Most people start gambling solely for the sake of fun and that is really what gambling was meant to be. Safe gambling can be a great source of entertainment like going to the cinemas or going bowling. However, it becomes a critical problem when the urge to gamble comes and you’re unable to control it even though you know it’s harming you. When this is the case, you’ve become a compulsive gambler. Compulsive gambling, also known as gambling addiction, is a kind of impulse-control disorder. You can’t “stay off the bet” even when you’re broke, happy or depressed. You know the odds are against you and that you can’t afford to lose, yet you still gamble.
Anyone can become a victim of gambling addiction, it is not age or gender-specific. While the problem of gambling develops over time for many people, there are still those who got hooked after a single bet. Also, not everyone who gambles become addicted, most people fall victim as a result of reasons that ranges from trauma to mental disorder. They start using gambling to relieve themselves or escape from problems.
Risk factors of compulsive gambling
While the reason behind compulsive gambling is not clearly understood; genetic, biological and environmental factors are most often associated with it like many other problems. The chances of one developing a gambling addiction greatly increases with the following factors:
Compulsive gambling is on the higher side among younger and middle-aged people. According to research, individuals below the age of 35 are more vulnerable to developing a gambling problem. Mostly as a result of the fact that younger individuals are more likely to act on their impulse and look for new sensations. Those who start gambling from their childhood or teenage years are also more likely to become compulsive gamblers.
The adult generation also have an increased risk as they often gamble to relieve feelings of anxiety or loneliness. Matters are worsened with the uprise of gambling websites and apps as they can now gamble comfortably from home. Furthermore, the appealing perks that a lot of licensed gaming facilities and casinos offer older gamblers are too irresistible. This has become a major problem for the older adult population.
Mental health disorders
Compulsive gambling may be associated with hyperactivity/attention-deficit disorder(ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder patients often engage in very risky behaviours during hypomanic or manic episodes. Same as manic individuals, the excitement and euphoria that comes with gambling makes them prone to becoming addicted. People may also gamble compulsively if they have anxiety, depression, personality disorders or substance abuse problems.
While it’s not unusual to find women who gamble, gambling is more common in men. Women typically start gambling later in life and may quickly become addicted. Of recent though, gambling patterns have become similar among men and women. It’s important to treat a woman with gambling problem as soon as possible because of the fast rate in which they develop a gambling addiction.
- Friend or family influence
If your friends or family members have a gambling problem, there are greater chances of you developing it too. Just like there’s a genetic element attached to many other mental health issues like substance abuse and depression, your genes may also leave you vulnerable to gambling addiction. In addition to that, growing up in a family environment where gambling is the order of the day can also contribute to the development of a gambling problem.
- Personality traits
Your risk of compulsive gambling increases if you have a workaholic, highly competitive, restless or impulsive personality. Also people who had an “under controlled” temperament during childhood are more likely to become addicted gamblers than those who were considered “well-adjusted.”
- Certain prescription drugs
Some rare side effects of certain medications can cause compulsive behaviours, which in turn raises the risk for compulsive gambling. Drugs referred to as dopamine agonists that are used to treat Parkinson’s disease have these side effects. Research suggests that people who take these drugs may likely exhibit disordered gambling behaviour and other impulse control problems.
Gambling addiction is among the growing concern for veterans alongside issues like traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD and suicide. Research shows that both male and female veterans have the same rates of pathological gambling.
Symptoms of Compulsive Gambling
The following behaviour patterns often indicate compulsive gambling
- Loss of control: You keep failing at your attempts to cut back, stop or control gambling.
- Preoccupation: All the thoughts you have are centred around gambling: you recall your gambling experiences, think of how to get money for your next gambling venture and so on.
- Withdrawal: When you try to cut down or stop betting, you become irritable or restless
- Tolerance: Just like drug tolerance, in order to achieve the desired “rush” or tolerance, you keep raising the amount of money you gamble with.
- Chasing “losses” : Instead of giving up when you lose money, you keep returning the next day to get even or “chase losses”.
- Escape: Gambling for you is a way of forgetting your problems or getting relieve from depression and anxiety.
- Risked relationships: Due to gambling, you’ve jeopardized a lot of significant relationships, career or educational opportunity or your job.
- Lying: To conceal how bad your gambling problem is, you lie to loved ones, therapist or others.
- Bailout: Gambling affects your financial status and whenever it does, you rely on family or friends to help you out—provide money for you.
- Illegal activity: For the sake of gambling, you’ve committed unlawful acts like fraud, forgery, embezzlement or theft.
If you’re serious about quitting gambling, there are practical steps you can take to fully recover. You need all the support you can get from your loved ones in order to completely be free from gambling.