Addiction is not confined to the abuse of alcohol or drugs, addiction to gambling is every bit as destructive a problem. Although a relatively small number of people are actually addicted to gambling the trail of misery that they leave more than makes up for their lack of numbers. Problem gambling can easily become pathological gambling, a process facilitated by the higher levels of oxygen found in most casinos to make the patrons feel happier while they are there. Casinos are designed to encourage people to stay there longer and lose more money.
Gambling addiction is not simply thought to be an indication of a weak character – there seems to be a biological basis for it. This would explain, at least partly, why one person will go into a casino and lose $50 and never go back, while another will spend every penny of their paycheck week after week, even if results in serious problems. There is always the false hope that a big win will recover all that has been lost, and more, but most gambling addicts fail to admit to themselves that “The house always wins”.
A good portion of the problem arises because the neurotransmitters in the gambler’s brain either are, or become defective. A big boost of endorphins will occur when the gambler is at the table, even if they are losing badly. This ‘natural high’ compels them to continue gambling until their money runs out, and a feeling of being let down or depressed follows. As the gambler craves to feel good again, he or she will return to bet in the future. The fact that the brain chemistry has altered is what makes it so difficult for the addict to give up gambling.
Making the Right Decision
As with alcoholics or drug addicts, the gambling addict often has to hit ‘rock bottom’ before making the decision to turn their life around. Often action is taken only after everything the gambler treasured at one time is gone: home, family, job, and respect. However, whether you have reached the nadir, or have decided to turn your life around before this happens, there are a number of ways that you can overcome your gambling addiction and get your life back again.
- Gamblers Anonymous has helped numerous people over the years. Being with others who share your difficulties can provide the support you may need when temptation arises. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, GA has a 12 step program to help gamblers overcome their addiction. There are support groups for family members as well.
- Displacement activities can often keep you away from the casino. Rather than gambling, take up bicycling or woodworking. Applying the same dedication to a hobby or interest that was given to gambling will probably make the new activity a great success.
- Staying away from money as much as possible is a good idea. Rather than carrying money around with you that is ‘burning a hole in your pocket’, let a family member or friend manage your resources. What you don’t have, you can’t gamble.
- Counseling can help to break the gambling pattern. If you come to understand why you are gambling, it will be easier to leave this aspect of your life behind. Some psychologists and psychiatrists have received training specifically to deal with gambling problems and the extra layer of support from a professional can augment your decision to stop gambling.
- Reading up on why people gamble excessively can assist you in pinpointing why you stop at the casino at every opportunity. Some people get an adrenaline rush when gambling; they become really charged up, so much so that it becomes irrelevant whether they win or lose. Others have difficulties in their lives that they want to escape, and gambling provides an outlet for these people in much the same way that an alcoholic or drug addict will use substances to blot out the world.
- Both problem and pathological gamblers generally rack up quite a bit of debt, and will often see no other way out of the situation than by trying for that big win. Once you have made the decision to stop gambling, speak to a debt counselor, who can often help you to arrange a repayment schedule that will be manageable.
Gambling addiction doesn’t have to be the end of anyone’s life. Like any compulsive behavior, it can be controlled. Considering the many negative aspects of gambling, including an increased chance of suicide, making the decision to overcome this problem can only be a major benefit to you and your family.
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