Gambling Disorders – What Are the Warning Signs and Symptoms of a Gambling Disorder?
Gambling is placing something of value at risk on an event that has an element of chance and has a potential to yield a greater prize than the amount staked. This can be done with money, or other things of value such as cards, slot machines, instant scratch tickets, races, animal tracks, sports events, dice, or any other device capable of generating random numbers.
Many people gamble for social reasons, such as enjoying it with a group of friends or simply enjoying the rush of winning. Others gamble for financial reasons, seeking to increase their wealth. And still others seek to relieve unpleasant feelings by gambling, a behavior that is often fueled by the brain’s natural rewards system.
Regardless of the reason for gambling, the behavior can be dangerous or even life-threatening if it’s not managed effectively. This is because gambling affects the reward center of the brain, and people who suffer from an addiction can become compulsive, unable to control their actions. In addition, gambling can negatively impact work, family and other important aspects of a person’s life.
For this reason, it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of gambling disorder and how to recognize them in yourself or a loved one. Some warning signs include:
A frequent and persistent desire to gamble. Increasingly frequent and larger losses than usual. Having to borrow money to fund gambling activities. Lying to family and friends about gambling. Continuing to gamble despite it negatively impacting your finances, career or relationships.
There are several ways to treat a gambling disorder, and the best option will depend on your specific circumstances. Behavioral therapy can help you identify unhealthy thoughts and behaviors and learn healthier ones. Psychotherapy can also help you address the underlying issues that lead to problem gambling, such as depression, anxiety, trauma, or coexisting mental health conditions.
Medications have not been shown to be effective in treating gambling disorders, but some types of psychotherapy can be helpful. These can include psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and interpersonal therapy. In psychodynamic therapy, the therapist explores your unconscious processes to improve self-awareness and understanding of how past experiences influence present behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that teaches you to manage triggers and impulses that lead to gambling.
It’s important to recognize that it’s not just you who has a problem; the entire gambling industry relies on promoting its products. Betting companies advertise on TV, in social media, and by offering wall-to-wall sponsorship of football clubs, all in the hope that customers will choose their product over that of competitors. And it’s not just that gambling has become more accessible; as access to betting increases, so do instances of addiction. However, it is possible to break the cycle. I’ve heard inspiring stories of people like Chris Murphy, who used to gamble online at night as his girlfriend slept beside him, but now works via the Sporting Chance clinic helping footballers disentangle their gambling from the game they love.