Compulsive Gambling

Compulsive gambling is a term used to describe an individual who cannot stop gambling despite the negative effects it causes. Symptoms of compulsive gambling are mood changes, denial of gambling and its negative consequences and even withdrawal and anger if they cannot gamble or are challenged on their compulsive behaviour. Compulsive gambling, also known as gambling disorder or ludomania, is a serious addiction and it’s important to understand what it entails and how it can be treated.

Typical Compulsive Gambling Symptoms include:

  • Experiencing an inability to reduce or stop gambling despite attempts.
  • Gambling with increasingly larger amounts of money for the same level of excitement.
  • Frequently thinking about gambling and ways to obtain money for it.
  • Lying to conceal how much you gamble.
  • Gambling to alleviate feelings of distress, such as anxiety, guilt or depression.
  • Becoming restless or agitated when attempting to decrease gambling.
  • Losing significant relationships, job opportunities or educational chances due to gambling.
  • Borrowing money to cover financial deficits caused by gambling.
  • Attempting to recover losses by gambling more.

Problem gambling occurs when gambling disrupts your life, such as being preoccupied with it, spending increasing amounts of time and money, chasing losses or continuing despite negative consequences. It often coexists with other issues like substance abuse, ADHD, stress, depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, requiring these underlying causes to be addressed for recovery. Despite feeling powerless, overcoming gambling addiction is possible by understanding the facts about gambling problems, which can help in regaining control over your life, mending relationships and restoring finances.

Compulsive gambling can activate the brain’s reward system similarly to drugs or alcohol, potentially leading to addiction. This disorder often results in significant financial loss, depletion of savings, accumulation of debt and may drive individuals to hide their behaviour or commit theft or fraud to sustain their gambling habit. Despite the challenges in treatment, many individuals with compulsive gambling have successfully found help through professional treatment programs.

Throughout history, gambling has been a popular leisure activity enjoyed by many. However, it was not until 1980 that ‘pathological gambling’ (the old term for compulsive gambling) was officially recognised as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). In 2013, the APA included it in the newly revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) under the category of “Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders.”

Interestingly, compulsive gambling often co-occurs with other mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse problems. This comorbidity makes the treatment approach complex and requires specialised care to address all underlying issues simultaneously.

Gambling Self Help

Overcoming a gambling addiction begins with acknowledging the problem, a challenging step that requires courage, especially after significant losses and damaged relationships. Support is crucial; you’re not alone, as many have successfully broken free from gambling and rebuilt their lives. To address gambling urges, find healthier ways to manage emotions like loneliness, stress or boredom—consider exercise, new hobbies or relaxation techniques instead of gambling. Strengthening your support network is vital; lean on friends and family or expand your circle by engaging in social activities, classes or volunteering. Joining a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous can also offer guidance and support through shared experiences and a sponsor system, aiding recovery from addiction.

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Preventing compulsive gambling is challenging due to widespread access to lotteries, online platforms and casinos. Early intervention is key to prevent the worsening of the condition, especially for those with a high risk, including individuals with family and friends prone to gambling issues. Treatment is available and begins with acknowledging the problem. Options include therapy or support groups like Gamblers Anonymous, which promotes abstinence and medications such as antidepressants or opioid antagonists to manage symptoms. Although compulsive gambling is a chronic condition prone to relapse post-treatment, effective management allows individuals to regain control over their lives.

Addiction treatment for compulsive gambling typically involves a combination of therapies tailored to your needs. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is commonly used to help you identify and change unhealthy gambling behaviors and thought patterns. Financial counselling may also be provided to help you regain control of your finances and manage any debts accrued from gambling.

Support groups like Gamblers Anonymous (GA) have become an integral part of addiction recovery for compulsive gamblers. These groups provide a supportive environment where individuals can share their experiences, strategies and challenges in a non-judgmental setting.

What is Compulsive Gambling? Explore the Addiction Summary

Compulsive gambling is a term used to describe an individual who cannot stop gambling despite the negative effects it causes. Get help from qualified counsellors.

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