Every day we read about another high profile personality losing it all to gambling. How they managed to spend hundreds of thousands in a night, lost houses and cars – and quite often their family as well. And some will tut and say what a terrible addiction gambling is…before logging on to back a horse, or nipping to the shop to get a scratchcard.
You see, you don’t have to lose the shirt off your back to have a problem with gambling. You could be addicted and no-one realises – not even you. Just because the mortgage is paid and you’ve credit in your online betting account, doesn’t mean you’re not addicted.
The number of people who have a gambling problem is about five in every hundred. For a long time, gambling was considered a compulsive behaviour rather than an addiction. While many still refer to ‘compulsive gambling’, scientists have begun to understand that excessive gambling is more like drug addiction. Why? The biological process that happens in the brain relates to excitement and reward.
Those who studied problem gambling before assumed that gambling wasn’t a true addiction because you weren’t ingesting any chemicals or alcohol. However, scientists now know that gambling changes the brain just as drug/alcohol addiction does.
A part of your brain, deep in the centre of your cranium, contains a series of circuits scientist call ‘the reward system’. The reward system releases dopamine whenever we do something to pass on our genes, or to stay alive. When we engage in addictive behaviours, the reward system releases 10 times as much dopamine as it would normally.
We feel euphoric when we light up that reward system at first, but after this system is activated over and over, our brain adapts to the excess dopamine. Now, it takes more to feel that intense pleasure. So, what do we do? Those who are genetically predisposed to addiction typically keep reaching for that high by betting more, or making riskier bets.
If you have any of the following most common characteristics of someone who becomes addicted to gambling, you need to dig deeper to find out if you do have an addiction. Even if you don’t have these characteristics, the fact that you are investigating gambling addictions probably indicates you need to learn more. You are more likely to gamble excessively if:
Now that you know who’s most likely to become a gambling addict, you need to focus on whether you have crossed that threshold. Start by looking at the list of harmful effects that can follow when you have a gambling addiction.
You may not have lost it all, or even come close, but the following symptoms can help you break through denial and understand that you do have a gambling addiction:
Gambling addiction treatment gives you the tools and techniques to overcome your problem gambling. Treatments similar to treatment for drug addiction have proven the most effective. Gambling addiction treatment can be done on an outpatient basis. However, if your gambling addiction has taken over your life and put you or others in danger, inpatient treatment may be necessary.
If you, or someone you love, is struggling with addiction, get help not only for yourself, but for your children as well.
Tabor Group is a leading provider of residential addiction treatment services in Ireland. We provide support and care to hundreds of clients suffering from addictions to alcohol, substances, gambling and eating disorders. For more information on Tabor Group’s services, click here.