Four Interesting Facts About Gambling Addiction and Recovery

A problem gambler feels an overwhelming need to gamble online, visit casinos, and bet on sports. Addicts can’t control their behaviour and will continue on this self-destructive path, even if there are severe consequences for their personal lives. This article looks at four interesting facts about gambling addiction and recovery.

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1. Problem Gambling Is a Behavioural Addiction

Mental health professionals and scientists have identified problem gambling as a behavioural addiction. Man playing casino card gameGambling addicts show similar changes in behaviour and brain activity as drug users and alcoholics. Defective brain functioning may play a central role in the self-destructive behaviour of problem gamblers.

Development of Gambling Addiction

The more the person gambles, the more their addiction will grow. Brain imaging studies and tests have revealed that gambling activates the gambler's brain's reward system and gives them a high, in the same way, drugs do for drug addicts.

It’s also been proven that you’re at greater risk of developing an addiction if any of your family members have substance addiction problems.

Impaired Brain Function

The prefrontal cortex controls impulsivity, cognitive control, and is involved in decision making. Studies have shown that this brain region is less active in gambling and drug addicts than people without these issues. Problem gamblers are often also impulsive, and it seems likely that they may struggle to control their impulses because of the reduced functioning of the prefrontal cortex.

The brains of addicts also process risk and reward incorrectly, as well as current versus long-term consequences.

Addicts Use Gambling as a Coping Mechanism

Many addicts also struggle with mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, which causes people to feel negative about themselves. Gambling is a coping mechanism for them as it helps them escape the daily realities, which increases their anxiety.

2. Behavioural Treatment Can Help Gambling Addicts

Behavioural Treatment Can Help Gambling AddictsTreatment approaches are usually like those used for drug and alcohol addicts. Cognitive and behavioural treatment can help problem gamblers understand that they need to change their thinking about gambling. The therapy encourages them to reevaluate risky thinking, such as trying to predict the outcome of their next bet, based on previous ones' successes.

Behavioural treatment encourages people to change their behaviour and environment to make it more difficult for them to gamble, e.g. to limit their access to cash. Motivation also plays an essential role in overcoming a gambling problem. Motivational enhancement techniques enable people to understand how it affects their lives and how to manage their mixed feelings about stopping.

3. Many Gambling Addicts Are Women

Many Gambling Addicts Are WomenThe number of female gambling addicts is increasing and in some age groups, now even outnumbers men. Treatment should take into account that women get addicted to gambling for different reasons than men.

  • Significant lifestyle changes such as divorce and retirement act as triggers for women to develop a compulsive gambling problem.
  • Most women gamble as a form of escape from overwhelming circumstances. Winning money is not a major motivating factor for women.
  • Women are usually older than men when they start gambling, but they can develop a problem faster.
  • Women react to gambling cues and ads more than men.
  • The biggest group of women who seek help for gambling addiction is between the ages of 40 and 60.

Female gambling addicts have a higher rate of mood disorders and have often also suffered physical abuse.

4. Preventing the Problem

The focus is often on treatment and quitting for gambling addicts. What if they can prevent developing a problem in the first place? In the hope of preventing the problem before it starts, gamblers should be encouraged to do the following:

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    Set a Money Limit

    If you're going to a land-based casino, leave your cards at home and bring a cash amount. Also, set a budget for online gaming. Decide how much you would spend on an evening's entertainment and only spend that amount. Set an upper limit; this is the amount you would be happy to leave with if you should find yourself ahead.
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    Know the Game to Control Your Bets

    It's essential to understand the games, so you can control how much you bet, even if you can't control a game's outcome. Slot machines allow you to bet on many lines, and you can end up betting more than you intended and run out of money fast. This may be a temptation to take out more money to play for longer.
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    Set a Time Limit

    Set a reminder on your phone for when you intend to stop playing or leave the land-based casino.
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    Focus on Entertainment

    Expect to spend all the money you have budgeted, as this will keep you in the mindset that it’s entertainment. You will be less likely to try and win back your money by playing even more.
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    Understand the Games Are Random

    Activities such as tracking previous results will not help you win. An RNG (random number generator) computer chip determines the outcomes of slot machines.

Final Thoughts

Gambling can be a harmless form of entertainment, but it can also be used to cope with daily life stresses like alcohol or drugs. If you are concerned that gambling is harming your life, contact your local problem gambling helpline for advice.

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