Gambling is considered to be one of the most sinister human vices – the illusion of quick and easy money often leads to extreme financial devastation. The industry rakes in billions of dollars annually, and this is because (as frequently mused), “The house always wins”. The euphoric rush that some may experience upon winning a large sum can prove detrimental beyond eventual monetary loss, however. Problem gambling leads to major issues at work, severe interpersonal problems, and immense financial strain. Many addictive gamblers lose their families, their careers, and many of their important material possessions. Of course, one of the most significant losses that any addict suffers is the loss of emotional well-being – of contentedness, freedom, self-respect, and all semblance of personal merit.
Compulsive Gambling – A Serious Disorder
For the compulsive gambler, deep-seated feelings of shame and guilt will seem unconquerable hurdles when it comes to reaching out for help. Even heroin addiction, now, is far less stigmatized and far more mainstream. What with the recent nationwide opiate epidemic, coming forth and admitting to a drug addiction may seem far less intimidating than admitting that the desire to place bets and buy lottery tickets has become overwhelming and deleterious. However, addictive gambling is a medically recognized and completely legitimate disorder – one that often requires intensive outside help in order to successfully be overcome.
Stigma Prevents Many From Seeking the Help They Need
Gambling addiction is referred to as an impulse control disorder, meaning that the sufferer loses control over the impulse to gamble, despite steadily accumulating negative consequences. Those who truly suffer from this disorder will continue to gamble, regardless of how much they have to lose. Just as in substance dependency, those who are afflicted with gambling addiction experience a ‘high’, undergo severe consequences, and eventual suffer withdrawal. Without professional help, the likelihood of long-term recovery is exceedingly slim. Those with impulse-control disorders typically simultaneously suffer from an underlying psychological or mood disorder, such as depression or anxiety. It is also not uncommon for compulsive gamblers to concurrently battle drug or alcohol addiction. In many cases, one disorder will work to exacerbate the other.
Dual Diagnosis Disorders
For example – an alcoholic who seeks treatment for his alcohol addiction (but leaves his gambling addiction untreated) may eventually return to drinking after losing a particularly significant bet, or after wracking up overwhelming interpersonal consequences as a result of his incessant betting. He may maintain sobriety for a length of time, only to have his wife leave him after she realizes that the majority of their savings are being squandered at the local casino. Unequipped with the coping skills necessary to effectively overcome such a loss, he may resort to drinking once again, thinking to himself, “What’s the use anyhow.” If an individual who silently struggles with alcoholism seeks help for a gambling problem but continues to drink excessively, he very well may find himself at the casino after a night of especially heavy drinking. Or, his drinking may begin to worsen dramatically once his other established form of ‘release’ is taken away. As with all dual diagnosis disorders, both conditions must be treated thoroughly and concurrently in order for long-term recovery to be achieved.
Gambling Addiction Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes
Just as there are many types of drug addiction (some prefer opiates while some prefer crack cocaine, for example), there are many different types of gambling addiction. Some compulsive gamblers will stick to scratch-off lottery tickets, while others may prefer online poker. Because online gambling is currently so popular and accessible, Internet addiction and gambling addiction are often closely intertwined. There are many causes of gambling addiction, but the onset is most commonly a result of a variety of contributing factors. In many cases, one will begin gambling as a means of overcoming financial ruin – which might initially result from a battle with substance dependency, or prolonged difficulties at work or at home. If the emotional and mental state of an individual is already dismal and despondent, a significant win may provide the gambler with a euphoric rush – the same rush that drug users feel upon taking the initial hit, or that alcoholics feel upon downing the first swig.
Help for Problem Gambling is Available
Breaking the cycle of gambling addiction is extremely difficult to do. It is a highly psychological disorder, and usually goes hand-in-hand with harshly distorted thinking. In order for an impulse control disorder such as this to be successfully and permanently overcome, it is often necessary to undergo a comprehensive and long-term program of addiction recovery. While this can come in the form of a 12-step program (if compulsive gambling remains the only issue), it is crucial that an individual who is suffering from dual diagnosis disorders (such as gambling addiction and an underlying mental health condition or substance dependency issue) to seek intensive therapeutic treatment in a inpatient rehab facility.
Treatment programs such as that employed at Next Chapter Treatment are geared exclusively towards dual diagnosis disorders. We specialize in substance dependency, co-occurring behavioral addictions such as love addiction, Internet addiction, and compulsive gambling, and underlying contributing factors such as childhood trauma and PTSD. We have extensive experience treating those who can no longer control their impulse to gamble, whether they are frequenting the casino, playing poker online, or simply betting on sports teams with their friends. For more information on our program of gambling addiction recovery, please contact us today.