Compulsive gambling is a serious problem in Canada. An estimated 1% of the population is affected by this disorder, which can lead to financial ruin, job loss, and family problems. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, there are resources available to help. This guide will provide an overview of compulsive gambling, its causes and effects, and how to get help.
What are the Causes?
There are many possible causes of this disorder, including genetic predisposition, disorders of the brain's reward system, and psychological factors such as boredom, low self-esteem, and anxiety. While there is no single cause, many experts believe that it is a combination of these factors that leads to its development.
Compulsive gambling is often thought to be a result of a person's need to escape from their problems or from feelings of emptiness and boredom. For some people, gambling provides a temporary high that helps them to forget about their problems. However, this relief is only temporary, and the underlying issues will still remain after the person has gambled. As the person continues to gamble, they may begin to feel even more empty and alone, which can lead to further gambling.
Gambling compulsively can also be a result of a disorder of the brain's reward system. The brain's reward system is responsible for releasing chemicals that make us feel good when we do something that we enjoy. For some people, gambling activates this reward system, which can in turn lead to this affliction.
Finally, psychological factors such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and boredom can also contribute to this serious problem. People who gamble compulsively often do so because they feel that they are not good enough or that they do not deserve to win. They may also gamble to relieve boredom or to escape from their problems. Those who find themselves in this situation often have a hard time stopping because they become so dependent on gambling to make themselves feel better.
The DSM-5 classifies it as an impulse control disorder. Impulse control disorders are characterized by impulsivity and a failure to resist urges. Compulsive gambling is further defined as persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior that causes significant impairment or distress.
What are the Symptoms?
There are many possible symptoms of compulsive gambling, but some of the most common include:
- Preoccupation with gambling;
- Constantly thinking about ways to get money to gamble;
- Chasing losses;
- Betting more and more money;
- Missing work or school due to gambling;
- Lying to family and friends about gambling activities;
- Borrowing money to gamble or not being able to pay back debts incurred from gambling.
What are the Effects?
The most common effects , which can impact both the gambler and their loved ones, include include financial ruin, job loss, and family problems. Gamblers may also experience mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. In extreme cases, it can even lead to suicide.
How is Compulsive Gambling Treated?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to treating this serious issue, as each person’s situation is unique. However, there are some general treatment approaches that have proven to be effective for many people struggling with this disorder.
The most common and effective treatment for those that gamble to such extremes is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy helps people to identify and change the negative thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their addictive behaviour. CBT can be done in individual or group settings, and it has been shown to be highly effective in helping people overcome gambling disorders.
In addition to CBT, other types of therapies that may be helpful for treating compulsive gambling include:
- Motivational enhancement therapy: This type of therapy helps people to increase their motivation to change their gambling behavior.
- Family therapy: This type of therapy can help family members to understand and support their loved one’s recovery from gambling addiction.
- 12-step programs: These programs, such as Gamblers Anonymous, use a peer-support model to help people recover from gambling addiction.
Medications may also be prescribed in some cases to help treat these problems. The most common medication used is naltrexone, which has been shown to reduce the urge to gamble. Other medications that have been shown to be helpful include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and mood stabilizers.
Can Compulsive Gambling Be Prevented?
There is no sure way to prevent it, but there are ways to reduce the risk. Here are some tips:
- Set limits on how much money you can spend on gambling activities.
- Stick to those limits.
- Avoid using credit cards or borrowing money to finance gambling.
- Don't gamble when you're feeling upset, angry, or depressed.
- Make sure that gambling doesn't become your only form of entertainment.
- Talk to someone if you're worried that you or someone you know has a problem with gambling.
If you think you or someone you know might have a gambling problem, talk to a doctor, counselor, or other mental health professional. They can help you figure out if you have a gambling problem and what steps to take to address it.