Most perceive gambling as a harmless way of having fun and enjoyment. Most people are involved in gambling as a recreational activity; however, for some, this is much more than mere entertainment. They involve so deeply in gambling and find themselves unable to control gambling urges. This is known as gambling addiction, and it leads to significant impairment and distress.
Characteristics Of Gambling Addiction
Following are the characteristic symptoms of gambling addiction.
• Gambling with the same amount of money doesn’t give excitement anymore.
• Unable to stop or cut back gambling, remaining restless if attempts to control gambling behavior.
• Often preoccupied with gambling
• Gambling when stressed
• Often lies to conceal their behavior and can do anything to get money for gambling.
• Even after experiencing negative consequences, including the loss of a loved one, job, or educational opportunities, can’t stop gambling.
• Losing money doesn’t hinder the behavior; instead, the individual returns the next day to get even.
Why Is It Difficult To Identify Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction can be confusing for some individuals as there are no apparent signs like alcohol addiction. So, the individual going through gambling disorder find it hard to understand that they have a problem, even if gambling is causing them financial and emotional difficulties. Pathological gambling is considered an addiction because it activates the same reward centers in the brain as any psychotropic drug.
Causes of Gambling Disorder
Although there are no exact known causes of gambling addiction, multiple factors contribute to the precipitation and maintenance of this pathological behavior. Risk factors of gambling addiction include average age of 36 years, having a first-degree relative with a gambling problem, prior psychiatric diagnosis, i.e., anxiety, depression, alcohol use disorder or personality disorder, impulsive personality, and being male.
Psychology of Gambling Addiction
We all know that gambling is an unreliable way to earn money; however, gambling addicts‘ rational thinking gets clouded and distorted to the point that they deny this central truth. Following are some cognitive distortions that are common in gambling addiction.
Attribution: Gamblers believe their winning results from their efforts and not because of probability.
Chasing losses: gambling addicts believe that when they lose money in a bet, they can win it back by gambling, thus investing more and more to get even.
Magical thinking: most gamblers have certain ritualistic thoughts that can bring them wins.
Near-miss beliefs: gamblers justify their losses by considering them almost wins. These approximate wins are considered more motivating and stimulating than the actual wins.
Personification of gambling devices: Gamblers also tend to attach specific characteristics to the devices and develop a certain level of affection, attachment, or hatred towards specific machines.
Selective recall: They are more likely to remember their wins over losses and are more likely to justify and forget their failures.
Superstitions: they also believe particular charms, clothes, people, or scenarios can bring them wins and good luck.
Systems: thus, they believe that they have a special system worked out, have solved all the intricacies of gambling, and have control over wins and losses. However, on the contrary, gambling is just a random and highly unpredictable game.
These cognitive distortions lead to ritualized behavioural patterns, and a person remains preoccupied with gambling. This behavior compromises all domains of life, including personal, social, and occupational.
How To Deal With Gambling Addiction?
Like psychotropic drugs, gambling changes the neuronal pathways in our brain, and it depends on gambling for excitement and pleasure. A person with a gambling problem can stay clear of gambling for months and thinks that now he has control over his problem. However, a sudden burst of urges and irresistible cravings can lead a person to the pits of gambling addiction again.
So if a person is engaged in gambling frequently, thinks about gambling and way to get money for gambling in free time or doing other chores, ignores family, social, or occupational commitments, and cannot find pleasure in anything except gambling, but still thinks that he is in control of his gambling behavior, he is just naïve.
So, if you are going through this, the first step is to take responsibility for your problem. Yes, gambling has messed up your brain wiring. However, you are still in charge of your thoughts and actions. If you have a severe problem, it is difficult for you to leave it without any professional help.
A counsellor or therapist can help you identify cognitive errors and recognize the ritualistic behavioural patterns. You can confront these thoughts with the guidance of your therapist and can come up with a set of effective coping strategies. Moreover, your social support system can also help you recover and stay clear of gambling. So, the best thing is to contact an efficient therapist to help you deal with this issue.