Vegas. Atlantic City. Reno. Monte Carlo. These are the iconic places to gamble, but the reality is that more and more people are gambling in their hometowns and even in their living rooms. Utah and Hawaii are the only states where there is not a way to gamble legally. With accessibility, gambling is a common form of entertainment. For some, gambling is not a problem. They place their bets; they win or lose; they go on with their lives. For others, gambling is a problem. Much like alcohol, gambling can become addictive. Gambling can interfere with people’s lives. Gambling can change their brains. But also like alcohol addiction, there are treatments and interventions for gambling addiction.
“There are many harsh lessons to be learned from the gambling experience, but the harshest one of all is the difference between having Fun and being Smart.”
—Hunter S. Thompson
Thriveworks Knoxville offers therapy for gambling addiction, and we have seen clients take back control of their lives from out-of-control gambling.
The Brain and Gambling Addiction
For several decades, mental health professionals have known that gambling can become a problem for people. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) classified different mental health challenges that people can face, and in the 1980s, it categorized compulsive gambling under the label of impulsive control disorder. More recently, mental health professionals have changed their classification. The most recent edition of the DSM places compulsive gambling within the chapter of addiction.
Recent studies have shown that what happens in the brain of a compulsive gambler is very similar to other addictions, even to substances like opioids or alcohol. When a gambling addiction develops, dopamine floods an individual’s brain so that they feel a kind of high as they gamble. It is not gambling, per se, that people are addicted to but the emotions they feel as they gamble.
Symptoms of Gambling Disorder
Many people who gamble are not addicted. However, many people who gamble are addicted. The journal Scientific American studied the phenomenon and found that as many as 2 million adults in the US are struggling with a gambling addiction. One in 165 men and 1 in 500 women will struggle at some point in their life.
The DSM-5 outlines criteria for behavior that constitutes a gambling addiction. Of the signs and symptoms, an individual must display at least four within a continuous 12-month period.
- Using more and more money when gambling to experience the same high.
- Feelings of irritability or restlessness when trying to stop or curb gambling.
- Frequently thinking about gambling: rehashing past experiences or arranging for future experiences.
- Using betting as a coping mechanism for feeling anxious, guilty, depression, or another hard emotion.
- Trying to win back money lost through gambling.
- Lying about how much, when, where, and how one is gambling.
- Risking not just money but also jobs, relationships, opportunities, and more in order to gamble.
- Experiencing financial difficulties because of gambling; relying upon others to supply the money needed to gamble.
Gambling Addiction and Belief Patterns
There are a number of ways that a gambling addiction can change how an individual views themselves, the world, and others. The peak of the iceberg in a gambling addiction are the coin slots, the bets, the sporting events, but underneath these actions are distorted belief patterns. Certain belief patterns reinforce or fuel the gambling addiction. Two of the most common distorted belief patterns found among gambling addicts include…
- Superstitions: These are rituals that have no logical or physiological connection to the gamble, but that an addict believes will contribute to a bet’s success. It may involve playing a particular slot machine or wearing a particular article of clothing or drinking a particular drink. These superstitions are distorted beliefs that perpetuate the addiction.
- Denial: Addicts are well-known for minimizing the mental health challenges they are facing, and gambling addicts are no different. While gambling certainly can be entertainment, addicts may label their compulsive actions as entertainment to hide the extent of the problem. They may lie to loved ones about their financial situation. They often lie to themselves, justifying their behavior in some way.
Setting Up an Appointment for Gambling Addiction Treatment with Thriveworks Knoxville
If gambling is causing problems in your life, consider reaching out for help. If you recognized any of the symptoms of a gambling addiction, it may be time to meet with a mental health professional. Thriveworks Knoxville offers therapy for gambling addiction, and we have helped many people reset their brain and regain control.
Each client at Thriveworks Knoxville receives individualized care, but often, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a part of the treatment plan. CBT focuses upon the intersection between what people believe and how they behavior. It helps clients recognize the distorted thinking patterns of a gambling addiction. Once people can discern these false beliefs, they can work on changing them and changing the behaviors that flow from them.
If you are ready to get started on treatment, so are we. When you call Thriveworks Knoxville, one of our scheduling specialists (that is, a real person) will answer and help you find an appointment time. We offer evening and weekend sessions. New clients often have their first appointment within 24 hours of their first call. We also accept a variety of insurance plans. Let’s get started. Call today.