When Gamblers Become Gambling Addicts
Gambling has the same physiological or hormonal effect on the brain as the use of drugs and alcohol. It begins with the surge of excitement in anticipation of the act, the extreme adrenaline rush that occurs when gambling and the unparalleled high of winning, followed by the compulsion to do it all over again. Gambling addiction, like drug and alcohol addiction, is a seriously devastating problem that has far-reaching consequences. These are a few of the warning signs of how to recognise when gamblers become gambling addicts.
Compulsively Chasing Losses
Winning a game produces an exhilarating high for any gambler. The difference between periodic gamblers and gambling addicts, is that for the latter, that high is addictive. Gambling addicts will stop at nothing to achieve that first high again and again. On the other hand, losing produces a mental low that can feel like extreme disappointment and in some cases, depression. When this happens, most gamblers know when to stop. Gambling addicts however, find themselves unable to resist “chasing their losses”. In other words, they place even higher bets or cash in even more money in an attempt to win back the money they have lost. It is not uncommon for gambling addicts to max out multiple credit cards, pawn their valuables or even steal money to chase their losses, believing that “one more bet” or “one more hand” will see their luck restored. This behaviour leads to an inevitable and vicious downward spiral.
Mental and Emotional Instability
We see it in the movies all the time – heroin addicts withdrawing, writhing in pain, lashing out at those around them or being unable to get out of bed. What we don’t often see in the movies, is the way in which gambling addicts withdraw. In truth, withdrawal from gambling and withdrawal from drugs can look surprisingly similar. Gambling addicts who don’t get their fix can become extremely aggressive and unable to be in the presence of others. They can become visibly agitated and hostile towards those around them. Only a trip to the casino can abate what can accurately be described as a craving. For an addict in the grips of a gambling addiction, anything that stands in the way of them placing the next bet, becomes a threat that needs to be removed. Unfortunately, this can lead to strained relationships, emotional unavailability and in some cases, abuse.
Gambling addiction may be difficult to spot at first, because gambling addicts may feel compelled to keep their behaviour a secret. They may feel deeply ashamed or embarrassed – deep down they may know that they have a problem but may be resistant to asking for help. Warning signs include dishonesty around their whereabouts or the inability to explain how they are spending their money. A common experience is that gambling addicts may be too afraid to explain why their money has run out, so they keep their gambling behaviour a secret, secretly dreaming of the day they can appease their loved ones with the surprise of a big win. Unfortunately, for gambling addicts that win is never big enough and a win always precedes another bet in the hopes of winning even bigger. The compulsion is all-consuming.
If you or a loved one is suffering from gambling addiction, know that help is readily available. Contact us for a free consultation and we’ll support you in your recovery journey.
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