A few decades ago, if people were asked where the best gambling was, they probably would have said somewhere like Monte Carlo, Las Vegas, Reno, or Atlantic City. Within the past few years, the answer to that question has likely changed. Now, all but two states have legalized some form of gambling. The Internet has made gambling not just in one’s own hometown possible, but people can gamble in their own home. With such easy access, many people are locking in on their wagers, and many of those people are doing so without any issues. They place their bets. They lose or win. They carry on with their lives. For others, gambling is a problem. Their lives become focused upon their next bet. They place their wagers even though it could hard themselves or their loved ones. They may have a 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
The mental health professionals at Thriveworks Marietta understand how gambling addiction develops and how it can be fought. Just as many people can shop compulsively, so can people easily become addicted to gambling. But just as other forms of addiction has effective treatments, people who struggle with gambling may also be able to rebalance their brain and take back control of their lives.
Gambling, The Brain, and Addiction
Gambling addiction is very similar to any other addiction. For example, many people drink alcohol without any issues of dependency. The same holds for gambling: many people gamble for entertainment and then walk away without issue. Others, however, have a problem. Mental health professionals have known for a while that gambling can cause trouble, but the nature and extent of the trouble is just now being understood.
Four decades ago, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) included compulsive gambling in a chapter on Impulsive Control Disorders. However, it is most recent edition, the DSM-5 included it in the chapter on Addictions. A significant amount of research undergirds this decision. Mental health professionals have found that when people gamble compulsively, what is happening in their brain is similar to what is happening in other cases of addiction. Dopamine levels are out of balance. This good-feeling hormone floods the brain when people gamble, and they become dependent upon that feeling. Mental health professionals have also found that gambling addiction responds well to traditional treatment for addiction.
Identifying a Gambling Disorder
As many as 1 in 165 men will struggle with a gambling addiction in their lifetime, and 1 in 500 women will struggle. DSM-5 outlines how to identify healthy behavior regarding gambling and addictive behavior. If an individual shows four of the following for 12 consecutive months, they may be addicted to gambling:
- Withdrawal—feeling irritable or restless when attempting to control, curb, or stop gambling.
- Spending a significant amount of time thinking about gambling—dreaming about past bets or planning future ones.
- Escalation—spending more time on gambling. Spending more and more money on gambling.
- Using gambling to cope with challenging emotions (guilt, disappointment, anxiety, depression, frustration, and more).
- Doubling down—after a loss, gambling even more in an attempt to regain the money.
- Lying about gambling, particularly in an attempt to hide or minimizing the extent to which one is gambling or the problems it is causing.
- Out of balance priorities—gambling instead of pursuing professional opportunities, gambling despite relational harm it may cause, and more.
- Continue to place bets even after experiencing financial hardship, even to the point of borrowing money to gamble.
Gambling, Thought Patterns, and Addiction
The actions of gambling addiction are only one piece of addiction’s grip. Another big piece is the thought patterns that undergird addiction. Certain negative and false beliefs can incite and sustain the addiction. Just as healing can require people to change their actions, it may also require people to change their thinking patterns. Two common false beliefs that are intertwined with addiction’s behaviors are…
- Superstitions: Certain rituals can keep an individual tied to gambling. People may believe that these behaviors contribute to their success of failure, even though they are not physiologically or logically tied to their gambling. People may wear certain clothes or gamble when it rains or eat a certain food while placing a bet.
- Minimization: Denial is a common pattern with addiction. This may look like redirecting one’s attention away from the harm gambling has caused. It may look like relabeling: calling behavior entertainment that clearly is addiction. These minimizations and denials and distractions keep people from facing the truth of the addiction.
Setting Up an Appointment for Gambling Addiction Treatment with Thriveworks Marietta
As you read about gambling addiction, did anything you read about stand out to you? If you recognized any of the symptoms of gambling addiction in your own life, it may be time to reach out. The therapists at Thriveworks Marietta offer treatment for gambling addiction, and we have appointments available. When you contact our office, a real person will answer and help you make an appointment. You may be meeting with your counselor the following day. We offer weekend and evening sessions. A number of insurance plans are also accepted. Let’s get started. Call today.