What Is Gambling Addiction?
Gambling is when an individual risks something valuable in the hope of gaining something even more valuable. Gambling addiction is an uncontrollable urge to continue gambling even though it negatively affects one's life. Gambling is addictive because it stimulates the brain's reward system like drugs or alcohol. In fact, gambling addiction is the most common impulse control disorder worldwide.
When we say gambling, this term does not only cover the games played in casinos that are illegal in Turkey. Horse races, games of chance, card games by placing bets, and match predictions are also included in this group. The earlier one begins to gamble, the higher the risk of developing addiction. Since gambling addiction does not manifest any physical symptoms, it takes time to diagnose.
The addictive feature of a substance or behavior is related to how fast and high a person releases dopamine. In this sense, the prevalence of online betting has increased in recent years. Receiving the result of the bet within 1-2 minutes leads to faster and more pleasure. For this reason, especially university youth and highly educated people tend to this behavior by getting a false self-confidence in this field. In particular, devices such as smartphones that provide access to these sites anytime, anywhere, reinforce this behavior and lead to addiction.
Common Symptoms of Gambling Addiction Include:
• Obsessively preoccupied with gambling,
• The need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to experience the same excitement,
• Unsuccessfully trying to control, reduce or stop gambling,
• Feeling restless or irritable when unable to gamble,
• Gambling to escape from problems or relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression.
• Trying to get back the money lost by gambling more,
• Endangering or losing important relationships or school / job opportunities due to gambling,
• Using theft or fraud to get gambling money.
When gambling addicts lose, they cannot stop themselves from playing again or set a loss limit; they feel compelled to keep playing to try to get their money back. In most cases, the person loses more than intended, blames himself/herself for the amount of money lost, and then tries to make up for the losses by gambling more, resulting in more money lost. This destructive cycle leads to many negative consequences.
Stages of Gambling Addiction
1. The Winning Phase
At the beginning of gambling there is usually a 'win' event (ie at least half of the annual income coming in at once). The mental shift, tolerance and loss of control about the game begin to develop in this period. This is the period when the effort and time spent on gambling increases. The person takes action in this phase, where the feelings of power, wealth, and all power develop. The person withdraws from relationships with the people around him/her. In this phase, the person focuses more on gains than losses.
2. The Losing Phase
There is a serious loss at the beginning of this phase, and this phase is called the "bad bet". Losing while winning creates a cold shower effect on the gambling addict and he is worried about it. And at this stage, it starts to regain its losses. As the losses increase, gambling begins to take more place in his/her life.
Trying to close the debt by borrowing is one of the most common behaviors we see in pathological gambling addicts. First, they try to gamble by obtaining money through legal means. At this stage, we see those who withdraw money to the last penny of their credit cards or those who try to gamble to try to close the debt by selling the house they live on. Even if there are gains in this stage, the debt is not paid off with those gains, and even if it is closed, we observe the gambling behavior again.
3. The Desperation Phase
At this stage, the person has no opportunity left. The person is now unhappy and we can say that depression is seen at a high rate in this stage.
4. The Hopeless Phase
This is the period when one loses everything. The person continues to gamble, but the gambling behavior is haphazard.
Suggestions for Coping with Gambling Thoughts Are:
• It is necessary to stay away from places where gambling happens. Online gambling sites should be avoided.
• Things that make up the idea of gambling should be avoided (horse racing programs, “casino” advertisements, lottery tickets, etc.)
• People who are involved in gambling should be avoided.
• Discussions about gambling should be avoided.
• You should have enough money on you to meet your daily needs. Credit cards and ATM cards should not be used.
• In order to stay away from it, it is necessary to change the lifestyle and replace negative habits with positive behaviors.
• It is important to be busy with other things. It will be beneficial to turn attention to other activities (such as doing work at home, going to the gym).
How Can I Help a Relative With Suspected Gambling Addiction?
1. By placing limits on money management or taking financial responsibility within the family, you are taking action against both the individual's gambling and relapse.
2. You should be prepared and strategize against the gambler asking for money through begging, threats or accusations.
3. Getting therapy support for both you and the gambler will help you cope with the problem more easily.
It is possible to achieve success with a treatment program tailored to the individual. For this, first of all, it is necessary to accept that gambling addiction (by the gambler) is a pathological disorder.
For more information and support, you can reach our CIAD counselors team (firstname.lastname@example.org).