Gambling addiction is a huge problem in our society and one that is rising around the world. In fact, a survey published in 2013 revealed that nearly six million people in America had a gambling disorder that warranted some form of treatment.
Also known as compulsive gambling, gambling disorder, or pathological gambling, it is classified by the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as an addictive disorder. People with gambling addiction have many similarities with the traits of alcoholics and drug addicts.
This behavioral addiction fits one definition of addiction that is widely used by mental health experts. That is, it is something that someone cannot stop and stay stopped from that is detrimental to themselves and/or those around them.
Powerless over gambling
A compulsive gambling addict cannot seem to control their impulse to gamble. This is whether they are winning, losing, wealthy or poor.
In terms of it being an addiction, it doesn’t matter whether someone can afford it or not. It’s about the powerlessness they seem to have over the behavior – despite negative consequences to themselves and others.
Thoughts and compulsion to gamble dominate them. They are never present in the moment unless they are gambling because otherwise they are constantly thinking about gambling. It can negatively impact everything they do in life – from work to family time to playing sports and doing hobbies as well as socializing too. It often badly affects sleeping and physical health due to not taking care of themselves, including not eating well.
Gambling and sport
There is comorbidity with alcohol and drug problems. Many gambling addicts are also more likely to suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression – including thinking about or attempting suicide.
This is put down to the fact that gambling is often connected with sports, which men overall show more of an interest in. But some mental health experts also think it is likely because men are in general more hedonistic in nature and likely to take risks than women.
Other factors that can play a part in someone developing a gambling problem are:
As with other addictions, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can be behind gambling addiction. In this way, gambling can act as an all-consuming distraction (regarding the planning, doing, and aftermath) from the overwhelming pain of this.
Then there is the chase for the high – the “feel-good” chemical dopamine and “happiness hormone” endorphin are both released during gambling. But this high is always short-lived – and so the compulsion to gamble will start up again soon afterward.
How do I know if I have a gambling problem?
According to Gamblers Anonymous, founded in 1957 and now with meetings around the world that follow the Twelve Steps recovery program, answering these 20 questions can give a strong indication of a problem with gambling or not. The more someone answers “yes”, the greater the problem they are likely to have.
Do you lose time from work or school due to gambling?
Is gambling making your home life unhappy?
Is gambling affecting your reputation?
Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
Do you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?
Does gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?
After losing, do you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?
After a win, do you have a strong urge to return and win more?
Do you often gamble until your last dollar is gone?
Do you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?
Are you reluctant to use gambling money for normal expenditures?
Does gambling make you careless of the welfare of your family?
Do you gamble longer than you planned?
Do you ever gamble to escape worry or trouble?
Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?
Does gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
Do arguments, disappointments, or frustrations create an urge within you to gamble?
Do you have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?
Have you ever considered self-destruction as a result of your gambling?
Benefits of recovery from gambling addiction include getting your life back on track and your finances in order. If left untreated though, as with all addictions, it is a progressive illness that will most likely get worse.
We carefully listen in complete confidence to everyone who chooses to be our guest at Tikvah Lake, in our wonderfully peaceful environment including our beautiful tranquil lake. We offer a personalized treatment program to work for the swiftest and most enduring recovery.
If we don’t like the way we feel we have the potential to get addicted to anything that changes the way we feel. This includes money for the status, sense of superiority and material things it can give us.
That is perfectly apt as a way to describe what many addictions do to the person who is the addict. But as well to those around them – whether that’s their partner, family, friends, colleagues or very often all of these people.
Addiction is an illness
Understanding addiction is very complex. Both the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Medical Association say that addiction is an illness.
Just as with illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, addiction is believed to be caused by environmental, behavioral and biological factors.
One thing all addictions have in common is that they change the way we feel. They release “feel-good” chemicals such as dopamine into the body.
The attraction of distraction
There is also the distraction that an addiction causes. It’s created this way unknowingly – so that the person doesn’t have time to look at or even think for a second about any pain or re-feel it from the life experiences that might be behind why they are addicted to something.
So it’s not just the taking or doing, but also the planning and preparation. Then coping with the hangover, comedown or dealing with any damage caused by the addictive behavior.
It becomes a vicious cycle. If left untreated – as with most serious diseases – it will get progressively worse.
For those addicted to something – as well as many people and the community around them – it’s bewildering, agonizing and causes immense despair. Many addicts don’t even know why they can’t seem to stop.
They continue with the addiction, even when the damage it is causing is obvious. It can even seem to be against their own will.
Addiction expert Dr Gabor Maté says: “I’d say that an addiction manifests in any behavior that a person finds temporary pleasure or relief in and therefore craves, suffers negative consequences from, and has trouble giving up.
Dr Maté’s mantra for all addictions is: “The question is not why the addiction, but why the pain.”
He says the source of pain is always to be found in a person’s lived experience. This usually starts in childhood.
“All addictions are attempts to escape the deep pain of the hurt child. These are attempts that are temporarily soothing but ultimately futile.”
For some people the love of money is definitely an addiction. For a clear reason, workaholism can often be connected.
Workaholism is an extremely difficult addiction to realize. This is due to the fact that we live in a system where excessive hard work is not only encouraged but frequently praised.
It’s not unusual to hear someone praised for working 60-plus hours every week. Yet many people who do this will over time develop stress-related physical illnesses as a result, sometimes that prove fatal.
Another thing connected to workaholism is that many people working addictively will be rewarded financially well. They get to love the status that money can give them.
As well as the material things it can buy, which in themselves can create a short-term high and be a distraction as well, there is the feeling of superiority many people get and crave from having lots of money.
It might also be because they have another addiction. This could be such as an addiction to drugs, shopping, plastic surgery, sex (they pay for) and/or gambling.
Craving external validation
It’s the love of money rather than money itself that is the problem. Even when some people are millionaires they cannot stop fixating on money and all it can get and give them.
A great deal of this is to do with the desperate need for external validation. A money addict craves love and approval from outside of themselves because it is not coming from their insides.
Every child needs to be valued and validated. They need to feel loved.
Many people addicted to money had their needs unmet as a child. It could be that their parents were always absent due to their own addictive behavior, that may or may not have been due to the love of money.
If this sense of worth is not given to a child by their parents, it will not be within. For instance, a child who is frequently criticized by their parents will not stop loving their parents – but they will most likely stop loving themselves.
So as an adult they will desperately seek ways to prove they really are lovable. They will not even consciously know they are doing this.
Wealthy from the inside
One way some people think makes them lovable is through having lots of money. This is why for some people it can become an addiction.
But with that comes the fear of losing what they have – the material things, the status, the bank balance… So they live in a continually anxious state.
They are usually always extremely busy doing things. This is to keep the money they have got and to make more of it.
But also, unknowingly to them, it makes for the perfect distraction from painful memories and emotions that they are trying to push away or push down.
Even though they are financially rich, they might not like spending money. This is because they need it not so much for the things it can get them, but for their insides not to feel utterly empty and unlovable.
Some people who have grown spiritually can be equally financially wealthy. But they do not have such an emphasis on having money and material things.
They have realized that their true value comes from within. They know that the most important things in life are not things at all.
Consequently they live a much more serene and content life. They are more likely to be generous with their money.
Consider that the word “wealth” was originally connected to the words “well” and “health”, and the word “health” is related to the word “whole”. So if someone gets cracked, broken or shattered in some way as a child they are extremely unlikely to be undamaged (that is, whole) as an adult. That is, unless they seek professional help from someone who understands these things.