Research on Gambling Problems and Addiction: An Insightful Exploration

Michael Evi
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Freedom from gambling problems.

Are you or someone close to you battling a gambling issue? Discover the signs, symptoms, and strategies for overcoming this challenge.

Understanding Gambling Addiction and Problem Gambling

Gambling issues can arise regardless of your background or lifestyle. What may begin as a thrilling, harmless pastime can swiftly spiral into an unhealthy obsession with severe repercussions. Whether it’s sports betting, poker, scratch-offs, or slots at a casino, racetrack, or online, gambling problems can severely affect relationships, disrupt work, and lead to financial ruin. You might even find yourself doing things you never imagined, like racking up colossal debt or resorting to theft to fund your gambling habit.

Gambling addiction, also called pathological or compulsive gambling, is an impulse-control disorder. As a compulsive gambler, you feel a relentless urge to gamble despite the devastating effects on yourself or your loved ones. You will continue betting, whether winning or losing, even if the odds are against you or you can’t afford to lose.

Even if you’re not entirely out of control, gambling behavior that disrupts your life can still be problematic. Suppose you’re constantly preoccupied with betting, dedicating more time and money to it, chasing losses, or gambling despite significant consequences. In that case, you have a gambling problem.

Addiction often coincides with other behavioral or mood disorders, like substance abuse, untreated ADHD, stress, anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. Addressing these underlying issues is crucial for overcoming gambling problems.

Although it may seem overwhelming, you can regain control of your life, mend relationships, and recover financially. Start by debunking these myths about gambling problems:

Myths vs. Facts About Gambling Problems

  • Myth: You need to gamble daily to have a gambling problem.
  • Fact: Whether frequent or occasional, gambling becomes problematic if it disrupts your life.

  • Myth: Gambling isn’t a problem if you can afford it.
  • Fact: Excessive gambling affects more than finances. It can ruin relationships, careers, and mental health, leading to depression, anxiety, and even suicide.

  • Myth: Gambling problems indicate weakness, irresponsibility, or lack of intelligence.
  • Fact: Problem gambling can affect anyone, regardless of intelligence or background.

  • Myth: Partners drive gamblers to their behavior.
  • Fact: Problem gamblers often rationalize their actions by blaming others instead of taking responsibility.

  • Myth: It’s best to help a gambler pay off their debts.
  • Fact: While quick fixes seem appealing, bailing them out may enable further gambling.

Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

Symptoms of gambling addiction.

Gambling addiction is often called a “hidden illness” because it lacks clear physical signs like drug or alcohol addiction. Problem gamblers often minimize or deny their situation, but you might have a gambling problem if you:

  1. Feel Secretive About Gambling: You gamble privately or lie about how much you gamble, worried others won’t understand.
  2. Struggle to Control Gambling: Once you start betting, do you struggle to stop until you’ve spent your last dollar or chased losses?
  3. Gamble Without Money: Do you use credit cards, borrow money, or steal to gamble even after depleting your funds?
  4. Worry Family and Friends: If your loved ones are concerned, listen carefully. It’s never too late to seek help, even if you’ve lost everything.

Related: How To Play Blackjack In Casino

Key Statistics and Facts

  1. 60% of compulsive gamblers suffer from anxiety and depression.
  2. An estimated 10 million Americans struggle with gambling problems.
  3. $5 billion is spent annually on gambling treatment and prevention.

Overcoming Gambling Problems: My Journey Toward Recovery

The most crucial step in overcoming a gambling addiction is admitting that I have a problem. I know firsthand how challenging it is to own up to this reality, especially after losing thousands of dollars and damaging relationships in the process. It takes immense courage to face it, but don’t despair and don’t go at it alone. Many have been in this position and managed to break free and rebuild their lives. If they can, I can too, and so can you.

Healthier Ways to Handle Difficult Emotions

Do you gamble when you’re feeling bored, stressed, or lonely? I used to, too. I’d gamble to self-soothe, unwind, and socialize. But I learned there are healthier ways to handle these feelings:

  • Exercise: A brisk walk or lifting weights can be a fantastic way to boost endorphins and reduce stress.
  • Socializing With Non-Gamblers: Spending time with friends who don’t gamble, whether over coffee or during a night out, rejuvenates.
  • New Hobbies: I found joy in painting, cooking, and hiking—activities that had nothing to do with gambling.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Meditation, deep breathing, or yoga helped me manage stress more effectively.

Strengthening My Support Network

Facing any addiction without support is tough. I reached out to family and friends for help. If your social circle is limited, there are plenty of ways to connect with new people:

  • Work Colleagues: Invite coworkers to lunch or join a team-building activity.
  • Sports Teams or Book Clubs: Engaging in activities that align with your interests.
  • Educational Classes: Taking a course at a community college or online.
  • Volunteering: Giving back to a meaningful cause can help shift your focus and foster new relationships.

Joining a Peer Support Group

I also joined Gamblers Anonymous (GA), a 12-step recovery program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. Finding a sponsor—a former gambler who had successfully overcome their addiction—was a pivotal moment for me. They offered invaluable guidance and support, helping me navigate my recovery journey.

Seeking Help for Underlying Mood Disorders

Depression, anxiety, stress, and substance abuse can trigger gambling problems and make them worse. Even after I stopped gambling, these issues remained, so addressing them was vital. If you’re struggling with any of these disorders, consider talking to a mental health professional. Therapy, medication, or both can make a significant difference.

How I Stopped Gambling for Good

How to stop Gamble.

Quitting gambling wasn’t my biggest challenge; staying in recovery was. Making a permanent commitment to avoid gambling was hard, especially with the Internet providing 24/7 access to online casinos and betting sites. With just a smartphone or computer, the temptation was always there. But I realized that maintaining recovery is possible if you surround yourself with supportive people, steer clear of tempting environments and websites, relinquish control of your finances (at least initially), and replace gambling with healthier activities.

Making Healthier Choices

To stop gambling, I had to remove the elements that made it possible and replace them with better habits. Four key factors influence gambling:

  • Decision: The first step is choosing to gamble. When the urge hit, I paused, called a friend, thought through the consequences, and reminded myself to stop. Then, I found something else to do immediately.
  • Money: Gambling can’t happen without cash. I got rid of my credit cards, let someone else handle my money, and set up automatic payments at my bank. I closed all online betting accounts and kept only a small amount of cash on hand.
  • Time: Even online gambling requires time. I filled my schedule with enjoyable activities unrelated to gambling. To stop myself from betting on my phone, I found other ways to occupy quiet moments during the day.
  • A Game: Without a game or activity to bet on, there’s no opportunity to gamble. I avoided gambling establishments, asked them to ban me, and blocked gambling sites and apps on my devices.

Finding Alternatives to Gambling

Maintaining recovery depends on substituting gambling with alternative activities. Here are a few examples:

Why I’m GamblingHow to behave
To feel a rush of adrenalineSports or hobbies like mountain biking, rock climbing, or kart racing
To be more social, beat lonelinessJoin a social group, enroll in a public speaking class, or volunteer
To numb unpleasant emotionsTherapy or HelpGuide’s Emotional Intelligence Toolkit
To escape boredom or lonelinessExplore art, music, sports, or literature with others who share your interests
To unwind after a stressful dayExercise (15 minutes), deep breathing, meditation, or a massage
To solve money problemsSeek help from a credit counselor instead of gambling

Sharing My Journey: How I Deal with Gambling Cravings

When you struggle with gambling addiction, cravings can feel overwhelming. I know from personal experience. But as I’ve built healthier habits and a solid support system, resisting those urges has become easier. Here’s what I do when that powerful itch to gamble strikes.

Strategies for Dealing with Gambling Cravings

  • Avoid Isolation: Staying alone when a craving hits is a recipe for disaster. I reach out to a trusted family member, grab coffee with a friend, or attend a Gamblers Anonymous meeting.
  • Delay Gambling: I tell myself to wait just five minutes, then 15, then an hour. By the time the hour is up, the craving has passed, or at least weakened enough for me to resist.
  • Visualize the Consequences: I picture what will happen if I give in—the disappointment, the empty bank account, the guilt. Imagining the aftermath helps me stay strong.
  • Find a Distraction: I hit the gym, watch a movie, or practice relaxation exercises. Anything to get my mind off gambling.

Sometimes, despite my best efforts, I slip. If I can’t resist a gambling craving, I try not to be too hard on myself. Overcoming addiction is a marathon, not a sprint. The key is to learn from the mistake and keep moving forward.

Seeking Gambling Addiction Treatment

Admitting you need professional help isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, seeking treatment is one of the bravest things you can do. Here’s a rundown of the treatment options that helped me:

  • Addressing Underlying Issues: My therapist helped me uncover underlying issues contributing to my gambling, like anxiety and depression. Addressing these problems was vital. Treatment included therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.
  • Bipolar Disorder: Sometimes, problem gambling can be a symptom of bipolar disorder. Make sure to rule this out with your doctor or therapist.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT taught me to recognize and challenge my unhealthy gambling thoughts and behaviors. I learned how to resist urges and fix the financial, work, and relationship issues that gambling had caused.
  • Family Therapy & Counseling: I realized how much my addiction had strained my relationships. Family therapy helped rebuild trust and lay the foundation for repairing my finances and career.

Thoughts on Helping Someone Stop Gambling

When your loved one has a gambling problem, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions. I know, because I’ve been there. I spent countless hours and energy trying to stop them from gambling and covering up their tracks. I’d be furious one moment and exhausted the next, juggling anger and frustration with a desperate hope that they’d change. Maybe they’ve borrowed or even stolen money with no way to pay it back, sold off family heirlooms, or maxed out joint credit cards.

Problem and compulsive gamblers need support from family and friends, but ultimately, the decision to quit has to be theirs. No matter how much you wish they’d stop—and believe me, I wished with all my heart—you can’t make them quit. You can, however, encourage them to seek help, be there for them during their journey, protect yourself, and take any mention of suicide seriously.

Preventing Suicide in Problem Gamblers

Problem gamblers often face devastating consequences, leading to a crushing drop in self-esteem. Sadly, compulsive gamblers have a high suicide rate. If you think your loved one is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Internationally, visit Befrienders Worldwide to find a suicide helpline in your country.

Four Tips for Family Members

  1. Start by Helping Yourself: Protect yourself emotionally and financially. Don’t blame yourself for their addiction or let it dominate your life. Ignoring your own needs can lead to burnout.
  2. Don’t Go It Alone: Coping with a loved one’s gambling addiction can feel overwhelming, and rationalizing “just one last time” is easier than confronting the problem. But reaching out for support shows that many families have struggled with this issue.
  3. Set Boundaries in Managing Money: Consider managing family finances to keep the gambler accountable and prevent relapse. But remember, your priority is to protect your finances and credit, not micromanage their impulses.
  4. Handle Requests for Money Carefully: Problem gamblers become adept at asking for money. Whether through pleading, manipulation, or threats, they can be persuasive. But enabling their addiction won’t help them stop gambling. Learning to say no takes practice.

Supporting a Partner with a Gambling Problem

Supporting a partner struggling with gambling isn’t easy. I’ve been there. You’re caught between wanting to help and feeling helpless. Here are some do’s and don’ts I’ve learned along the way:

Conclusion

As you see, dealing with a gambling addiction involves understanding the complexities of the condition and working with strategies to overcome it. Setting clear boundaries for financial management and finding healthier activities to replace gambling are important steps in the recovery process. Keeping calm during setbacks, you must remember the importance of self-care and seeking professional help when needed. I must say that recovery is a challenging way, but with determination and the right strategies, overcoming gambling addiction is achievable, leading to a more stable and fulfilling life.

References

Author Michael Evi

Editor. Of course, I like casino games. However, I also like searching for different online casinos, reviewing their terms with bonuses, and sharing my opinion with others. I hope you find this review helpful.