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Gambling Addiction and its Treatment

People who are in gambling can lose or win a large amount of money in a short span of time. The main reason behind such an occurrence is their inability to stop doing that. The exhilaration and rush that accompanies a win can lead to gamblers craving for the same feeling repeatedly. On losing gamblers tend to have emotional crash which leads them to require a quick fix to regain that high. The inability to stop gambling, in spite of the negative consequences, is known as gambling addiction, problem gambling, or compulsive gambling.

These days, gaming, and betting has evolved to take new forms. Right gambling has become quite an issue and people from all age groups and genders have been affected by this addiction. With the availability of online gambling, it’s not even required to leave one’s home in order to bet.


Compulsive gambling, or an addiction to gambling, can be described as an “impulse control disorder” in which an individual is unable to restrain the craving to gamble. Gambling addiction now starts with online gambling in most cases. Since online games like poker, blackjack, etc. are very much accessible and people are trapped in this game from anywhere. Gambling addiction is frequently appearing as compulsively betting on the lottery and sports (such as cricket in India).

Gambling addiction works in the same way as compared to the other ones like the alcohol addiction and many others. In most cases, it will have devastating effects on the bodies of the individuals. In case, you leave this issue unchecked, it is going to be devastating.

Like substance addiction, process addictions such as gambling addiction influence the reward center of our brain. In gambling addiction, it is simply the act of going through the process that triggers our brain’s reactions. Several addictions other than alcohol and gambling are also on the rise. Some of the most popular forms include addiction to gaming, pornography, extreme dependency on others, etc.


Gambling or any other thing start becoming an addiction when the ability of that person to stop comes to an end. This leads to an uncontrolled obsession. Eventually, the habit will begin to negatively impact all aspects of one’s life - relationships, finances, work, education, and social interactions.

Dopamine is responsible for almost all forms of dependence and addiction. It is a chemical secreted by our brain when we feel good while doing something. Dopamine is very much related to our feeling of satisfaction in many cases. When dopamine is released, we experience pleasure and the brain demands more of it. Since gambling is the action that leads to the dopamine rush, repeating the action continuously turns into harmless activity, such as betting on our favorite team.

The brain instead of releasing dopamine in regular amounts and in regular intervals adapts and relies on gambling to release large amounts of the “feel-good” chemical. In case of wanting to quit gambling the brain then finds it difficult to cope with producing dopamine without gambling and this can result in withdrawal symptoms.

The most popular forms of gambling generally include:

  • Scratch cards
  • Telephone betting
  • Bingo
  • Casinos
  • Gaming involving money
  • Horse racing
  • Lottery
  • Online gambling
  • Playing card games
  • Slot machines
  • Sports betting

Treating addiction is quite a typical process as it is highly based on the behavior of the individuals. That is the main reason why most rehab centers are unable to go on with this process because it requires treatment with precision. In order to treat gambling disorder, the expert needs to research more on the behavior of that individual and his/her history.

Warning Signs of Gambling Addiction

Here are some warning signs that you should always look for if you are suspecting whether a person is addicted to gambling or not:

  • Experiencing restlessness or irritability whenever trying to quit gambling or reduce the frequency of gambling
  • Experiencing multiple failed attempts to quit gambling
  • If someone keeps on thinking about gambling non-stop in order to grab the next opportunity.
  • Needing to spend an increasing amount of money to satisfy gambling urges
  • Intention to start gambling after something negative happens to that person.
  • Lying to friends and family about gambling such as about the frequency of gambling, how much lost, or when would be the next gamble
  • Increases sense of optimism even after suffering a severe loss in this field.
  • Facing difficulties while living with friends and families due to the persistent habit of gambling.
  • Neglecting workplace, education, or family obligations
  • Lying to acquire money to gamble. For example: lying about bills to borrow money for gambling
  • Experiencing sudden and inexplicable mood swings
  • Falling into financial troubles

Recreational gambling versus problem gambling

The gamble who believes that he can easily figure out the outcomes of gambling is called a problem gambler. Problem gambler believes that he/she is going to win even after losing consistently and they think that even one victory will solve all their issues. Such a mindset takes the gambler in a situation where he has no money and then he/she starts relying on debt.

This is when betting becomes a compulsion. All that a gambler thinks about is to arrange enough money to bet and nothing else. The typical problem gambler is generally in denial that they have a problem. The person may become hopeless if he/she is not gambling.

Characteristics of a problem gambler

  1. Experiencing financial troubles
  2. Spending unrestricted time and money gambling
  3. Continuously thinking about gambling all the time while leaving other essential works
  4. Pawn belongings to raise funds or stealing
  5. They start relying on loans and then think of repaying the loans by winning from the gambling
  6. Such people are always preoccupied with gambling and they keep on planning the next bet
  7. They easily get irritated and annoyed when try to stop gambling
  8. Always convinced that a win is just around the corner
  9. Denying the extent of the gambling problem

The first step towards treating this addiction is identifying the problem. But people are unable to detect it until it is too late. In most cases, people identify it when someone suffers a severe loss.

Here are some warning signs of those who are addicted to gambling:

  • Giving up favorite hobbies, recreational activities, or family events in order to gamble
  • Opening up a new checking account or applying for new credit cards without any need for more money
  • Possession of more cash which disappears quickly over time
  • Having a defensive feeling about the people who are indulged in gambling
  • Lost control over the amount of money engaged in gambling
  • Placing increasingly large bets or taking increasingly dangerous risks (such as borrowing money from illegal sources or stealing from others)
  • Expression of guilt about this task but they are still unable to stop involving themselves in this game
  • Phases of problem gambling

Problem gambling develops and progresses in phases:

The time of winning: It is the first experience of the gambler when they start feeling good about it. The problem gambler will from this point will try to attain the pleasure of the winning phase.

The time of losing: Since the gambler has become accustomed to winning but he will not get it due to loss. There are some people who leave this activity at this point in time, they are called recreational gamblers. But there is another category called the problem gambler who keeps on doing it until he is left with no options.

Desperation: This is the point at which the gambler starts stealing money or borrowing it from someone to fulfill their thirst for gambling. The gambler will keep placing bets, hoping that a win is just around the corner and will continue until he/she is out of money.

Hopelessness: The problem gambler has hit rock bottom but believes a comeback can be made if there is a win. At this point in time, the gambler loses every resource to place a bet but they don’t have anything. This is the point in time where the gambler is ready to do almost anything to get more money.

A large number of psychological effects that a person may face except monetary problems:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach problems
  • Heart problems

The loss of large amounts of money may lead to the gambler falling into a severe depression, which may lead to suicidal thoughts, self-destructive behavior, or attempted suicide. When the gamblers are depressed, they start using this gambling technique in order to cure this depression. At this point in time, the situation starts getting severe. When they win, the feeling of depression is faced for some time and comes back again if they lose. It forms a cycle of feelings that keep on coming and going over time.

Causes and Risk Factors

Neurochemistry: When people keep on gambling compulsively over a longer duration of time, it affects their physical and mental health in the same way as other addictions. A big win can trigger the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, creating a rush of pleasure and energy, as well as feelings of power. The levels of norepinephrine drop significantly in those people who are involved in gambling. It is a chemical that energizes people. When someone wins big amounts of money, they get a feeling that is not usually generated by the chemicals in the body.

Hereditary features: In case you belong to a family in which one or more individuals have been diagnosed with obsessive behaviors and other things, you are more likely to grow such habits. Apart from this, you are more likely to indulge in other addictive activities more easily as compared to others.

Factors associated with surroundings: Being exposed to a type of society where gambling is something usual may increase your chances of being one of them. If you have a friend circle in which one or more people keep on insisting to get you involved in this activity, you will end up getting in this devastating business.

Co-occurring mental illness or substance use disorders: Compulsive gambling is more common among people who have a co-occurring mental health condition — such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety — or a substance use disorder. Other factors that can increase your risk of gambling addiction include Impulse-control disorder and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

Gambling Addiction and Substance Abuse

In the majority of cases, gambling happens along with alcohol and other substance abuse. You must have seen almost all the premium casinos offer a wide range of alcohol. In some cases, the alcohol is free of cost. It has a scientific purpose. Consumption of alcohol inhibits the decision-making ability of people and they can spend more than usual money on it. Alcohol helps gamblers in almost all situations. Gamblers consume alcohol when they celebrate a victory and they do the same in grief. All of these situations add up to make gamblers more susceptible to addictive habits.

Frequent use of alcohol and other drugs encourages the gamblers to be engaged in it more deeply despite their financial loss. The longer substance abuse and pathologic gambling go untreated, the greater the risk of serious health consequences as a result of both addictions.

Gambling and other activities get intertwined and both these habits support each other. The more those people indulge in it, the more intertwined these become. When continued for a longer duration, both of these habits become so connected that the gambler can’t do one without the other.

Then a point will come where you won’t be able to decide which one is more harmful. It is because the gambler is so much indulged in this habit that he starts ignoring the importance of friends, family, relationships, etc. only for gambling and other such things. Such persons are always preoccupied with thoughts and plans of gambling. In many cases, the severity of this situation increases and people end up in jails for doing it.

A large number of people believe that addiction to something is a psychological phenomenon but it is quite more than that. The majority of people whom we call addicts are the ones using alcohol and other substances as means to escape reality. This is the main reason why all those people develop a very intimate association with alcohol and other addictive substances. Such people start relying on multiple habits in order to get comfortable whenever they are stressed out or not feeling good.

It develops as a kind of habit for those people as they keep on trying and adapting to several means of addiction to get rid of reality.

If you take a look at the persons suffering from any severe addiction, you will find that most of those people have some problems in their lives that they don’t want to notice. That addiction can be almost anything ranging from alcohol, smoking, gambling, etc. So, the addiction occurs as a secondary thing while the primary issue is something else.

This is the main reason you need specific methods to treat addiction. You need to address all the issues that the addict has faced in the past and then identify the way he/she has developed an association with the addiction.

The rehab process of gambling addicts

Proper therapy methods, good resources for recovery, and psychological procedures can help you treat this complex addiction habit. A large number of such programs are available in better rehab centers. You can choose the right one with a suitable program to get this condition treated. But keep in mind that the treatment process is not something normal and usual. It requires continuous supervision of the addict in order to understand the situation and find new ways based on his behavior.

There is an admission assessment process that is used to decide the suitable method of treatment.

Inpatient Facilities vs. Outpatient Clinics

Inpatient rehab centers are the ones where patients live 24X7 and there are experts who take care of the patients. It is well suited for patients with severe addiction disorders. The patients here live and get specific treatments based on the type and stage of their addiction. In fact, only those people need to be in this facility who have got to the advanced stage of substance abuse.

Take a look at some of the most popular therapy programs.

Individual therapy: As the name suggests, this treatment method deals individually with the addicts. Trigger points are identified and treated based on the behavior of the addicts. In most cases, the addicts are under 24-hours supervision.

Group therapy: Group therapy is very much effective in many cases. In this therapy session, the gambling addicts are kept with a group of people who are trying to get rid of this situation. Such a surrounding helps addicts to get positive feelings and focus on important matters of life.

CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy): It is the most scientific approach that can be applied to someone with an addiction. CBT specialists target the elements of the behavior of the addicts and then proper treatment patterns are chosen. Whatever the addicts consider it but their interest in gambling is simply an illusion and nothing more. CBT focuses on getting those people out of this illusion. Once the addicts realize his/her illusion, he will be given several other good habits to engage in.

Family or couples counseling: Addiction is viewed as a problem that affects entire families, not just isolated individuals. As a result, the family must be treated as a unit in order for rehab to be successful. It is the most supportive form of therapy where the recovery has been found to be highly effective. It helps the addicts to realize the family values and start living new and a better life again.

Seeking Help for Gambling Addiction

Intervening on behalf of a loved one with a compulsive gambling problem is the first step in preventing the negative consequences of gambling addiction.

In the majority of the cases, this addiction is not identified in the beginning. Just keep watch on your loved ones because if you are able to identify these things in the beginning, there are greater chances of treating this disorder permanently. Just like the other forms of addiction, gambling addiction can be treated very well if you are able to find it in the beginning and opt for the right method of treatment. While looking for a program to treat this one, you should always choose the one that has been specifically designed for gambling addiction treatment. A collective or common approach is not so effective in this case.

What to expect during Gambling Addiction Rehab?

When you want admission to a rehab facility, there is an evaluation process. In this process, the drug addict is analyzed and then the right form of treatment is chosen. The evaluation will involve routine medical testing and psychological analysis. Once the admission process is complete, an introduction to the schedule of the rehab program is done which will be structured in a manner. During the rehab stay, clients go through exercises, education, counseling, and behavior modification therapy. How to deal with the compulsive need to gamble and the tools to overcome cravings are implemented in the rehab process.

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