When Gambling Becomes An Addiction
Gambling is one of those activities that happen all the time in the world around you. You make a fun bet at work or you relax and unwind by playing a game of cards with friends and add a pot to win to boost excitement in the game. You may also enjoy buying lottery tickets, visiting the casino, betting on the horses or your favourite team, or spending some time online playing the slots.
For most people gambling is a harmless pastime. They are able to set the limit they will spend and then, when that is gone, they walk away or move on to another activity. They may gamble at social events or on their own, but their gambling has no negative impact in their life.
Problem gambling occurs when a person has has difficulty doing other activities in life other than gambling. They find ways to incorporate gambling, or thinking about gambling, or thinking of a winning strategy for gambling, in all of their spare time. They may even engage in activities such as online gambling at work even if they understand that this is against company policy.
Problem gamblers may not gamble on a daily basis or even every week. However, they often gamble to deal with some type of stressor or trigger and see gambling as a way to create positive feelings or the answer to their problem. They often set a limit when they gamble but fail to stop placing wagers, always trying to chase the big win that will allow them to feel like a "winner".
These gamblers will also gamble even when they know it is against the wishes of their partner, spouse or family. They will be willing to destroy the relationship rather than admit they have a gambling problem. They will hide their gambling and the deceit is often easy to detect, but they will attempt to justify, rationalise or blame the behaviour on the other person.
A gambling addiction is really just an escalation of a problem with gambling. It moves up a notch to include actions that are immediately and negatively impacting the individual. The individual has a compulsion to gamble even though they fully understand the negative impact it will have on their life. Gambling becomes the entire focus of their life to the exclusion of everything else. These individuals are considered by their friends and family to be completely out of control with their desire to place a wager.
These are the individuals that will destroy their entire life over a bet. They will wager on anything, anywhere and at any amount. Often they wager away the family home, retirement savings and even the money to pay the bills, even if they know they are harming their family, children and loved ones.
There is help for people with gambling addiction. Counselling and therapy to address the root cause of the addiction is important and often centres around bringing the thoughts and beliefs into the open that are the triggers for the problematic behaviour.