Compulsive Gambling: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments And Preventions
Compulsive gambling is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on your life. If you’re prone to compulsive gambling, you may continually chase bets, lie or hide your behavior, and resort to theft or fraud to support your addiction.
Compulsive gambling is a serious condition that can destroy lives. Although treating compulsive gambling can be challenging, many compulsive gamblers have found help through professional treatment.
Sgns and symptoms of compulsive (pathologic) gambling include:
Gaining a thrill from taking big gambling risks
Taking increasingly bigger gambling risks
A preoccupation with gambling
Reliving past gambling experiences
Gambling as a way to escape problems or feelings of helplessness, guilt or depression
Taking time from work or family life to gamble
Feeling guilt or remorse after gambling
Borrowing money or stealing to gamble
Failed efforts to cut back on gambling
Lying to hide gambling
ambling is out of control if:
It’s affecting your relationships, your finances or your work life
You’re devoting more and more time and energy to gambling pursuits
You’ve unsuccessfully tried to stop or cut back on your gambling
You try to conceal your gambling from family or health professionals
You resort to theft or fraud to get gambling money
You ask others to bail you out of financial woes because you’ve gambled money away
Exactly what causes someone to gamble compulsively isn’t well understood. Like many problems, compulsive gambling may result from a combination of biological, genetic and environmental factors.
Compulsive gambling can have profound and long-lasting consequences for your life, including:
Financial problems, including bankruptcy
Legal problems or incarceration
Job loss or professional stigma
Development of associated problems, such as alcohol or drug abuse
Treating compulsive gambling can be challenging. That’s partly because most people have a hard time admitting they have a problem. Yet a major component of treatment is working on acknowledging that you’re a compulsive gambler. If your family or your employer pressured you into therapy, you may find yourself resisting treatment. But treating a gambling problem can help you regain a sense of control — and perhaps even help heal damaged relationships or finances.
Treatment for compulsive gambling involves three main approaches:
Psychotherapy. Psychological treatments, such as behavior therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, may be beneficial for compulsive gambling. Behavior therapy uses systematic exposure to the behavior you want to unlearn (gambling) and teaches you skills to reduce your urge to gamble. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on identifying unhealthy, irrational and negative beliefs and replacing them with healthy, positive ones.
Medications. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers may help problems that often go along with compulsive gambling — such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder or ADHD — but not necessarily compulsive gambling itself. Medications called narcotic antagonists, which have been found useful in treating substance abuse, may help treat compulsive gambling.
Self-help groups. Some people find self-help groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, a helpful part of treatment.
Even with treatment, you may return to gambling, especially if you spend time with people who gamble or in gambling environments. If you feel that you’ll start gambling again, contact your care provider or sponsor right away to head off a full-blown relapse.
There’s no proven way to prevent a gambling problem from occurring or recurring. But if you have risk factors for compulsive gambling, avoiding gambling in any form, people who gamble and places where gambling occurs may help. Getting treatment at the earliest sign of a problem may help prevent a gambling disorder from becoming worse