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What Does It Mean To Have A Gambling Addiction?

Gambling is commonly seen by most people as an amusing game with odds and opportunities they play when they go to Las Vegas or their local casino. While they might win sometimes, more typically they lose more money than they win, but what they lose is usually considered “disposable income,” part of the expense of their vacation trip.

For some individuals, however, gambling is not just an amusing game. It is an obsession. A characteristic of gambling is that one typically loses money, but for people who gamble obsessively, they often lose more money than they can afford to and find themselves deeply in debt. Typically, they will gamble more in the hopes that they will win enough to pay off their debts and come out ahead. They usually don’t win, but find themselves, as a result, even deeper in debt.

This is the pattern for gambling addiction. Habitual, obsessive gambling results in increasing amounts of debts, which is the source of many personal problems: depression and anxiety over debts owed, marital problems as money often significantly impact the relationships of married people, family problems as mounting debts leave unpaid household bills and family members left wanting for things they might need, and personal and professional relationships as financial problems can affect one’s performance on the job.

Consequences of a Gambling Addiction

Problems related to gambling are experienced by approximately 2 percent of Americans. Gambling addiction focuses most often on commercial games of “chance,” such as slot machines, poker games, horse races, or any of the popular casino games. But, for the more severe of the addicted, they will bet on anything, even things that seem ridiculous to other people not thinking in terms of betting or gambling. This is because their gambling behavior is not based on reason or facts, but on emotions. It is a behavior that is addictive for some people in the same way that alcohol and drugs are addictive. Like these other forms of addictive behavior, gambling brings with it a number of adverse and negative personal, marital, social, financial, professional, and legal consequences.

Are More Men or Women Gambling Addicts?

Gambling addiction is most commonly demonstrated by men, but some women also can become gambling addicts.

Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

Just like other people with addictions, gambling addicts may often go to extensive lengths to hide their habits and addiction from others, especially those they love. For some addicts, they are successful in concealing their addictive behaviors, but for others, those addicts who will bet on anything, their gambling addictive behavior is very obvious. Otherwise, however, betting in office or bar football pools, going to casinos, or the horse races regularly suggests some addictive behavior. While addictive gamblers do not gamble all the time, once they start they may compulsively not be able to stop.

Typically, gambling addicts may demonstrate any one or more of these behaviors:

  • Demonstrating excessive interest in any form of gambling
  • Gambling to satisfy inner psychological urges or obsessions
  • The realization that gambling behavior is out of control, but no ability to stop
  • Taking time off work or time away from the family to pursue gambling activities.
  • Using money that should be for paying bills for gambling
  • Neglecting important financial interests superseded by gambling activities
  • Selling personal or family possessions to get the money to gamble
  • Stealing other people’s possessions or money to use for gambling
  • Lying to family, friends, or others about gambling activities
  • Feelings of remorse or guilt after a session of gambling, especially after losses
  • Increasing the amounts of money being gambled and taking bigger risks despite previous losses, particularly big losses

Social consequences are also often severe for addictive gambling, such as the losses of vehicles, possible job loss, personal and family possessions, but even more, are the damaging consequences of the addict’s family and friends’ relationships.

How Does Someone Develop A Gambling Addiction?

Research has shown that gambling addiction tends to cause the insula of the brain to be overactivated. The insula is associated with consciousness and homeostasis of the body, but also is associated with emotions, affecting interpersonal activity, the functioning of cognition, motor controls, perceptions, and self-awareness. Thus, in a variety of ways, hyperactivity in the insula has effects on distorted thinking. It is especially in regard to gambling activity in that the hyperactivity of the insula may lead people to seem to perceive patterns in otherwise random processes, leading them to believe there are positive changes coming in their luck, causing them to bet both continuously and in larger amounts of money if they have it. Each time the imagined pattern does not work out, for many gamblers, this motivates them to think that the next time, it will work out.

How To Treat A Gambling Addiction

Like food and substance addictions, gambling addiction can also be responsive to treatment to reduce or eliminate the behavior. Also, like food addictions, what is necessary is to develop a more realistic and healthy relationship with money and personal finances. Since lack of impulse control is a significant part of the gambling addiction, the program of treatments for recovery must contain an element dealing with this aspect of behavior. 

Some people may feel that the only way that their addictive behavior can be brought under control is through some form of an inpatient treatment program. However, for most people suffering from gambling addiction, regular sessions with a certified psychologist like Dr. Blair at Blair Wellness Group in Beverly Hills can provide for the treatment most effective in learning to control and eliminate this destructive addiction.

The outpatient program supervised by the psychologist may entail, along with regular person-to-person sessions, classes, or group treatment sessions. The outpatient remains at home and in his or her employment and personal relationship, so there are no embarrassing explanations required for the time you might have been away at a hospital.

Need a Psychologist for Gambling Addiction?

If any of these descriptions fit your gambling behavior, now is the time to make a decision to make a positive change in your life. You can stop the compulsive gambling that you know is destroying you, your personal finances, and your family life. This is the time to connect with Blair Wellness Group to start on the way to regaining control of your life and to restore your financial security and personal relationships. In your first consultation with Dr. Blair or one of her associates, she will work with you to assess your personal circumstances and set up a treatment program with you that works within the concierge-style services which allow you to determine the best time for meetings and sessions. Don’t wait. Call now!

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