Amongst the variety of addictions and compulsions that can damage your life, gambling addiction is rarely thought of on the same level as, say, heroin addiction. While it is largely incapable of endangering you physically (unless, say, you make a bad bet with a particularly angry bookie), it affects the addict’s life, finances, and relationships in a manner starkly resembling the worst opiate addictions on record.
What Is Gambling Addiction?
By definition, gambling addiction is an uncontrollable urge to gamble despite repeatedly harmful or negative consequences and a clear urge to stop. Unlike other addictions, gambling addiction is unique in that it is often defined by harm experienced either by the gambler or those close to him, rather than the gambler alone.
While severe instances may be diagnosed as clinical pathological gambling, gambling addiction is considered by the medical community to be an impulse control disorder rather than a distinct addiction. Nonetheless, if you or someone you know has a gambling addiction, there are a staggering amount of resources available to you on the subject. This includes books on addiction, literature on gambling problems, and even behavioral treatment programs.
Somewhat strangely, the government of Australia has been the only body to put forth a standardized definition of gambling addiction: “Problem gambling is characterized by many difficulties in limiting money and/or time spent on gambling which leads to adverse consequences for the gambler, others, or for the community”.
Problem gambling is quite similar to other impulse control disorders such as kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania. According to clinical data, individuals experiencing gambling addiction are very likely to be suffering from other problems such as personality disorders, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and substance abuse issues.
Not unlike drug addiction, when funds become scarce, those addicted to gambling often turn to theft or the sale of drugs for their capital.
Finally, there is a startlingly high correlation between those termed “problem gamblers” and suicide rates. Often times, when neck deep in debt and having ruined their interpersonal relationships, problem gamblers may feel that the only solution is to end their own lives.
Gambling Addiction Treatment
Luckily, and in large part to the similarity of gambling addiction to other disorders, there are a number of treatment options available. Amongst these are group counseling, Gamblers Anonymous meetings, step-based programs, peer support, self-help, and medication.
While no pharmaceutical medications have been approved specifically for the treatment of gambling addiction, it is very likely that medications intended for similar conditions will translate over to problem gambling.
Alternatively, Gamblers Anonymous (modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous) is a twelve step program that emphasizes group support and counseling.
Any counseling that targets impulse control is perfectly suited for problem gamblers, as it is this underlying condition that is thought to be the root cause of the disorder.
Gambling addiction is a serious condition that should be treated immediately. Books on the disorder are available on a variety of websites and treatment options are plentiful no matter where you live. Do not let a minor gambling problem overtake the life of a loved one.