Gambling addiction affects millions of people and is a real problem. Gambling addiction wreaks havoc on a person’s finances and puts pressures on relationships due to the frustration felt by family and friends. To the bystander and the addict the compulsive need to keep gambling can be a maddening mystery.
How Gambling Addiction Happens
Addiction is a complex phenomenon. The human brain manages thousands of behaviors and emotions through an intricate system of chemical signals in an area called the reward or pleasure center. Certain behaviors cause spikes in the chemicals used to manage this system in the same way as drugs or alcohol. These spikes, as tiny as they are, can provide stimulation of the reward center and thus run the risk of becoming a psychologically reinforced behavior. The risk associated with gambling produces boosts in endorphins and adrenaline in same way other risky activities such as stealing, racing motorcycles, cliff-jumping or even lying may. Some people seem to be born with a genetic predisposition toward addiction and are at a significantly higher risk of becoming addicted to risky behavior such as gambling.
Why Can’t an Addicted Person Stop Gambling?
Finding lasting recovery from a gambling addiction can be challenging. Loved ones watching a person struggle with this kind of dependency are often bewildered by the disease. People affected by gambling addiction will keep gambling even when they have lost their money, their house, their job and their relationships. It is not a matter of choice for addicts to keep gambling. They are compelled to by a deep psychological urge that their rational will cannot control. In many cases the frustration, pain and shame an addicted gambler feels will be medicated through alcohol or drug abuse which will further compound their misery.
Recovery from Gambling Addiction
Recovery from compulsive gambling is often effectively treated in the same way as substance abuse. The most effective programs treat the gambling addiction along with any underlying or co-occurring emotional disorders through a wide range of therapies including the following:
- Support group counseling
- Personalized private counseling
- Removal from the opportunity to gamble for a certain amount of time
- Spiritual care
- 12-step programs
- Education about addiction
- Introduction to healthy diversions, distractions and coping skills
- Preparation for managing temptations
Gambling addiction can be treated in both inpatient residential programs and through outpatient strategies. The best way to know what the most effective treatment style will be is to consult a gambling addiction specialist through a recovery helpline.