Are you a gambling addict? Here’s what you need to know.
There is an old Filipino adage that goes like this: If you want to get back at your enemy, teach him how to gamble.
Poker, slot machine, blackjack, roulette, bingo, sports, or any other betting game is gambling. Whether at the casino, online, or in many e-gaming locations that has sprouted everywhere in our country, getting hooked to gambling can lead to financial problems. Left to chance and left unchecked, this gambling habit can lead to gambling addiction, which can then cause financial catastrophe as well as trouble at home, at work, and even with authorities.
Problem gambling leads to many more problems that will make the gambling addict’s life spiral down. It is very common for these types of addicts to incur huge amounts of debt, which would then push them up the wall. Very soon, they may find themselves lying and stealing money to support their gambling or pay off debts. They may even commit crimes to support their addiction.
Similar to substance, alcohol, and other behavioral addictions, gambling addiction can be overcome with understanding and the right professional help.
Understanding the Compulsion to Gamble
According to PsychCentral gambling addiction is an impulse-control disorder, where the gambling addicts keep gambling even if they’re happy or sad, whether they have money or are broke. Filled with obsession and compulsion, they will always have a reason to gamble, which can lead to serious consequences.
Gambling addiction is called a ‘hidden illness’ because it does not exhibit any physical signs, unlike substance or alcohol addiction. However, gambling stimulates the brain’s reward system much like substances can, and this feeling is what all addicts seek, pushing them deeper and deeper in.
Still, it is important to note here as well that not all who go into casinos or bet on games are gambling addicts. Some may just gamble once in a while as a way to unwind or spend time with friends. Nevertheless, this activity can lead to addiction, especially when casinos are designed to look glamorous and fun, while the attraction of easy win and easy money can excite anyone. Many would start gambling with friends or as a belief that they carry a certain luck and yet find themselves suddenly and irreversibly hooked. At times, the gambling progresses over time, growing unnoticed until it disrupts family life or causes a serious financial setback.
Spotting the Gambling Addict
You, or someone you know may have a gambling problem if they exhibit these symptoms:
- Keeping gambling activities a secret or lying about it
- Cannot control gambling and betting
- Getting thrilled with taking big gambling risks
- Gambling even without any money
- Accumulating huge debts or stealing
- Finding excuses to go gambling
- Using gambling as a way to escape from loneliness, guilt, or other problems
- Missing work, appointments, or social gatherings in order to gamble
Gambling can become out of control when it affects social relationships and creates a problem with family life, or worse—when the addiction leads to bankruptcy and theft or other crimes.
What Causes Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction, like all other kinds of addiction, is a disease that does not discriminate. It affects men and women alike, the rich and the poor, and it cuts across cultural and social bounds.
There are those who socially gamble for years and not develop addiction. Meanwhile, there are those who gamble once or twice and end up sorely addicted.
Aside from biological, genetic, and environmental factors, there are also other factors that increase one’s predisposition to gambling addiction. This include:
- Age – gambling addiction is more common in younger and in middle-aged people
- Sex – more men are found to be addicted to gambling than women. Studies show that women who are addicted to gambling start later in life compared to their male counterparts, and are often suffering other disorders and become addicted at a faster rate.
- Family and social influence – those who have parents or are regularly surrounded by people with gambling problems tend to have a greater inclination to gambling and gambling addiction
- Other behavioral disorders – Those who are addicted to gambling may have, or may develop, other addictions such as alcoholism and drug addiction. They may also have personality disorders that tend to be risk factors for compulsive gambling.
- Personality profiles – Those who are workaholic, restless, adventurous, risk-takers, easily bored, or are highly competitive may become easily hooked and addicted to gambling.
The Effects of Gambling Addiction
The effects of gambling addiction is typically intertwined and may lead to serious problems. This is why it should be treated as soon as possible:
- Relationship problems; strain in the family
- Financial problems; debt, bankruptcy
- Job loss, stigma in the workplace
- Involvement in criminal acts resulting to legal problems and even imprisonment
- Association with alcohol and drugs leading to substance addiction as well
- Mental disorders