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For many people, gambling is a form of entertainment, and they see nothing wrong with it. However, this line is easily crossed, and then people begin to not only lose money, but experience negative effects to their mental health as well. This is a sign that a gambling addiction has developed and that treatment is needed.
Gamblers do not realize that losing is the rule, and winning is an exception.
Gamblers want to recover lost money and make up for the loss as that makes them feel powerful and successful. This so-called passion for gambling is followed by an altered state of consciousness (ASC) called a gambling trance, which makes people forget about the world around them. It does not matter how much they already lost; they place new bets, and the problem continues.
People who are struggling with gambling addiction believe that luck will be on their side next time and that they can win it all back. They lie to family and friends, borrow money, sell things, and get loans. They are always out of the house and justify this by having obligations at work, and they become incredibly manipulative. Of course, family members eventually discover the truth, although typically serious financial problems have already occurred by then. The results of gambling include huge debts, family breakdown, the deterioration of significant friendships, a loss of reputation, an inclination to carry out criminal behaviors, or even suicide attempts.
In this article, you will learn what causes gambling addiction, why it is so dangerous, and which treatment methods provide the best results.
What is gambling addiction?
Gambling has existed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, and traces of it can be found in virtually every civilization around the world. In the past, gambling was primarily done at specific venues, such as racetracks or casinos. The situation has dramatically changed with the development of technology, and now, commercials for sports betting and online gambling are practically impossible to avoid.
Still, this disorder should not be taken lightly. In essence, gambling is a dangerous activity that affects the neurochemical balance in the brain, as it has been proven that winning triggers a dopamine release. When that happens, a person feels a rush of excitement and joy. Only a couple of gambling sessions are enough for the brain to recognize this activity as rewarding, forcing the person to engage in this type of behavior more often, again and again.
Gambling addiction can also serve as a gateway to other addictions, such as alcohol dependency. Drinking and gambling are dangerous on their own, but when combined, the existing problems only worsen. People often use alcohol as a confidence booster, but this substance also inhibits good decision-making, which can lead to huge financial losses.
If it comes to this, addicts will more than likely reach for alcohol or other psychoactive substances in an attempt to make their problems go away. Unfortunately, that is not a good solution, as it only further exacerbates the situation.
Family members and friends of gambling addicts are usually the first ones who notice the changes in an addict’s behavior, but they are often unable to find the reason behind them.
When out of control or not treated, gambling addiction can lead to:
- Loss of job
- Compulsive behavior
- Criminal behavior
- Loss of trust between family members
- Sleep disturbance
It is important to take action and sign up for treatment as soon as possible to get specialized help for gambling addictions.
Symptoms of gambling addiction
Gambling is different from other types of addiction, such as dependence on psychoactive substances. This addiction is strictly psychological, which makes the treatment that much more complicated. Due to the absence of physical consequences, people addicted to gambling are oftentimes unwilling to accept the fact that they have a problem. It is only after they encounter financial debts that they have to face the truth.
There are several warning signs that point to possible problems with gambling addictions, including:
- Frequent loss of money
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Missing important family events
- Defensive behavior when faced with questions about gambling issues
- Borrowing money from friends and relatives
- Symptoms of depression
- Substance abuse (alcohol, etc.)
A gambling addiction is universally dangerous for people of all demographics, and it affects not only the addicts, but also their loved ones and the entire community. That is why we must work hard in order to raise awareness of this huge problem.
What causes gambling addiction?
Gambling is a legal activity in almost all parts of the world, but it can have huge consequences if it turns into a habit. At first, this activity usually presents a quick and easy way to have some fun, but as a dependence starts to develop, it becomes apparent that gambling addiction is a serious issue that requires treatment.
When it comes to gender differences, men are considered more prone to developing this problem. However, with the developments of online gambling, susceptibility to the disorder according to gender is now less pronounced than ever.
Unlike most others types of addiction, peer pressure is rarely a factor here; people usually turn to gaming and betting for other reasons. Gambling can seem like an instant shortcut to large financial gains, but it can serve as a proving ground where individuals challenge themselves against others and themselves.
Furthermore, it can also provide an outlet for those who want to find an activity which will help them deal with everyday stress. Unfortunately, as their dependence progresses, the stakes and losses only increase over time. While these individuals are aware that their actions are causing harm to their loved ones, with no outside help, they are simply unable to put a stop to this destructive habit that is dragging them down deeper and deeper into a hole.
Gambling addiction stages
- Loss of control during gambling – this is what distinguishes a gambler from an ordinary person, as the gambler is seen to be out of control and continues to play for adrenaline rather than money. Since he cannot always win, even when he loses, he continues to gamble in order to experience the rush and thrill. The only obstacle to this is the loss of funds that finally prevents him from staying in the game.
- Development of psychological addiction – an intense inflow of adrenaline is necessary for the gambler in the same way that alcohol or drugs are needed for addicts. They use every opportunity to get into a casino, for example, and there they continually waste time and money. They spend less and less time with their family and justify this by saying they are working overtime. They might start using this extra money solely for gambling and completely ignore other living expenses such as utilities, food, and clothing.
- Crisis – the gambler is obsessed with gambling, and they start to feel a psychological crisis coming on. They feel bad, sleepy, nervous, and irritable; their mood continually changes. Debts are piling up, and at one point, the gambler confesses everything to their family. Their family helps them by getting them a loan to pay off their debts. The gambler promises to stop gambling, but that does not happen. To them, life without gambling is not exciting. After a while, they return to gambling, and the situation is repeated.
- The stage of despair – hunger for gambling reaches enormous proportions, and the gambler begins to sell valuable things or uses business money. This results in depression, regret, guilt, and constant stress that pushes the gambler to turn to alcohol, drugs, or pills, or they even have suicidal thoughts and intentions. People most often seek specialized help when they come to this stage of addiction.
Treatment of gambling addiction – phases
The primary goal of treatment is to eliminate the obsessive need to experience the gambling trance, then to regain control over emotions and behavior, stabilize one’s mental state, and reduce nervousness, irritability, and mood swings, as well as to normalize sleep.
The phases of treatment are as follows:
This is the first and perhaps most significant phase of treatment during which the physical and psychological state of the patient is assessed. The standard diagnostic examination of the patient’s physical condition assessment includes:
- General blood analysis
- Blood biochemical testing
- Urine test
- Tests for hepatitis B and C and for HIV infection
- An internist examination
The standard diagnostic examination for assessing the psychological condition involves psychodiagnostics. For this, psychological tests are used to determine the level of addiction and the consequences of the use of substances on mental health, and it is used to detect the signs of psychological disorders, the presence of depression, and the degree of motivation for healing. After having made the diagnosis, the team of doctors examines the findings and develops a treatment strategy and plan.
At the beginning of treatment, this is necessary to stabilize the mental state of the patient pharmacologically. Medications help to establish balance, eliminate nervousness, reduce tension, alleviate depression, etc. After the patient is brought into a state in which he adequately accepts, analyzes, and reacts to the environment, he moves to the next stage.
3. Treatment with medical devices
Neuro Jet therapy belongs to methods that influence the nerve cells in the brain responsible for the secretion of endorphins using special impulses. Neuro Jet is a small electronic device that regulates the production of dopamine and endorphins, and the stimulation itself is painless. The only sensations are tickling and vibrations, while the frequency and intensity of the impulse are computer-controlled. Transair therapy provides normalization of the functions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It is a neurophysiological method used to correct behavioral disorders and to eliminate the pathological desire for gambling.
We offer several types of psychotherapy:
- Individual psychotherapy – refers to the individual work of the therapist with the patient. The therapist teaches the patient how to endure stress and live with it, preserve his or her integrity, and establish and maintain normal relationships with other people. With the help of a therapist, the patient keeps a plan of daily activities that he or she adheres to during the outpatient phase of treatment.
- Educational psychotherapy – used to reveal the causes of the disorder and help patients break from illusions about the disorder. They are given an explanation of the physical, psychological, social, and professional consequences, as well as the rules of behavior while in withdrawal.
- Group psychotherapy – the therapist works with a group of patients to help them resolve internal conflicts, eliminate tension, and correct behavioral disorders. In this way, they realize that they are not alone and that their problems are solvable.
- Family psychotherapy – a significant method by which the therapist works with the patient’s family. It is an unwritten rule that family members are co-addicts. Family psychotherapy is a method of psychological counseling focused on solving problems in family relationships and resolving conflicts that exist among family members.
During this phase of treatment, special types of medications are used which bring patients into a slightly altered state of mind. While in this condition, the patient works together with a psychologist in order to overcome all of their existing mental blocks and strengthen the desire to continue with recovery. The medications serve the purpose of allowing patients to relax and release their existing inhibitions by focusing solely on creating new, healthy habits. When necessary, the Ibogaine treatment can be prescribed upon a doctor’s recommendation. This form of therapy helps patients overcome psychological difficulties and stay on the path to recovery.
6. Out-patient treatment
This phase follows after leaving the hospital and lasts up to 12 months; this period is the most dangerous in terms of relapse. It includes regular monthly follow-ups and ongoing support. It is important to stay in touch with doctors to get necessary advice or help.
Duration of the treatment
The treatment usually lasts for up to 14 days. During this period, our professional staff is available for patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our doctors are certified anesthesiologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists with 10 to 25 years of experience. Patients’ safety and security are our priorities, so the facility is under video surveillance, and we have a security guard on-site.
In case it is needed, we also provide transportation from the airport or station to the hospital and back. We help foreign patients receive a visa if they need it, and if they come with an accompanying person, they can also stay at the hospital.
Questions and answers
Is it possible to treat gambling addiction at home?
While it is possible to achieve moderate success with self-imposed treatments, in order to completely eliminate the desire for gambling, it is necessary for the person to undergo full treatment in a medical facility.
Is it necessary to treat addiction as soon as it occurs?
Due to the chronic nature of this disorder, when not treated, the damage that occurs in the brain only increases over time. That is why it is best to start the treatment immediately, as that gives patients the best chance to make a full recovery.
Why are people unable to stop gambling?
After a dependence towards gambling develops, the brain starts to crave the euphoria produced by this activity. In order to break free from this cycle, it is necessary to restore chemical balance in the brain, and that can only be done through the implementation of medical devices, pharmacotherapy, and psychotherapy.
How long does the anti-relapse support last?
Upon the completion of treatment, we offer a 12-month anti-relapse support plan which includes regular monthly checkups with our experts. They make sure that the recuperation process is running according to expectations.
What gambling addiction treatment methods do we use?
Our treatment includes diagnostic procedures where we assess the psychological state of our patients. Upon determining the patient’s current condition, we move on to the treatment phase, which includes pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, and treatment with medical devices, according to the doctor’s recommendations for a particular case.