Gambling addiction is a major problem for people who suffer from it. Gambling, like drugs, changes the brain’s reward system.
Several studies conducted jointly in Switzerland and Canada prove that gambling addiction is truly a disease with symptoms and pathological behaviours similar to those of athletes addicted to endorphins, titles and rewards.
With the advent of the internet, but especially the use of smartphones and the development of gambling platforms, online gambling addiction has seen a colossal jump in recent years.
Indeed, if before it only concerned a population used to luxury casinos, gambling addiction can now affect people from all walks of life: it has become widely democratized.
Gambling has gone from being a harmless form of amusement to a dangerous obsession, a habit that can interfere with friendships and family relationships. It can also interfere with work and even lead to financial disaster.
Whether you bet on sports, scratch cards, roulette, poker, casino slots, at a racetrack or online, it all boils down to the same thing: you can find yourself in situations you never imagined you would encounter.
You may find yourself in:
- incur debts,
- accumulate large arrears of payments,
- collect credit repayments,
- and even, in the most extreme cases, steal money to satisfy the desire to gamble.
What Is Gambling Addiction?
Where do the passion for gambling end and the financially and socially destructive gambling addiction begin?
Gambling is an invariable part of being human, a constant that can even be found in the behaviour of some animals: everyone plays.
Insofar as play is a pleasure that plays an essential role in personal development, it contributes to the construction of well-being and balance. Gambling causes a release of endorphins, the pleasure and well-being hormone, the same substance that allows a sportsman to feel good about himself during or after exercise, to achieve serenity.
It is possible to develop an addiction to this hormone because it acts as an analgesic. Its action is similar to morphine and it is considered an opioid, like a natural drug.
Gambling addiction – also known as compulsive gambling or pathological gambling – is a disorder of habits and impulses.
If you are a compulsive gambler, you cannot control the impulse to gamble, even if it has negative consequences for you or your loved ones.
You gamble, whether you have money or not, and you continue to gamble regardless of the consequences, even though you know you can’t afford to lose.
Of course, you can also have a gambling problem without being in danger. Gambling addiction includes any behaviour that disrupts your life:
if you think more and more about gambling,
if you gamble to make up for your losses.
if you spend more and more time and money on it,
How Does Gambling Addiction Affect the Brain?
Addiction is often associated with other behavioural, habitual or mood disorders.
Many gamblers also suffer from drug problems, unmanaged ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), stress, depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.
So, to successfully stop gambling problems, it is necessary to address these other issues.
Warning Signs of Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction is sometimes referred to as a ‘hidden disease’ because it does not have obvious physical signs or symptoms like drug or alcohol addiction. In addition, problem gamblers usually deny or downplay the addiction.
For example, they will claim that their competitive behaviour is only for the sake of winning, that gambling is risk-free, or that the risks are “calculated” and “there is no chance”.
Here are some signs that usually indicate an addiction:
You keep your gambling habits a secret. You gamble in secret and/or lie about the amount of money you invest in gambling. You think others won’t understand, or you hope to surprise them with a big win.
You have difficulty managing your gambling habits. Once you start playing, can you stop? Or are you forced to play until you have spent your last coin? Do you increase the stakes in an attempt to win back the money you lost?
You play even if you have no money. Even if you are already in debt, you gamble. You may feel pressured to borrow, sell goods, or even steal in order to get money from gambling and satisfy your addiction.
Your family and friends worry about you. If your family and friends are worried about you, you should listen carefully. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Many older gamblers are reluctant to ask their children for help. However, it is never too late to improve the situation.
Neglect of professional life. In order to satisfy your gambling addiction, your professional environment quickly takes a back seat. You find it difficult to concentrate at work.
Euphoria when gambling. When you start gambling, the rewards of gambling lead to conditioned behaviour. The winnings instantly create a feeling of euphoria that will make you want to play again quickly to relive the euphoric experience. In addition, the brain tends to register wins more easily than losses, encouraging you to keep playing by giving you the illusion that your luck will change.
Gambling Addiction: Treatment
Pathological gambling often finds its solution in psychoanalysis. To get out of the addiction, it is often necessary to consult a professional.
If you become aware of your problem – even if you are convinced that it does not affect your life – act to prevent more serious problems.
Any addiction problem can be solved, it is often just a step, a call to break the gambling spiral. A psychologist will help you to understand where your addiction comes from and will help you to find solutions to fight against this disease.