Many people in Australia today enjoy playing poker, slots, and many other casino games. The small rush of excitement you can feel when winning is fun and worth the risk of betting. Yet, for some people, this excitement can become an addiction, as they are unable to control their gambling habits in a healthy way.
In this article, we’d like to address mental dependence when playing casino games and the process of getting help for gambling addiction.
Why Is Gambling Addictive?
Gambling addiction is related to how our brains work. Inside our heads, we have a reward system that makes us feel pleasure in certain situations. Some examples include achieving a goal, having sex and winning a game. Most people are able to walk away after playing a few rounds of poker particularly when they have lost the money they have set aside for gambling.
But other people find it harder to stop gambling. This happens because their reward system does not work as it should. Thus, they need more and more stimulus to get the same pleasure. This is very similar to what happens with drugs or alcohol! Experts believe this may occur due to genetic or psychological reasons that put them at risk of addiction.
And the bad news is that getting back to normal takes a long time, even years! Treating gambling addiction is challenging. But most people are able to find help in therapy and professional treatment.
What is a Gambling Addiction?
So, let’s cut to the chase and define what a gambling addiction actually is. We can say that it refers to an impulse-control disorder where gamblers cannot control their impulses. This happens even if they know their behaviour is harmful. They just cannot help it. And it is a serious condition that can destroy the lives of gamblers and their families.
Addicts will play even if they know they have no money left to do so. Then, a healthy habit becomes an obsession that can lead to financial disaster. This type of addiction is usually associated with other problems, such as ADHD, stress, anxiety or bipolar disorders.
And while the addict may feel powerless and unable to stop, there are many things to do to overcome this problem. The first step is to identify its symptoms, which we outline below:
How to Identify That You Have a Gambling Problem?
Compulsive gaming disorder has many signs and symptoms. Some of them include:
- Constantly thinking about gambling and planning your next bet;
- Needing to gamble with more and more money to have fun still;
- Trying to cut back on the money you spend on gambling and not being able to;
- Gambling more and more when you feel sad, stressed, or anxious;
- Asking for loans you cannot afford to pay for your habits;
- Lying to your friends and family members about your gambling;
- Not being able to focus on work or other important tasks;
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM A GAMBLING ADDICTION
As mentioned previously, no battles should be fought alone. If you assume that you might have some problems limiting your online casino sessions, there are plenty of solutions:
- Read about online casinos and educate yourself on how to act in a responsible way.
- Limit your casino account, set the maximum amount of deposits and use time tracking.
- Try self-exclusion for a few months to see how you are dealing with the fact that there is no possibility to log into your
- Use special apps that block all the websites with any possible casino gaming and betting activities. You may not be titanium, so smart technologies can take the responsibility.
- Talk to others about your struggles, tell the people who are close to you how you feel, join a support group, and share your experiences. Saying it out loud might be that crucial eyes-opening step.
- Reach out to a doctor and/or psychologist to get professional help and care. There is no shame in doing so and it is a lot more common than you think.
HOW TO TREAT A GAMBLING ADDICTION
Several different treatments exist for stopping a gambling addiction or problem. There’s no single treatment that is considered the best way to treat it as it depends on where you live, your age, your life circumstances and your personality. Your support group or healthcare professional will know how to provide the best treatment plan.
Therapy & Counselling
Psychotherapy has been extremely effective in treating people with gambling addiction. A mental health professional will help get to the root of the problem and help improve problem behaviours. Most of the time, the problem isn’t gambling itself but another issue that’s present and a counsellor or therapist can uncover and create a mental health care plan that’s catered to your needs. Going to see your local GP is a good place to start and they will help create a plan for you and the next steps that you need to take.
There aren’t any specific medicines that can help treat gambling addictions, but it’s not uncommon for players to be prescribed antidepressants, anti-seizure medications and certain SSRIs. These are usually prescribed to help reduce the urge to wager or help manage feelings of excitement that come with gambling.
Getting group support can be very beneficial in helping combat gambling addiction. In combination with psychotherapy, it can be helpful to talk openly about your challenges and experiences with others who are going through or have gone through the same situations. Peer support can be effective, especially for those who have been struggling with mental health or loneliness.
WHAT CAN CAUSE A GAMBLING ADDICTION?
There isn’t one single cause for gambling addiction, but several factors can have an influence. These can range from whether a player has any mental health conditions to their age to how big the first wins were.
- Biological factors: Some aspects of compulsive gambling are quite similar in nature to other addictions and so one of the major causes of gambling becoming a problem, is usually biological. Studies show that gambling can produce a neurological response similar to someone who takes cocaine. Having a deficiency in chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine can also increase the risk of being compulsive while gambling.
- Psychological factors: There’s something called the gambler’s fallacy, which is a belief that a random event is more likely to happen based on the results from a previous event. For example when flipping a coin, if it lands on heads four or five times, the gambler’s belief dictates that the coin will flip on tails next time to “make up” for the four or five times it landed on heads, even though it’s always a 50/50 chance. This type of distorted thinking is what can cause someone to be in denial about their gambling addiction, have superstitions and have a distorted view about the outcome of the next bet.
- Social factors: Other external factors can include depression, distress, loneliness and traumatic or difficult life events. Gambling addiction can also run in families, where the traits can be passed down or even influence family members.