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Gambling addiction is a type of impulse control issue where the behavior continues during and after negative outcomes, often referred to as compulsive gambling. Whether one is up or down or feeling rich or poor a person who has an issue with gambling will continue to bet even if the odds are against them. This behavior like many other addictions can cause a loss of control in a person’s life.
At what point does it become a problem?
Understanding problem gambling and gambling addiction
Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones. Gambling is all they can think about and all they want to do, no matter the consequences. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they’re up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Even when they know the odds are against them, even when they can’t afford to lose, people with a gambling addiction can’t “stay off the bet.”
Gamblers can have a problem, however, without being totally out of control. Problem gambling is any gambling behavior that disrupts your life. If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences, you have a gambling problem.
Myths & Facts about Gambling Addiction and Problem Gambling
MYTH: You have to gamble every day to be a problem gambler.
FACT: Gambling is a problem if it causes problems.
MYTH: I can afford gambling so it's not an issue.
FACT: Problems caused by excessive gambling are not just financial. The life style can cause issues with other relationship.
MYTH: Outside circumstances such as relationships and stressors cause a person to gamble
FACT: Problem gamblers can rationalize their behavior. Blaming others and situations are ways to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
Signs and symptoms of problem gambling and gambling addiction
Gambling addiction is sometimes referred to as the "hidden illness" because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like there are in drug or alcohol addiction. Problem gamblers typically deny or minimize the problem. They also go to great lengths to hide their gambling. For example, problem gamblers often withdraw from their loved ones, sneak around, and lie about where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to.
Do I have a gambling problem? Answer a few questions:
Relieving unpleasant and overwhelming feelings without gambling
Group support for gambling addiction and problem gambling
Gamblers Anonymous is a twelve-step recovery program patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous. A key part of a 12-step program is choosing a sponsor. A sponsor is a former gambler who has time and experience remaining free from addiction, and can often provide invaluable guidance and support.
Therapy for problem gambling
The goal of treatment is to “rewire” the addicted brain by thinking about gambling in a new way. A variation of cognitive behavioral therapy can help.
Authors: Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., and Lawrence Robinson. Last updated: April 2015.