As legalized gambling has spread across America, compulsive gambling or gambling addiction has become increasingly common. This behavior can be devastating relationally, psychologically as well financially. Compulsive gamblers find that they cannot pass up any opportunity to make a bet. It’s not just that they enjoy the process, either. They literally cannot keep themselves from gambling. Compulsive gamblers may care more about placing another bet than about eating or even drinking water. If gambling addiction goes untreated it can have repercussions every bit as tragic as those faces by drug or alcohol addicts.
Anxiety Disorders and Gambling Addiction
Compulsive gambling, or gambling addiction, is a psychological condition very closely connected to anxiety disorders. A wide range of emotions, urges and behaviors are controlled by a sensitive and intricate series of chemical signals in the human central nervous system. A certain part of the brain – often referred to as the “reward center” or “pleasure center” is a sort of clearinghouse for these chemical responses in the brain. Imbalances in the naturally occurring chemicals here can result in mania, depression, anxiety or compulsive behaviors. Any substance or behavior that causes a spike in the effects of these chemicals can lead to a powerful psychological addiction. Some people find these spikes through risky behavior like skydiving or car racing. Others find it through drugs or alcohol. Some experience these spikes through sexual behavior, lying, rage or even shopping. The brain will seek out the behavior or substances that stimulate this pleasure center; often twisting emotions and desires to achieve its ends.
The Effects of Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction can devastate a person’s life. Easy access to gambling through web sites has exacerbated the problem in recent decades. These days a compulsive gambler doesn’t need to find an illicit poker game or call a bookie. Many people do not realize they have developed an addiction until the results of their habit can no longer be hidden. Additionally, many people with gambling addictions will self-medicate their attendant depression, anxiety and humiliation through abuse of drugs or alcohol. Trust is broken. Marriages fail. Serious depression has even led some compulsive gamblers to take their own lives. Some signs of compulsive gambling or gambling addiction include the following behaviors:
- Being secretive or dishonest about your gambling to you spouse or other loved ones
- Gambling on a regular basis
- Gambling more than you intend to (loss of self-control)
- Experiencing a rush of euphoria after gambling followed by remorse
- Continued gambling when your money is gone (borrowing money to gamble)
Help is available for those wrestling with gambling addiction. The most important step is to admit that you have a problem. Being honest with yourself and your loved ones is crucial to getting the recovery process underway. All addictions thrive on secrecy and shame. Gambling addiction is a psychological disorder and the path to freedom and healing is through rebuilding healthy thought patterns and habits. Specialized gambling addiction therapy is available.