Gambling Addiction: A Growing Problem

The problem of gambling addiction in the United States is as old as the country itself. But Americans have experienced a sharp increase in the prevalence of gambling-related problems in recent years. Online gambling has exploded in popularity, and companies face little to no restrictions in promoting and advertising their sports-betting platforms.

Whether or not we should blame this leisure activity itself is up for debate, but the increased availability of gambling opportunities 24/7—especially for children and adolescents—seems to have expanded and exacerbated its problems. If you regularly partake in gambling activities or know someone who does, this article can help you look for signs indicating a present addiction.

What Is Gambling?

Gambling is defined as risking something of value on an activity with an uncertain outcome in an attempt to win a reward. Skill may be involved in gambling activity, in which case it may reduce uncertainty to some degree, but it does not eliminate it.

What Are the Different Types of Gambling?

There are no universally accepted categories of gambling activities, but some of the most recognized types are binge gambling, social gambling, and professional gambling.

A binge gambler typically has less frequent gambling episodes, does not participate in gambling behaviors regularly, and may not be necessarily preoccupied with or have obsessive thinking about it when not engaged in it. A typical binge gambler would be someone who goes to Las Vegas once a year but never thinks of gambling outside of the vacation. However, once they start gambling, they may take it to the extreme and cause long-lasting problems within a short period of time.

A social gambler is commonly referred to as a responsible gambler who views gambling as a recreational activity and participates in it for its social experience. These types of gamblers don’t risk more than they can afford and have complete control over what they spend, be it money, energy, or time. So, gambling doesn’t interfere with their life. Social gamblers also accept their losses and don’t try to chase them.

Professional gamblers don’t partake in gambling activities for their excitement but rather make money and hone their skills. These gamblers are very disciplined, don’t take unnecessary risks, and quit when they are ahead. Interestingly, problem gamblers often view themselves as professional gamblers.

What Constitutes Problem Gambling?

When the gambling behavior starts to become disruptive or damaging to an individual and interferes with their everyday life, problem gambling has occurred. Problem gambler uses their valuable possessions, including time and money, in a harmful way, and their behavior becomes more compulsive as the problem escalates.

What Are the Signs of Problem Gambling?

When someone crosses the line from gambling as a leisure pursuit to gambling due to an addictive compulsion, they begin to show signs in their behavior. However, unlike alcohol and drug addictions, where signs and symptoms become very evident, signs of gambling addiction may be subtle, at least in the short term.

Similar to those with substance abuse issues, problem gamblers develop a tolerance to gambling. Over time, they need to take greater risks to sustain the same desired level of excitement. They also feel an increased urge to seek a win after a loss— the “one more bet” feeling that is also referred to as chasing.

Those who struggle with compulsive gambling show an inability to stop despite having had repeated attempts. And this lack of control not only applies to stopping the behavior altogether but also manifests itself during the gambling episodes regardless of winning or losing.

This lack of success, however, is not due to failure of willpower. Problem gambling results from a combination of genetic, environmental, and biological factors, and without addressing the underlying issues, recovery would be extremely difficult.

A significant portion of problem gambling signs pertains to the interference of the behavior with the person’s relationships and daily life. These signs include lying to friends and family, missing work or other commitments, difficulty in maintaining relationships, and prioritizing gambling over favorite hobbies and activities.

Treatment and Recovery

Getting out of the vicious gambling addiction cycle can be challenging but not impossible. Unfortunately, families generally don’t see problem gambling as an addiction due to a lack of awareness. They see their affected family member as a weak-willed and out-of-control person who just needs to stop it. Providing a supportive environment is the affected is the first step toward their recovery.

Because those who seek treatment often do so after there have been severe financial consequences, treating gambling addiction Columbus usually involves therapeutic programs as well as money management support which are equally important.

As with other forms of addiction, cognitive behavioral therapy has shown promising results in treating gambling addiction. Other widely used methods of treatment include family therapy and group-based recovery, with the latter being most useful for relapse prevention.

Patients with co-occurring disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may also be prescribed antidepressants and mood stabilizers.

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