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Compulsive Gambling: Symptoms and Causes 

Gambling addiction is a behavioral addiction where the individual has a pathological compulsion to bet.

What Is Gambling Addiction? 

compulsive gambling

Like drug addiction, compulsive gambling can wreak havoc in a person's life. Statistics show that people between the age of 20 and 30 have the highest rates of gambling problems.1 Like other types of addiction, gambling addiction can only worsen if left untreated. 

Gambling addiction is a behavioral addiction where the individual has a pathological compulsion to bet. The individual feels an uncontrollable urge to keep gambling regardless of the negative effects on their life.

Gambling can stimulate the brain's reward system, like drugs and alcohol, leading to an addiction. People with gambling problems would continue to place wagers leading to losses, hiding their behavior, exhausting their savings, amassing debt, and resorting to theft or fraud to support their addiction.2

Some common gambling activities include lottery, sports betting, scratch cards, and gambling machines. 

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Why Do People Gamble?

People gamble for different reasons. Let's take a brief look at some of them.

  • For social reasons: This could be in the company of a group of friends. It may be done to make their social gathering more enjoyable.
  • For financial reasons: People gamble to win to change their financial status and lifestyle. 
  • For fun: For some people, gambling is just a means to entertain themselves as it makes them feel good.
  • For coping reasons: People gamble as means of forgetting their worries. They believe it enhances their confidence and makes them less nervous.

How Common is Gambling Addiction?

About 80% of American adults participate in gambling activities yearly.3 However, the rate of gambling addiction globally varies between 0.12% and 5.8% — similarly, three to five gamblers out of every hundred battle with a gambling problem.  

What Are the Symptoms of Gambling Addiction? 

Symptoms of gambling addiction include the following:4 

  • Obsessing over any gambling
  • Gambling to feel better about life
  • Failing to control your gambling
  • Avoiding work or other commitments to gamble
  • Selling possessions to gamble
  • Stealing money to gamble
  • Lying about your gambling habit
  • Feeling guilty after a gambling session
  • Taking bigger and bigger risks while gambling 

What Is Compulsive Gambling? 

Compulsive gambling is being unable to resist impulses to gamble.5 It is a serious condition that ruins people's lives.

What Is Considered Safe Gambling? 

Safe gambling means using low-risk strategies, such as sticking to budgets and following the time limit.

A safe gambler recognizes the following: 

  • First, consider gambling as a recreational activity and not a way to earn money.
  • Always stay within the limits of what they can afford to lose.
  • Realize that winning is fun and not everything. 
  • Believe that their chances of winning are small.

What Causes an Addiction to Gamble 

Several factors may cause gambling addiction. Some of them include desperation for money, the craving to experience the thrills and highs of gambling, the entertainment atmosphere of the gambling scene, etc.

Sadly, once a gambling addiction has taken hold, it breaks the cycle. Severe addictions can develop when someone is desperate for money and want to recoup their losses.

When the person ends up winning, they may have a large amount of money, which is barely enough to cover their losses. Most gamblers never even come to breaking even.

Common Types of Gambling 

Most gambling can be grouped into three types. They will be detailed below.

Professional Gambling 

Winnings from gambling are the primary source of income for a professional gambler.

On the other hand, professional gamblers do not necessarily lose control of their gambling habits. Professional gamblers can take calculated risks while maintaining a stable life free of the highs and lows linked with professional gambling. 

Social Gambling 

Social gambling has become a cultural norm in many parts of the world. As a result, individuals who engage in social gambling may suffer losses like those with a gambling problem.

However, they do not typically gamble away their assets after suffering a loss. Similarly, they can control their gambling behaviors and often stick to a strict budget before gambling.

Problem Gambling

Problem gambling happens when a person loses control of their gambling habits. It is common to find people with gambling problems engaging in high-risk criminal behavior to fund their gambling addiction. 

People with problem gambling may experience strong gambling urges and cravings.

Triggers of Gambling 

Gambling can result in several problems. Gambling behaviors become disturbing when they negatively affect your finances, relationship, and work life.

Many individuals who develop a gambling addiction may be triggered by the following:

  • Retirement
  • Traumatic experience
  • Job-related stress
  • Emotional upheavals such as depression or anxiety
  • Loneliness
  • The presence of other addiction 

Risk Factors of Gambling Disorder

Studies have indicated that some individuals with the following conditions may have a higher risk of developing a gambling disorder:

  • Mood disorder: Traditionally, mood and gambling behaviors have been known to overlap
  • Anxiety disorder: Gambling problems are related to underlying issues such as anxiety disorder.
  • Substance use disorders: People with substance use disorders may develop pathological gambling.
  • Personality disorders: Research has shown that people with gambling problems share the same characteristics as those with personality disorders.
  • Impulse control disorders: Gambling addiction is classified as an impulse control disorder.
  • An adolescence: Statistics show that gambling addiction is common among young people.
  • Having a first-degree relative: People with first-degree relatives with alcohol use disorder are likely to develop pathological gambling.

Factors complicating gambling addiction include significant loss of money or possessions, severe debt, legal problems, and damaged relationships with friends and family. 

Treatment For Gambling Addiction at Boardwalk Recovery 

compulsive gambling

You do not have to recover from compulsive gambling alone. With the right help, you can control your gambling addiction. That is where we come in.

Inpatient Rehabilitation Program

At Boardwalk Recovery, we offer a gambling rehabilitation program at our facility to help you recover and heal from your gambling addictions. Our program is designed to help you resist gambling and its destructive behaviors. We will equip you with the necessary tools to control your urges and compulsions.

Outpatient Rehabilitation Program

We understand that the process of recovery from gambling can be quite long. Our support staff is always on hand to provide care and support.

Our comprehensive gambling rehabilitation program includes:

  • 12-step programs
  • Psychotherapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy 
  • Medication 
  • Lifestyle changes  

Our goal at Boardwalk Recovery is to ensure you become free from your gambling addiction and imbibe the skills to manage your mental health. We look forward to helping you regain autonomy over your own life and achieve wellness.

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