Many people gamble for various reasons. Most individuals enjoy recreational or social gambling for its entertainment value and chance at making money.
Compulsive gamblers have become a serious public health concern, leading to financial distress, debt burden and depression – even suicidal thoughts and acts.
Why do people gamble?
Gambling is an enjoyable activity that can bring both joy and sorrow. Yet gambling may lead to financial losses and psychological/physical strain. Research shows that individuals gamble for various motivations; their individual circumstances often dictate when and why they gamble.
Motivators include an underlying desire for reward as one primary motivator; other drivers include seeking fun and enjoyment, socializing with friends, or venting negative feelings. People may be influenced by others – family members or friends for instance – or be persuaded into gambling through advertisements or promotional material.
Participants in focus groups noted that gambling was accessible and advertised in many settings, from family restaurants with side entrances for young people to access pokies machines, to supermarkets that promoted its availability as a prize-winner opportunity. Such factors contributed to normalising gambling among society at large and widespread acceptance.
Why do some people become addicted to gambling?
While many enjoy gambling occasionally, compulsive gamblers can quickly develop an addiction that causes severe personal, financial, occupational, and family disruptions. According to various surveys conducted across America, five million adults suffer from pathological gambling. It may start off innocently enough with placing small bets on sporting events or sweepstakes at work that pique your curiosity – eventually this leads to betting more money or real cash on outcomes; eventually this leads them down an increasingly costly path of loss until their finances collapse altogether.
Researchers have observed that, similar to substance addictions, gambling also triggers dopamine releases in the brain and this makes it hard to stop. Furthermore, those suffering from gambling addiction may experience withdrawal symptoms if separated from it; pride, ego or despair could prompt some individuals to keep betting in hopes that they might regain lost funds.
What are the symptoms of a gambling addiction?
Most gamblers engage in casual gaming, with most experiencing no negative effects from gambling. But for others, gambling becomes an addiction, creating financial, emotional and social problems as a result.
Gamblers with an addiction tend to be impulsive and may lie, steal and cheat to fund their habit. Gambling addicts also often experience cravings and irrational beliefs such as believing a string of losses will eventually result in a win (Rosenthal and Lesieur, 1992).
Gambling addictions often lead to substance abuse, particularly among those taking antidepressant or anxiety medications. Behavior therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are effective treatment options. Behavior therapy teaches individuals how to resist urges and develop effective coping mechanisms, while CBT aims to alter unhealthy gambling beliefs like rationalizations and false beliefs; both therapies also teach problem-solving techniques as well as address any personal and financial consequences due to gambling addictions.
What are the treatments for a gambling addiction?
In order to successfully manage gambling addiction, individuals need to seek help from professionals and work with therapists. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), mindfulness meditation and family therapy are some common treatment approaches used. CBT helps identify internal and external triggers which encourage gambling; additionally therapists provide them with new coping skills as well as healthy ways of handling stressors.
Avoid situations that might trigger gambling, like spending time with people who gamble or being exposed to environments associated with gambling. While this can be challenging, finding alternative activities which provide similar stimulation may help curb any urges to bet. Furthermore, restricting credit cards and nonessential cash can reduce risks of overspending.
As well as therapeutic techniques, some individuals may also benefit from medication. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers, for example, can help alleviate anxiety, depression and bipolar symptoms which often co-occur with problematic gambling behaviors.