Gambling addiction affects both men and women and individuals of all ages. In a gambling addiction, you will likely experience a great high from gambling. That high, however, comes with a compulsion to gamble that may interfere with your relationships, job or education, and you may feel the continued need to gamble despite suffering significant financial losses. Notwithstanding the financial harm you may experience, you will likely continue gambling by borrowing money from friends and family to “cover” your debts and losses and also lie to them to conceal the problem.
While a gambling addiction does not involve a substance, the harmful effects of this problem on your emotional, psychological and physical health can be just as damaging as that a substance use problem. Substance use, however, often coincides with a gambling addiction. You may abuse other substances, especially alcohol, due to proximity and exposure while you gamble, and your substance use can further fuel your gambling addiction by reducing your inhibitions and interfering with your decision making. A gambling addiction diagnosis requires that your struggle with gambling produce “clinical impairment or distress” — per psychiatric guidelines published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — which puts it on a par with addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Other mental health issues may also co-occur with your gambling problem, making the problem much more complex and difficult to manage, control and eliminate on your own. You might, for example, use the high you experience from gambling to medicate other mental health issues you may be experiencing simultaneously — depression, for example — and your depression can making it harder to stop gambling, even if you want to stop. Because gambling addiction frequently coincides with other mental health as well as substance use issues, it can be difficult and often impossible to treat on your own. Gambling frequently calls for professional help from psychiatrists and doctors well-versed in treating gambling addiction and co-occurring substance use and mental health problems.
SYMPTOMS OF GAMBLING ADDICTION
Gambling addiction has many symptoms and psychiatrists require that you show at least four symptoms over a 12-month period to meet the requirements for a gambling addiction diagnosis. Symptoms of gambling addiction include:
- needing to gamble with ever-increasing sums of money to get satisfaction
- irritability or restlessness when trying to quit gambling
- repeated failed attempts to cut-back or stop gambling
- a preoccupation with gambling that includes reliving past experiences, planning new ones or devising plans to get more gambling money
- gambling as a response to various kinds of emotional stress
- “chasing” losses by gambling again soon after losing money to win it back
- lying to conceal gambling frequency or amounts
- losing or risking losing a relationship, job or educational opportunity due to gambling
- seeking to obtain money from friends, family or other sources to relieve gambling-induced financial problems
Psychiatrists will often classify a gambling disorder as mild, moderate or severe depending on the number of symptoms you experience. They will also determine whether the addiction is persistent, with constant symptoms, or episodic, with symptoms that disappear but return in time.
WHY TREATING GAMBLING ADDICTION AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE IS CHALLENGING
Gambling is a compulsive behavior that often stems from a pre-existing obsessive-compulsive disorder. The frequency of co-occurrence of gambling addiction with other mental disorders substance use is high, especially with alcohol abuse. Co-occurring mental health disorders may affect your reasoning pattern — for example, denial, dementia or uninhibitedness — and help make your gambling habit persist. If you suffer from manic-depression, as another example, you may experience more severe gambling symptoms during manic phases when you will feel more energetic, impulsive and optimistic. The prevalence of gambling addictions with other disorders increases the difficulty of overcoming the disease and the complexity of treating it. For all these reasons, attempting to beat a gambling addiction on your own can be incredibly challenging and often all but impossible. An individualized addiction recovery program that also treats underlying and co-occurring mental health issues along with substance use issues will be the best, safest and most reliable path for you to overcome all of these problems.
A HOLISTIC APPROACH CAN GIVE YOU YOUR BEST CHANCE AT OVERCOMING YOUR GAMBLING ADDICTION AND SUBSTANCE USE
Overcoming any addiction will require a professionally administered treatment program, but not all treatment programs are the same. Although a gambling addiction does not have a substance as the object of the addiction, it is very likely that you will experience a co-occurring substance use issue along with your gambling problem. If this substance use goes untreated, any attempt to treat your gambling problem will likely fail because the symptoms of using will always make it more likely for you to return to gambling.
A holistic approach to addiction treats each issue you suffer from but deals with your substance abuse first. Without addressing your drug and alcohol use, any behavioral or psychological treatments you should receive will be undermined by drug cravings and relapse, continuing to make your other symptoms worse. A medically-supervised detox ensures all traces of drugs and alcohol leave your body and that you do not have drug cravings. This makes follow-up addiction treatment more effective and eliminates any symptoms which might exacerbate your gambling addiction, making your gambling addiction treatment most effective.
Treatment for your substance use and gambling addiction also occurs within a holistic framework, looking at all aspects which have contributed to your use including past trauma, social factors and personality traits. When you find solutions for each aspect of your addiction, you can then identify, learn and practice solutions — before you leave treatment — that will ensure your long-term success over both substances and habits that harm your health, peace and well-being.
The specialists at the Serenity Oaks Wellness Center look forward to speaking with you about how an individualized and holistic approach to treating your gambling addiction and substance use can help you overcome both and enjoy long-term wellness and sobriety. We want to help you live the healthy, sober life you deserve.