For many people gambling is an interesting form of entertainment and a way to earn extra money. However, as it turns out, many people starting their gambling adventure, be it stationary or online, fear that a harmless hobby will turn into a serious addiction.
Gambling, of course, does not become an addiction like hard drugs – you're not likely to experience physical pain in response to quitting. However, the problems arising from gambling addiction cannot be underestimated. Even if we overlook the financial aspect at this point. Gambling addiction has destroyed many families and broken many professional careers.
Therefore, before you decide to enter the casino, it is worth reading the responsible gambler's guide. So that the casino remains an entertainment for you, not the first step to serious problems.
We start talking about gambling addiction when a player stops having control over his contact with the casino. When he starts neglecting his job, family, responsibilities and other hobbies. In this situation it is not clear whether playing poker once a week is too much or not. What matters is that the chosen gambling game is slowly becoming the only goal and pleasure in life. It ceases to be something you can do, and begins to be something you have to do, no matter what the consequences of not giving up the game.
Who can get addicted to gambling?
Gambling addiction specialists distinguish three types of addicted players. It is important to remember that an addiction is a disease, and a person suffering from it cannot give up the casino at any time. Even if it clearly assures that he can at any time. It's also quite a common motive among addicts – they still think they can stop. But they always find a reason not to do so.
Players in the initial phase of an addiction slowly start to lose control of their game. Even if they suffer another failure in a row, they can't stop. They begin to believe that they are close to winning big – after all, after a few consecutive losses, fate must finally turn around. Often in this phase they start lying to their loved ones about the fact that they are playing or how much they lost. They have to do so because they start playing more and more often. The biggest problem here is the need to realize that the game is getting out of control. But here is the biggest problem – the player at this stage still seems to have control over everything and can stop at any time.
When a player loses control completely, we can call him compulsive or pathological. This is the moment when they let go of all the brakes. What counts is the game itself, no matter if you win or lose. Even if, as a result, he falls into debt. This is the moment when without professional support, getting out of the habit is very difficult. Of course it is not impossible, but it is much easier to recover from this disease when a psychologist or support group helps us.
In between these states we still have players who get into a game rage from time to time. Compulsive behaviour does not occur regularly, but only at specific moments. In general, such a person may not look like an addict and generally not even play at all. Such players can often be found among people who are emerging from an addiction. They control their addiction on a daily basis, but in times of crisis they can "forget about the game" even for a few days. In such a situation, it is particularly important to seek help in support groups – people in them have often coped with the desire to play and can tell you what to do in this situation.
How to recognize an addiction?
No addicted gambler will have it written on his forehead. Sick people, as is the case with other mental addictions, often try to hide their problems from the world, family partners. They are afraid of a certain stigma – addictions by many people are treated as a result of weakness or even stupidity. This makes it difficult both to diagnose and later to recover from the disease.
Psychologists advise that if you are afraid that one of your loved ones has become a victim of an addiction, you should check to see if they have suddenly changed their behaviour. For example, if he or she hasn't quit his or her hobby, he or she doesn't miss out on the family events that he or she has been happy to attend so far. Is he not more withdrawn and locked in himself. In the more advanced stage of his illness, he neglects his duties, work or even child care. Sometimes a sick person can disappear for a day or a few days and then return without a word.
Another group of symptoms are financial problems. It starts with spending savings on gambling – money from deposits or savings accounts. Some people start with extra work to have money to gamble. Later, when that money runs out, loans start – from friends, family, and finally, loan companies. If you're gambling, make sure you're not gambling with borrowed money. An important breakthrough is when you realize that you regularly exceed your gambling budget. This is when you can calculate whether your casino expenses have become a major part of your household budget.
Long way down
Then, when nobody wants to borrow money anymore, selling things from home starts – jewellery or electronics often find their place in a pawn shop. Often at this point the pawned items do not belong to the player, but to his family or friends. Sometimes it happens that the player "unwinds" and then the money starts to be lost. This is to make up for previous problems. Later on, however, it turns out that the money in subsequent games has returned to the casino account.
Especially since in the more advanced stages of addiction, it turns out that playing for small stakes doesn't give the same emotions that it gave a few more months before. This makes it necessary to increase the stakes, which makes the losses more painful. It turns out that the gambler loses more often than wins, even though he has a precise plan of how to win, and what he will do when that happens.
Moreover, the panic of growing debts and the lack of a way out of them make many addicts decide to commit minor crimes in order to gain additional resources. Problems with the law are a sign that without the help of a specialist it will be very difficult to get out of an addiction. Especially since if an addict goes to prison, he or she is unlikely to be able to count on addiction therapy.
An emotional and financial rollercoaster causes mood swings and sudden outbursts of anger. An addict has trouble focusing on anything other than his favourite gambling game. Health symptoms appear – head and stomach pains, problems with falling asleep or eating. Either overeating or long periods of time occur during which the addict simply does not eat anything.
In the most advanced stage of the disease, the gambler realizes that there is no way out. Suicidal thoughts appear, and many people fall into other addictions during this time. The patient looks for a way out in alcohol, drugs or drugs. But this only increases the problems, and getting out of the habit becomes much, much more difficult.
Of course, it is important to remember that even if you see a whole list of symptoms of this type in yourself or in someone else, it does not mean that you are affected by the addiction. The diagnosis is made by psychiatrists. If you have any doubts, make an appointment or suggest a close one. This will make it easier to get professional help. Even the best online guide or forum should not replace such a diagnosis. Especially since only the doctor will be able to choose the right measures and write a prescription if you need medication therapy. Never, but on your own!
What causes gambling addiction?
There is no one specific answer to this question. Addiction is the sum of at least a few factors that may end up with an illness. This means that not everyone gets into an addiction, but on the other hand, you are never sure that you are safe and can certainly play without fear.
Imagine that every time you play, your brain produces a large dose of serotonin, a popular hormone of happiness. As a result, every game causes joy, you don't have to go to bed, and even (if you want to check it out) you have greater resistance to pain. Yes, according to British scientists, the brain of a gambler works.
Of course, the production of serotonin in various activities is not strange. Many people enjoy playing computer games or watching movies – this is normal brain activity. The problem begins when the dose of serotonin produced by the brain makes it easier to decide on another coin thrown into a "one-armed bandit". Especially since the level of happiness hormones is similar to the one produced when you take the next dose of the drug.
Genetically conditioned gamblers
Moreover, some scientists claim that the propensity to gamble and other addictions is, to some extent, genetically determined. Although we have not identified the specific gene combination responsible for addictions, according to the researchers, if a parent or grandfather was addicted to gambling, it is much more likely that the son or grandson will fall ill. It is therefore worthwhile to be cautious when we have observed any addictions in our family.
Other researchers indicate psychological factors related to a person's way of thinking as the cause of gambling addiction. It turns out that if someone is convinced that he or she is influencing the results of random events – for example, by inventing a special combination of numbers that must eventually fall.
This triggers the "one more game" syndrome in them, which makes them fail to notice how quickly their time passes and their money melts. Especially since with such people, each loss is simply "another step that brings them closer to a big win". You probably know, or have heard of someone who has been betting on Lotto coupons for several years to win the amount of a dream. Either he's counting on the probability of thousands of consecutive losses being zero – after all, they have to win, no matter what the cost in the meantime.
How society "educates" gamblers
However, the most popular cause of addiction, according to specialists, are social factors. Many people are raised with the conviction that gambling is not only a great risk but also a great win. This is compounded by the fact that this type of entertainment is often seen as a way of getting away from everyday problems.
Gambling when you are experiencing problems or intense stress only causes problems to continue after you leave the casino, and sometimes they are even greater than before you walk out the door. This makes you want to go back to a place where you can forget what is bothering you for a while. This, however, makes you play more and more often, because gambling is beginning to be associated with something pleasant, and certainly something that allows you to forget about the pain for a while.
Not only gambling addicts
People who suffer from gambling addiction often develop additional diseases and problems. The lack of an exit from the financial situation combined with the need to play for increasing stakes makes addicts more likely to experience depression. Psychiatrists note that the treatment of an addiction often also involves pharmacotherapy to cure additional mental disorders in the first place. It is worth noting that choosing medication to improve the patient's condition may take several months, during which time psychotherapy will be necessary for the patient to understand what is causing the addiction and how to deal with the desire to take another game.
In addition, addicts often develop additional addictions. For example, people who are addicted to gambling often experience more frequent use of alcohol or drugs. This is a way for them to cope with the increasing stress resulting from the increasing number of losers and financial problems or even debts. Regular consumption of such drugs makes life impossible without them. And this is what we define as addiction. That is why it is not worth trying drugs on your own – it can lead to addiction.
How does gambling addiction affect life?
Gambling itself does not have to have a negative impact on the life of a player. It can be an entertainment, a hobby, a way of spending time. However, when we start talking about addiction, we start to get into negative effects.
The most visible outside are financial problems. Playing for higher and higher stakes and waiting for the moment when you can finally get your revenge makes it necessary to get more and more cash. Few people decide to take up another job for this purpose, especially since a day is not made of rubber, and one day you have to play. Then there is a need for savings, loans, and finally a desire to sell things from your own home.
Addiction also affects problems at work or school. Time spent on gambling and problems with focusing on anything else affect productivity at work and its effects. Many people even decide to quit their jobs, which certainly does not help in a debt situation.
Gambling addiction also affects family relationships. It is not just about the lack of time that is spent on gambling. As the addiction grows, the gambler suffers more and more often from sudden outbreaks of anger or panic. According to the statistics, addicts are more likely to use violence against their partner or child. An addict may also want to break most of their non-gambling friendships, which also affects their relationship with other people.
Long-term addiction to gambling influences the appearance of suicidal thoughts or depressive episodes. All of the above problems accumulate, which affects the mood of the addict. This is accompanied by somatic symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches. The latter is not well affected by the problems with eating, quite common among addicts – either overeating or, on the contrary, fasting periods.
How common is gambling addiction?
It is difficult to determine how many specific people are addicted to gambling. Some addicts do not go to doctors for treatment. Many of them are able to deal with the problem, either alone or with the help of family and friends. However, many will suffer for years without even knowing how to seek help. For this reason, all we have is estimates and approximations.
Data for the United States show that the problem of gambling can affect up to two to three percent of the country's population. The percentage of people with a real addiction is estimated at about one percent. They are not evenly distributed across the country. In the United States, where gambling is not restricted (for example in Nevada), there are obviously more.
The statistics for Canada also speak for about three percent of addicts. In practice, this translates into about one million people who may need treatment in the near future. We are talking about adults here. The alarming indicator is for people under the age of eighteen who are addicted to gambling – in this group about two percent of people see symptoms of addiction.
In general, men are more susceptible to gambling addiction than women. According to some researchers, this is due to the fact that men are less likely to seek help in stressful situations. They more often decide to distract themselves by gambling or alcohol.
How to deal with gambling addiction?
Generally speaking, it is best to seek the help of a specialist – a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Especially if you see a few symptoms indicating gambling problems or hear from your loved ones that such a problem may be yours. Yes, you probably think you can interrupt at any time, but a visit to the doctor will certainly not hurt you, but it can help.
The beginning of the fight against the problem is to realize that it is your part. The sooner it happens, the better – the less harm will be done to your addiction in your life. It's not worth trying to get out of an addiction on your own – it's not only much harder, but impossible for many people. If possible, find a support group – among those who are recovering, family or loved ones.
When gambling becomes more necessary, is there a stressful situation involved? If so, perhaps instead of another casino game, it's better to meditate or talk to someone about the problem itself. This may be a good time to start this hobby that you've been going on for several months, but playing poker was more important.
It's also worth taking advantage of solutions that allow you to cut yourself off from online gambling. Some online casinos allow you to set a lock on your account on your explicit request. This lasts from 12 hours to several months and access to the game is not unlocked, even if the user changes his mind and contacts the user support.
Likewise, the blockade works for the maximum account balance, above which the casino will not accept any additional funds. This means that even if we lose the limit, we won't be able to pay up the money, which will protect us from losses. In such a situation it is also impossible to remove this limit, even at the request of the person who set it up. At the moment it is difficult to say how many people regularly take advantage of such opportunities.
How to help an addict?
If a person is dependent on your partner, family member or close friend, you may have mixed feelings. On the one hand, you want to help him, you want him or her to be happy. On the other hand, you may be angry if your efforts do not seem to have any effect. In addition, finances can be a problem – an unpaid loan or a few things that have only just been in the pawn shop make you fear for your future and financial security.
That's why it's worthwhile to start talking about gambling not when you're stressed or irritated. You will need to explain to your partner that you are not fighting him and that his addiction is affecting your life and that of your family. Prepare yourself that the process of getting out of your addiction will be difficult and will certainly not end in a few days.
If you have children, you should also tell them about the problem. It is not only about possible loans, but also about this, they were not afraid of the unknown. The message will have to be adjusted to the age of the child – you want them to understand that there is a problem in the family, but not to worry about it as if it was responsible for it.
You have to realize one thing – you are not able to force someone to give up their addiction. The decision to start treatment and seek help must always come from the sick person. Otherwise, there is no way she can get out of it.
Of course, if he wants to, you can be supportive, you can direct him in the right direction, but it is impossible to get him or her out of the gambling. Moreover, if the treatment doesn't work, it's not your fault either. When helping a person who is addicted to gambling it is worth remembering the following four points.
- Take care of your safety. That's the most important rule of assistance. Take care of yourself and your children first. You won't help anybody without it. Don't blame yourself if you can't help an addict.
- Look for support. Helping other people can be exhausting. That's why it's worth looking for some support so you don't burn yourself out. Maybe there is a support group for close addicts in your area – contacting them will help you understand that you are not the only one fighting the problem.
- Set financial limits. Remember that for an addict the most important expense is gambling. It will be on your mind to set the budget management in such a way that it is sufficient for basic needs. If you need a separate account, create one. If your spouse is addicted – check how to protect yourself from having to pay off his or her debts.
- Be prepared to ask for money. This is the hardest advice – an addicted person can try to get money from you in many ways. You need to prepare yourself for manipulation, requests or even threats or blackmail. This is not only about helping the addict, but also about looking after your own financial security.
How to prevent suicides among gambling addicts?
A person who is addicted to gambling, especially in the later stages of an addiction, has very low self-esteem. Financial and health problems do not help to raise it. Many people see no other way out than suicide. It is also often a kind of cry for help.
If you suspect that one of your loved ones might want to commit suicide, it is worth contacting Befrienders Worldwide for help in these situations. On their website, you can find information about how to find help in such situations and who you can call in your country.
What instead of gambling?
Gambling causes emotion – that's quite an obvious statement. However, you have to remember that without these emotions it will be more difficult for you to stay in your chosen activity. Therefore, it is worthwhile to consider first of all why you decide to use gambling.
Let's start with a dose of adrenaline – watching the symbols of a one-armed bandit move causes an adrenaline rush to the brain. Many people in such a situation decide to take up activities providing similar emotions – mountain climbing or driving on a car track gives a similar set of emotions and costs much less.
Others treat gambling as an opportunity to leave home and meet people. For them, any other activity requiring interaction with other people can be a substitute. Maybe there is some kind of volunteering in the area that allows you to meet new people? Many people also get involved in discussion clubs and even in... politics. Thanks to this they meet new people and their activities start to have a purpose.
For many people, gambling is just a way to get bored. In such cases, for many people it is a salvation to find a new hobby – even playing computer games allows to find an exciting activity. Many people who come out of gambling go back to the books they were supposed to read or the unseen movies. This allows them to take their time and not go back to gambling. Of course, it's a good idea to choose a hobby to suit your temperament – if you're not at home, don't start an evening with Netflix and tea.
Gambling is also used as a way to relax, especially after a stressful day. For those who use it in this way, meditation or regular physical exercise to relieve stress is a substitute. Maybe it is worthwhile to go for a massage combined with aromatherapy? Such methods allow you to calm yourself down without having to spend money on further gambling.
Another reason why people use gambling is the desire to win big winnings. This becomes a problem, especially when winning is to help with debts. In such a situation it is better to use the help of a financial advisor who will prepare for us a plan to get out of debt rather than counting on fate and winning that may not come. A well-planned debt exit or savings collection may not give us millions, but it will allow us not to lose our life savings.
The most common myths about addiction
Where to find help for addicts?
For English speakers there are several sources to find information for addicts or those looking for information about gambling addiction.
One of the most popular sites is BeGambleAware – a free service offering help to people who suspect that they or their relatives have a gambling problem. They have a 24-hour chat room and a helpline that helps you find information about your addiction or direct help. The site also provides a simple test to see if you have an addiction problem.
The Department of Public Health of the U.S. State of California provides a free book to help addicts get out of gambling on their own. It can help people who are very isolated from the outside world and try to get out of their addiction on their own. The book is less than 40 pages long and can be a good start for dealing with an addiction.
You can also contact Problem Gambilng. They will find basic information about addiction and how to start the process of quitting. There are also a number of methods of dealing with addiction on your own, although it is important to remember that support from others is very important in dealing with the problem.
In the UK the most popular option is GamCare. They also run a 24-hour hotline for people who are suspected of addiction. The institution provides discretion and professional help. In addition, it provides an opportunity to contact other addicts. This allows you to talk to people in similar situations and find answers to your questions.
Below you will find websites and telephone numbers of UK services which will help you in case of gambling problems:
Phone: 44 (0)20 7535 7705
Phone: 0208 003 0809
Phone: 44 207 581 4908
Phone: 44 203 1462300
Phone: 01204 771940
Phone: 0808 274 4722
Phone: 0203 553 9263
- North Warwickshire
Phone: 0800 690 6366
Phone: 0300 330 0659
Phone: 0808 231 1219
Phone: 023 8098 8309
Phone: 0808 256 4875
Phone: 0808 252 5368