Recognizing signs of gambling addiction

For some people, gambling can be an occasional fun activity to do with friends. However, for others, the high-risk games can become too alluring and take over their lives. As online casinos and daily fantasy sports sites like FanDuel and DraftKings make it possible to play anywhere, gaming can quickly drain a player’s finances.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a gambling addiction or compulsive gambling is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on one’s life. Gambling means that someone is willing to risk something they value in the hopes of getting something of even greater value.

According to experts, gambling can raise the levels of the brain’s reward system much like alcohol or other drugs, which is what leads to addiction. Research found that lottery products given to minors as holiday gifts may be a gateway to problem gambling, according to the National Council on Problem Gaming.

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission Act says that the percentage of pathological gamblers was 0.6 percent in 2008.

There is some debate on whether one can be addicted to gambling. The American Psychiatric Association considers it to be an impulse control disorder rather than an addiction. However, others disagree.

Symptoms of compulsive gambling, according to Gamblers Anonymous, include:

  • when people take increasingly riskier gambles
  • they become preoccupied with gambling
  • they spend all their free time gambling
  • they borrow money from loved ones to gamble
  • efforts to cut back fail

Only individuals will know if their problem is severe enough to seek treatment. For treatment to be truly successful, one must want to get better for oneself instead of trying to please others.

Studies have shown addicts who don’t seek or receive help may become suicidal. In the United States, a report by the National Council on Problem Gambling showed approximately one in five pathological gamblers attempt suicide.

There are many different types of professional treatment someone can seek. First, someone can go to a therapist. Many people find it useful and helpful to talk with a therapist about their problems. The therapist can help someone learn new behaviors and coping mechanisms.

Another form of treatment is medication. Antidepressants can often help an addict who also suffers from depression. The two often go hand in hand. While medication like this doesn’t necessarily treat the addiction, it can help. Experts say medication is best paired with therapy of some sort.

Finally, another form of treatment is a self-help group like Gamblers Anonymous. Addicts can find those who have also struggled with gambling and relate to them.

However, to really succeed with treatment, individuals must complete a lifestyle change including not spending time with those they gambled with or visiting gaming sites.

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About Sara Brown

Sara Brown is the Sampan health editor.
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