries. Large selection of gambling, lotteries, and sports betting attracts the attention of users of all ages. It is important to understand that anyone who first comes to the casino in the future may be subjected to gambling addiction. There is no universal type of people who have this psychological disorder, but there are some features that can subject the player to addiction.
The beginning of game addiction can manifest itself both in adolescence and in adulthood. Although scientists tried to find out and determine which category of people is the most vulnerable, it was not possible to find out the final cause and effect. There are a number of factors that cause addiction:
- Biological factors (studies have shown that biological aspects can serve as one of the problematic causes. Game dependence is in many ways similar to several other dependencies. Scientists have determined that while winning a number of hormones are released in the human brain. The same reaction occurs in the brain when a drug addicted person receives a dose of the drug. There is a strong release of adrenaline (a hormone that is responsible for risk and stress) and later the player experiences cravings for games again and again. Also, winnings provoke the production of two more hormones, namely serotonin (hormone of good mood) and dopamine (pleasure hormone). As a result, the player begins to get used to the sensations and, as a result, raises the rates so that the hormone is produced in greater quantity);
- Social factors (many external sources can also have a strong influence on a person. Such factors include problems at work, frequent financial difficulties, lack of social activity, and weak support of friends and relatives. Such players often try to distract themselves with the help of gambling, which further leads to dangerous dependence. Usually, gambling addiction as a result of social factors may also extend to other family members depending on the statutes and life principles of the person);
- Psychological factors (human thinking plays almost the most important role in a person’s gaming habits. Very often misconceptions about exactly how gambling works have a significant effect on a person’s thoughts and desires. Players believe that after a series of losses, they will be lucky and hope that failure will soon give way to success. In confirmation of this, the fact that dependent people more often choose slot machines with the ability to place bets more often than a lottery that only once a day can be played).
In addition to the above factors, gambling addiction may arise as a result of other problems. For example, people suffering from drug or alcohol addiction are more likely to be at risk. To a greater extent, this is due to the desire to make quick money to satisfy other needs and wishes. Some mental disorders also often serve as a cause of uncontrolled gambling addiction. Besides, excessive craving for computer games at a young age can further cause gambling addiction.
Negative Effects of Gambling
The dynamics of gambling addiction causes several negative consequences for the player. Excessive gambling has an impact on all spheres of human life. In the end, the person begins to pursue a sense of guilt mixed with a thirst to play. The player becomes self-contained and limits their social circle, which ultimately significantly reduces the levers of influence on them. There are several of the most significant negative effects on human life:
- Mental health (this is probably one of the most significant negative impacts that can be identified. Because of gambling, the player is often in mental strain, and depressing thoughts lead to apathy and depression. Such players are always haunted by anxiety and fear. As a result of this depression, players start to dive even more into the world of gambling wanting to escape from problems and overwhelming thoughts. As a result, this leads to a complete separation of players from society and a very heavy dependence);
- The risk of suicide (constant depression and guilt can haunt players with addiction. The desire to recoup, the realization that a person causes a lot of pain to those whom they love and the inability to cope with the game can often cause suicide. The risk of suicide is higher for people who have related addictions (drug addiction, alcoholism), as well as players who have previously been trying to commit suicide. If you plan to commit suicide or suspect that a person close to you intends to do so, then act immediately. You can perform several actions that would reduce the risk of suicide:
- Remove items that could cause harm (firearms, knives, strong drugs);
- Do not leave a suicidal person alone. If you intend to harm yourself, then report it to the person you trust the most and ask to look after you;
- Do not drink alcohol or take drugs;
- Contact customer service immediately or go to Befrienders Worldwide to find a helpline for people at risk of suicide in your country.);
- Finance (regular uncontrollable bets can lead to serious financial problems. When a player does not control the amount of money lost, they can not only spend a lot and get into debt. Often such players are led to poverty, huge loans, and possibly selling a house or bankruptcy. Obsessive the desire to recoup can push a gamer to crime);
- Relationships (gambling addiction entails negative consequences on personal relationships. Very often, players with uncontrollable gaming lose their friends, break off relations and families. Besides, a family member who suffers from addiction can have a detrimental effect on others. In such families, children are more often subjected to domestic violence and psychological pressure (even if the family does not have domestic violence, children may suffer from substance abuse, depression and lack of social interaction).
How do you stop addiction?
Addiction can be detrimental to players and their families. It is very important to recognize the problem in time and try to cope with it. Most players who managed to overcome gambling say that they did not control their behavior. They understood that they were harming themselves and others, they realized that they had to stop, but they continued to play without realizing the scale of the problem. As a result, players often had questions like “How did this happen?”, “Why did I allow this?”, “How should I stop?”. If these statements seem familiar to you, you have mixed feelings about gambling and want to get rid of gambling addiction. Then you can do it. There are three sure ways to help you deal with your problem that you can try both individually and together with your trusted people. Player awareness of the problem is more than half the success.
The first method “Recognize and study your gambling problem”
First of all, you need to recognize your behavior as it is. Do not diminish and deny all signs of addiction. Recognition of the problem is the first but the surest step to success. If you can distinguish the signs of gambling addiction, you can control your behavior more. Try to start devoting more time to work, friends, and family to fill your life with communication and support. Also, you should take all the consequences of gambling. You should make a list of all the negative effects that gambling has had on your life. There should be included and a list of loved ones whom you might have offended. Referring to the list with the consequences, you should evaluate the possible risks and understand what you may lose if you continue to gamble. Be honest with yourself and the people who want to help you. Tell the truth about the amount spent at the casino and often remind yourself that this amount can only increase. Finally, try to correct personal relationships and establish communication with loved ones that you have lost. This will help you realize the fact that everything can be corrected if you give up the game.
The second way is “Start managing triggers”
If you can recognize your triggers, you can control them. Triggers are also called “mind traps.” These are the feelings, emotions, and thoughts that provoke you to play. To find out what exactly serves as a stimulus for you, get a notebook where you will observe your behavior. Every time you want to play games of chance, stop, and think why you have this desire right now? There may be a lot of reasons, perhaps you are upset, or you are attracted with the opportunity to win money and so on. Having determined the reason for which you are playing, try to satisfy your desire differently. Avoid online casinos and try even not to drive past land-based casinos. If your goal is to play your friends, explain to them that for you, gambling goes beyond the usual entertainment and choose different leisure for your company. Try to think more negatively about gambling. Always remind yourself that uncontrollable bets can have several irreversible consequences. In addition, get rid of obsessive thoughts to recoup or hopes that today you are exactly lucky. Every time you have similar thoughts, remember how much you have already lost and may lose if you make a bet. Write yourself a phrase that will remind you that worth staying at. It will be effective to hang them around the apartment or set as a reminder on your smartphone. You must control the use of alcohol and other psychotropic substances that can make your actions uncontrollable. To do this, you should train your impulse control more often. Start practicing impulse control on simple things, such as wanting to eat something. And in the future, when you will have an overwhelming desire to play, you can pause and control your behavior. It is equally important to control your emotional state and not get depressed. Meet your friends more often, get a pet to spend time with, or invent a new hobby, such as sports or dancing.
The third way is “Getting qualified support”
If you realize that it is difficult for you to cope with your thoughts and desires alone, then you should be supported externally. Ask people close to you and friends to remind you of the problem and help you control your actions. Besides, you can chat with a group of like-minded people and people who have previously dealt with this problem. Do not be afraid to talk with your therapist; you may be prescribed a course of drugs or sent to a psychologist. You should discuss and study with your doctor in detail all the treatment options, including antidepressants and other drugs.
There are many ways to deal with the problem of gambling addiction. There is no generally accepted method of treatment, which would be crowned with one hundred percent success. Treatment should be chosen based on the player’s inclinations and a number of reasons for which they need games. The player can try to cope on their own or stock up on external support. In any case, there are several ways to treat game addiction:
- Psychological counseling and therapy (psychotherapy is considered one of the most effective ways to cope with gambling. If psychological aspects provoked the addiction, this treatment method is almost 100% successful. For the result to please you, you need to choose a qualified specialist and trust them your psychological health. It is incredibly important to share with the doctor everything that you care about and not try to hide the dark facts);
- Medications (of course, there are no drugs that were created specifically to get rid of gambling addiction, but there are several drugs that can affect your emotions and desires. These drugs include antidepressants, drugs used to treat alcohol addiction and drug addiction, and mood stabilizers. Some hormones can cause player anxiety during betting instead of the usual feeling of pleasure. It is very important to consult a doctor before taking medication. Self-medication can be dangerous to your health.
- Group support (group therapy is recognized as very effective, especially in combination with other methods of treatment. The main therapeutic factor is the relationship of the addicted player with the group and the realization that they are not alone. The group sessions unite all the participants and help to believe in their strength. When you are alone, it seems to you that no one would be in such a situation. But when you are surrounded by people who also need support, it gives you the strength to fight and cope. Many popular programs were created explicitly for group studies. One of the most popular programs is the “12 steps”. This program consists of a chain of related consultations. According to the program, the player gradually goes through all stages from awareness of dependence to search for causes, motivation, and ultimately a painless and gradual return to the previous life).
Which of the above methods of treatment will suit you or your loved one will depend on the causes and factors that provoked gambling addiction. In any case, it can and must be fought. The main thing to remember is that the dependence you have developed is not in one game, and therefore, the treatment will be slow but effective. Remember the rule “the quieter you go, the further you’ll get” and your efforts will lead to a complete recovery.
What support resources are available?
If you or someone close to you is faced with the problem of gambling addiction, you can always turn to several resources created specifically for those who are looking for help. Each of these resources offers players different therapies and supports. Options for such assistance may vary from group meetings to individual lessons with a specialist. There are several centers created to combat gambling where you can turn:
- Gamblers Anonymous (this is the organization that was created back in 1957. By 2005, there were already more than 2000 Gamblers Anonymous groups in the USA. Now similar groups are being created all over the world. The organization offers a program of 12 steps to combat gambling addiction. Everything you need for group membership is your desire to deal with the problem. The organization pays great attention to helping players relieve external pressure and cope with their financial and legal problems);
- BeGambleAware (a charitable organization established in the UK and financed by the gaming industry. It helps players cope with gambling. The organization provides a range of services including treatment, education, and prevention of gambling addiction. The company’s goal is to prevent a problem or help identify and cope with addiction in the initial stages);
- The National Council on Problem Gambling (the mission of the National Council is to protect problem players and their families. The organization makes several efforts to fight and prevent gambling addiction. On the official website of the company, you can find a lot of information about gambling and also treatment methods with contact details for residents of the US. Also, the National Council offers players a free round-the-clock hotline (where players can contact their problem for advice and psychological support);
- GamCare (a leading organization in the United Kingdom. It provides advice and assistance to gamblers. GamCare provides a line of trust not only to players but also to their families. You will receive support and treatment without external conviction);
- Gambling Therapy (this is a large-scale service that offers free advice, practical advice, and emotional support to anyone who has experienced gambling addiction problems. On the organization’s website, you will find practical advice on how to determine addiction and get rid of it. Besides, you can get expert advice using online. In the Gambling Therapy forums, you will meet the same people like you who faced the problem of gambling and coped with it).
In addition to all of the above world organizations, you can meet anonymous clubs, forums, and other communities in your country. Do not hide your problem. Ask for help to return to normal life as soon as possible.
What is the outlook for gambling addiction?
In most countries of the world, gambling is legal and easily accessible. Fortunately for most players, such entertainments are not a problem and are regarded solely as a leisure option. However, recently, the tendency of player addiction to games has increased. With the advent of online casinos, gambling has become more accessible to users, and the number of players worldwide has increased several times. As the number of players increases, so does the number of people affected by gambling.
It is impossible to calculate the exact number of players who suffer gambling. This is because many users do not recognize their problem or try to deal with it on their own.
Every time you come to the casino to play, you need to remind yourself of the consequences if the game gets out of control. Everyone can be potentially affected by gambling, regardless of age or gender. If you began to notice strange behavior behind yourself or your friends, try to make sure that this is not caused by gambling addiction. On modern online casino sites, several precautions will save players in advance from the consequences. These measures include the limits on deposit payments, limits on the number of spins, and so on.
We recommend that you read this article in more detail so that you can recognize the first symptoms of this disease and eliminate it in possible ways. If you need support or help, then you should contact one of the player support services.
And always remember that it is easier to prevent than to cure. Try to control your gambling habits, and then gambling will be a pleasant rest for you after the working day.