Gambling addiction, or ludomania, is one of the most well-known process addictions. Individuals with a gambling addiction are unable to control their impulses when making wagers or bets. They may spend an inordinate amount of time at casinos or racetracks, but thanks to the Internet, it is also possible for someone to have a gambling addiction without ever stepping foot on the premises of a betting institution.
All addictions are problematic in the sense that they interfere with daily life and healthy functioning. Addictions can drive a wedge into relationships, negatively impact careers and cause financial problems.
For a gambling addict, the financial repercussions can be truly devastating. When gambling, it’s possible to lose an entire life’s savings in the blink of an eye, or squander a full week’s paycheck before paying the bills, racking up debt.
Of course, to the casual gambler who has no addiction, common sense and impulse control would prevent tragedies from happening. It’s unlikely that someone without an addictive relationship to gambling would bet an entire life’s savings or a full paycheck. There are other obligations that need to be met first. Going to the casino with a fixed amount of cash, for example, is a strategy many people employ to make sure they make smart decisions.
Someone struggling with a gambling addiction doesn’t have impulse control to keep them out of trouble. They may have a constant argument playing out in their head: they know that placing bets and wagers is risky and they need to hold onto their money to cover their responsibilities. But that voice of reason can be drowned out by the desire to chase a win, and to chase the euphoric feeling of having doubled or tripled their money.
Other Signs of Gambling Addiction
Gamblers are often poor judges of their own behavior. If your friends or family have expressed concern over your gambling habits, there’s a good chance you have a problem controlling your impulses when placing bets.
You might already realize that your behavior is not normal, and thus you go to great lengths to keep it hidden. Do you lie about where you are going or what you are doing? Do you have secret accounts that you use to gamble with?
The prospect of winning and losing large amounts of money can cause feelings of anxiety. And when on a losing streak, gamblers often feel depressed or even suicidal. Coping with anxiety or depression may cause those with a gambling addiction to begin other addictive habits, such as drinking or using drugs in order to mask these uncomfortable or even debilitating feelings.
Help for Gambling Addiction
There is no medication that can be used to treat gambling addiction. However, medications may help with secondary issues or symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
As with other behavioral or process addictions, cognitive behavioral therapy is an ideal solution. This therapy teaches addicts to be more aware of their negative behaviors and triggers. It teaches them how to change destructive behavior patterns and how to avoid difficult situations that may trigger a relapse into old patterns. Support groups also exist for gambling addiction recovery.