Gambling addiction

How to Help Someone with a Gambling Addiction

How to help someone with a gambling addiction

Like most dependencies, a gambling addiction likely won’t feel like an addiction until it’s already too late. It starts harmlessly as a fun diversion or social activity, but before you realize it, it’s become an unhealthy obsession – one that can have dire consequences on your personal life, finances, and relationships.

Though some people and personality types are more likely to gamble compulsively than others it can happen to anyone, of any age or gender, at virtually any time.

Here are some statistics about gamblers in the United States:

  • 2.6 percent of the population of the United States has a gambling addiction – nearly 10 million people!
  • 80 percent of Americans gamble on a yearly basis
  • Gambling costs Americans about 6 billion dollars per year
  • Men are more than 10 times more likely to develop a gambling problem than women
  • Youth and young adults aged 16-24 are the most likely age group to develop a gambling addiction. The second most likely age group is adults age 35-44.
  • Those with mental illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and substance abuse disorders are more susceptible to gambling addiction

Defining gambling addiction

Gambling addiction – also known as pathological or compulsive gambling – is a more prevalent issue than most people realize. Like any addiction, it’s activated by the reward centers of the brain in response to any internal or external stimuli that makes you happy. Many people are especially susceptible to compulsive gambling because of the excitement it elicits, and the thrill associated with potentially winning big.

Pathological gambling is an impulse control disorder, meaning you can’t control your impulses even when you’re aware of the negative consequences it’s likely to cause. Dependency can begin quickly or progress slowly. However, addiction tends to develop at a faster rate in those who engage in continuous forms of gambling, like casinos and slot machines, but at a slower rate in people who gamble in ways that allow for more time between bets, like horse races and card games.

Remember, gambling doesn’t necessarily have to be an addiction in order for it to be a problem. Gambling is a problem if it causes problems – regardless of whether or not a person is addicted.

Identifying a gambling addiction

If you suspect that someone close to you, such as a family member or friend, may have a gambling problem, rest assured that you are not alone. Though gambling is a widespread issue, it’s very important to understand that it’s normal for those afflicted to conceal their behaviour out of an often-overpowering sense of guilt or shame.

Diagnosing someone with a compulsive gambling disorder involves looking at a broad variety of signs and factors. Here are four key signs to look for to help identify whether someone you know has a gambling problem.

Mood swings

The person may behave erratically and quick to become angry, aggressive, or irritable. They may also fluctuate quickly between emotional highs and lows for mysterious reasons.

Money problems

The person may regularly ask for loans or be unable to pay their bills.

Increased generosity

The person may become more generous than usual with their money after big wins.

Social withdrawal

The person may stop spending time with friends and family and will abandon their usual hobbies.

Other important signs include insomnia, restlessness, missing work/commitments, interpersonal difficulties, depression and anxiety, lack of motivation and concentration, verbal and physical abuse, and even criminal activity such as stealing or fraud to support their addiction.

Showing support

If you’ve identified a gambling addiction in a family member or loved one, take the following steps to help show your support and get them help in a way that is loving and accepting.

Acknowledging the problem involves the person with the gambling addiction willingly admitting that it’s become a problem. If they’re unwilling to admit to their addiction, the following steps will simply not work.

Talking to them about their addiction means having an open discussion with the person about the issue and the problems it is causing. Be polite, empathetic, and non-accusatory.

Supporting them through it involves being understanding without enabling them. Don’t offer them money. Don’t pay off their debts.

Avoiding judgment involves acknowledging thatgambling is an understandable problem to have. It’s easy for anyone to develop a gambling problem, so trying to understand and empathize with what they’re going through is key to their recovery.

Encouraging Treatment involves looking into an outpatient rehabilitation program and seeing if the person would be willing to attend.

How we can help a gambling addiction

Many people try to deal with their gambling problems themselves using therapy, medications, self-help groups, and by expanding their support system. Though self-betterment in this way is admirable, it’s proven to be more effective in a controlled environment.

At Tikvah Lake, we offer a progressive and comprehensive gambling treatment program that uses a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, personalized treatment, and a calm, supportive environment.

Our rehab is isolated (quite literally!) from everyday life and the negative triggers that may influence and fuel a gambling addiction, and our personalized treatments help arm our patients with the tools needed to overcome their gambling addiction in a satisfying, long-term way.

Contact us today for more information!

Signs and symptoms explained- Gambling addiction

Signs and symptoms explained: Gambling addiction

It’s not always easy to spot a gambling addiction. Unlike the many physical signs and symptoms that present themselves with substance abuse, the side effects of a gambling addiction are arguably more subtle.

Despite this, a gambling addiction can destroy a person’s life. It’s critical, then, to spot the signs and symptoms of a gambling addiction as early on as possible. Only then does a person stand the best chance of making a full recovery and overcoming their addiction.

Here are the signs and symptoms of a gambling addiction, and how to spot them.

Symptoms of a gambling addict

Like many process addictions (including sex addiction), the symptoms of a gambling addiction usually present themselves in behavioral changes. For example, an addicted gambler will oftentimes:

  • Become aggressive in situations of stress that inhibit their ability to gamble.
  • Feel restless and irritable when not gambling.
  • Experience mood swings associated with process addictions, and may suffer from co-occurring disorders like depression and severe anxiety.
  • Have trouble limiting other types of process behaviors, too.

In severe scenarios, a gambling addiction can even lead to suicidal tendencies and an addicted gambler may try to take their own life.

If this is the case, be sure to act as fast as possible and do what you can to admit an addict into hospital, a professional treatment facility, or call your local suicide prevention hotline and seek advice.

Signs of a gambling addict

There are some notable signs to watch for if you believe someone has a gambling addiction. For example:

  • Do you believe they are lying to you about how they spend their time and where they go?
  • Do they often miss family occasions or arrive late to gatherings?
  • If you suspect your partner of gambling addiction, are they leaving your child alone for extended periods of time when they’re supposed to be in their care?
  • Are they financially struggling, despite earning a liveable wage?
  • Are they neglecting personal responsibilities and often distracted by something else?
  • Are they often in financial disputes with others?
  • Have there been any changes in patterns of sleep, sex or eating?
  • Are they deceiving family members or stealing money from close relatives?

Of course, these behaviors aren’t specifically associated with a problem gambler. Rather, these signs are a beacon for concern that a loved one is doing something suspicious and perhaps irresponsible, and they invite further investigation about a person’s habits and routines. In the event that a person showing these signs is in fact a problem gambler, it’s time to seek professional help. The sooner you can do this, the higher chance of success there is.

Self-help for gambling problems

There are some self-help steps that a problem gambler can take to try and conquer their addiction. For example, a person can try to:

Strengthen their support group

Many gambling addicts suffer in silence for fear of shame and judgement about their habit. However, this solitary suffering often perpetuates an addiction and causes a gambler to risk more.

Opening up to loved ones, then, is a sure-fire way to try and conquer an addiction at home. We all rely upon our communities in various ways, and a problem gambler is no different. What’s more, a person may be gambling because of feelings of negativity, neglect or unhappiness in life. By strengthening community, then, a problem gambler may begin to feel happier within themselves, and the desire to gamble might fade.

Learn to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways

Turning to gambling to evade feelings of hardship in life can be unhealthy, but the process itself is no different than going for a long run to clear your head. A run, however, is a healthy alternative to gambling.

Trying to build positive habits like exercise, rather than turning to gambling, is an effective way to curb the bad habit.

Seeking help for underlying mood disorders that cause problem gambling

Many gamblers suffer from dual diagnosis disorders, experiencing mental health maladies like depression, anxiety and severe stress. Gambling is oftentimes a consequence of these feelings.

Seeking professional help for these root behaviors, then, might be more effective than solving the addiction itself. Here at Tikvah Lake Recovery, we address both the problem addiction and the root behaviors simultaneously. Our residential treatment programs help clients not only overcome their addiction, but also unlock the core reasons ‘why’ they are addicted.

To find out more about how we can help with problem gambling, contact our admissions office today.

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