Everyone gambles at least once in their lives. These days, gambling has become addictive because it can be easily accessed by everyone like when we play bingo, or buy a lottery ticket or join a raffle game. The development of technology helps more people to gain access to gambling like the internet or telephone gambling services. The recently opened super casinos in UK are part of this reason as well. To recognize that gambling is a problem is the first step to recover from addiction. The following are definitions of gambling from the Chambers Dictionary:
- To make a bet
- To take a risk
- To play a game of chance
Reasons for gambling
People go into gambling for a wide variety of reasons like the following:
- the excitement, buzz, and high adrenaline
- the competitive aspect of the game like besting other players, the dealers and the bookies
- the pleasure in risk taking or in placing huge bets
- to relieve one of his financial problems
- a means to escape from worries or stress
Some might say that there is no safe gambling but some would argue that just like drinking, as long as the rules are followed, then there is such a thing s safe gambling:
- Stay away from high-risk gambling where losing large amounts of money can happen
- The player should limit the number of time he gambles to set priorities in his life more than playing
- Control the amount of money that you will bet on. Remember that you cannot afford to lose a large amount of money
- Quit the game when you winning or ahead. The player is more likely to lose more money when he wishes to proceeds
Gambling as a problem
Gambling should be a harmless activity but for those who see gambling as large part of their lives, this addiction could ruin their lives. Someone is a compulsive gambler when:
- He spends a lot more money for gambling than he could afford. This could put the person in a large debt, or worse, it could get him to lose his possessions or his home.
- He spends a lot more time for gambling than he does with other aspects of his life like his work or his family. This could lead to him getting fired or getting separated from his children and divorced from his partner.
- He has changed in his behaviour like he becomes easily depressed when he loses or gets overly excited when he wins. Some addictive gamblers feel that they are alive only when they gamble.
- He tends to commit criminal or inappropriate acts like lying, stealing or cheating from your friends or family.
Questions to ask yourself
If you are not sure whether you have a gambling problem or not, ask the following questions to yourself about gambling:
- Does it make me unhappy in my home and work?
- Does it make me concentrate less on my work, or make me have sleep problems?
- Does t make me lie to others and to myself?
- Does it make feel as if I have escaped from my problems or worries?
- Does it make me get money to solve my financial problems or debts?
- Does it make me steal or borrow money from others?
- Does it make me feel insatiable whenever I win in a game?
If you have answered yes to at least one of these, then it is probable that you have a gambling problem.
Causes of compulsive gambling
Compulsive behaviours have biological, social and psychological origins. Gambling provides a sense of belongingness as it brings us in contact with other people who share the same interests. It is like there is a community – however bad its associated behaviours. Acceptance and social meaning are vital to everyone and this is found in casinos, gaming rooms in the internet and book makers for compulsive gamblers. Gambling could alter the way we feel socially and psychologically. It makes us escape from our daily problems because it preoccupies our head with the thrill of the game: the adrenalin rush, the bet, the race and the action. These activities engage the players to forget about everything else in their heads and concentrate more on the game.
Compulsive behaviours affect the brain’s reward system by regulating our reactions to natural rewards like sex, food and interaction with other people. Recurring compulsive behaviours can change this reward system by altering the cells in the brain structurally and chemically. This can then affect our well-being. If this reward system is changed, people would no longer respond normally to rewards like sex, food and interaction with others except for gambling.
Compulsive gambling develops because of the need of people for its psychological relief and social meaning. This is aided by some of the chemical changes inside the brain that goes along with such experiences. These two factors occur simultaneously in a compulsive gamblers’ behaviour and cannot be separated. Psychological relief, social meaning and a charged up dopamine system of reward are a hard combination to resist even for the most hard of individuals.
If the person feels as if he has no control over his gambling behaviour, then the following list of things can be done to help himself from this feeling:
- The first step to recovery is to admit that you have the problem
- Be able to talk about your feelings to someone whom you trust like a friend or a family member or even a specialist advisor
- Avoid situation or locations that would tempt you to gamble
- Control how you spend money and do not waste it in gambling
- Ask someone to help you deal with the problems if you cannot do this by yourself
- Take one step and day at a time: things would gradually get better
Living with someone who gambles
This can be a difficult predicament to be in because it can become distressing and can cause problems in your relationship with other people especially with your family or partner. If you are in doubt whether someone whom you are living with has gambling problems, then ask yourself the following questions:
- Are they promising that they would stop gambling but never does?
- Do they not tell you where they have been when they disappear for a long while?
- Can they not account the amount of money they spent?
- Do you feel the need to hide money from them to stop them from spending it?
- Do you feel as if they are lying or denying that they are gambling?
If you have answered yes to at least one of these, then it is probable that you are with someone who has a gambling problem.
Helping someone with a gambling problem
Always remember that the one with the gambling problem can face this problem with others by his side. It is therefore vital that we should have an idea on how to support and help these people. The following are things that could help:
- Get medical help or have someone to talk about your problems to
- Be constructive and firm. Have the person realize that he has a problem and that he should have the guts to move forward to recovery
- Do not judge or condemn them nor should you make them feel worse than they already are.
- Be realistic and know that getting over a compulsive behaviour like gambling takes time and patience. It takes a lot of will power from the patient to do this.
- Do not give them money until you see that they are well enough to handle it and that they have overcome their addiction.