Gambling addiction is a very serious problem that many people in the U.S. are facing. Like any addiction, it affects the person who is gambling and also all of their loved ones around them. If you struggling to understand a loved one’s addiction-related behaviors or if you are a gambling addict and need more information, we hope to provide this below.

Gambling addiction has to do with poor impulse control and can be related to anything from excessively playing video games to spending too much time at a casino. While spending time at the casino may seem worse, any time spent obsessively with something can be detrimental to your well-being. 

We at the Discovery Institute want to provide you with education. Whether you struggle with a gambling addiction or know someone who does; we hope this will provide you with a comprehensive, and helpful guide to navigating addiction. However, the main goal is to get you into professional treatment. We truly believe that it is never too late to take back your life.

Dangers of a Gambling Addiction

While gambling addictions do not have the same detrimental effects on a person’s physical health, it still poses a large issue for a person’s well-being through mental illness, financial troubles, family issues, and even possibly getting into debt trouble.

Gambling addictions differ from substance-related addictions because they do not have a definite link to deteriorating physical health. However, a person’s well-being is not completely contingent on their physical health. In fact, a person’s mental state is a large contributor to their physical health. A gambling addiction can have extremely negative impacts on a person’s mental health.

The Effects of Excessive Gambling

When a person struggles with a gambling addiction, their mind is constantly focused on gambling. This constant focus is on something that is very stressful, which leads a person to constantly be stressed. On top of this, if the person loses money due to their gambling addiction they could have financial issues at home. This could lead to even more stress. Thus, it is not uncommon for a person struggling with a gambling addiction to develop anxiety. 

The obvious negative result of a gambling addiction is financial difficulties. To most people, it is clear that gambling, no matter how skilled, can potentially lead to financial troubles. However, to the person with a gambling addiction, this is not always the case. An individual who is struggling with a gambling addiction suffers from the detrimental effects of addiction on the brain. Addiction rewires their memory, pleasure, and motivation centers. Thus, the individual is always remembering the good times when they would win big, or even simply the rush of gambling. 

This is what is known as euphoric recall. It occurs when the addict recalls the good times associating those moments with their behaviors (gambling) rather than the negative effects of those behaviors. However, a helpful solution to euphoric recall is letting the tape play through. What happened after the high, when the rush ended? Usually, it ends in withdrawal, dissatisfaction, feelings of guilt, and problems with loved ones.

More About the Negative Impact of Gambling Addiction

Another possible difficulty with gambling is family troubles. If your loved one is suffering from a gambling addiction, then consider giving them an intervention. This is a great way to tell your loved one that they are loved and cared for. An intervention also gives you the opportunity to encourage your family member to get treatment.

When someone struggles with a gambling addiction it could possibly lead to financial difficulties (as previously discussed). This puts a ton of pressure on the family, especially if that person is the primary handler of money. Most addictions place financial hardship on the family, but gambling is directly related to spending. Along with this, the family can feel neglected since all the addict thinks about is gambling.

The final issue is debt. If a person gets into trouble with debt, they may find themselves unable to crawl out of that hole, could go to prison, or get into trouble with the debt-holders.

Mental Illness

Mental illness is also a very important aspect of a gambling addiction. As previously stated, there is a definite link between anxiety and gambling. However, when a person has a mental illness and a gambling addiction, they will develop what is known as a co-occurring disorder. This is when a person has multiple mental or behavioral health disorders. This might include addiction and a mental health disorder such as depression.

When a person suffers from co-occurring disorders, it is not as helpful to treat the disorders separately. This is partially due to the fact that the individual’s co-occurring disorders influence each other. Many professionals are now leaning on holistic treatment, which emphasizes treating the whole person.

At the Discovery Institute, we offer dual diagnosis treatment for those who are suffering from co-occurring disorders. One cannot separate mental illness from addiction. It is extremely important to bring these issues to light because both are heavily stigmatized. Breaking the silence on addiction, mental illness, and dual diagnosis is an important way to improve recovery in the nation.

Help for Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction can cause pain to the person gambling and cost them important things like their car, their home, and their family because of the excessive money spent on gambling. It is tough for a person to stop once they have felt the rush of gambling. For this reason, it is important for a person to seek professional help to break harmful habits.

While professional treatment is important for someone struggling with a gambling addiction, there are plenty of applicable activities to engage in daily, that would help a person who is struggling. These can be developing a hobby, engaging in vulnerability with groups, and seeking holistic care.

Finding a hobby may seem mundane, but it is especially important for a gambling addiction. Gambling produces a rush that the person will always be chasing. So, it is important to find enjoyment in other activities aside from gambling. This can be through things like exercise, as this can be an incredible proven way to produce endorphins (the brain’s feel-good chemical). Alongside this, if someone were to develop a hobby like jogging, hiking, or anything else in nature, this is yet another proven way to make a person feel good. Other hobbies can be drawing, singing, or writing. Some of these activities are done in groups, which is another very helpful way to combat addiction.

The Importance of Being Vulnerable

Vulnerability is extremely difficult for addicts. Many who struggle with an addiction tragically were abused or suffered some form of trauma early on. This leads them to distrust others, even when another person’s actions are out of kindness. The addict is always wondering what a person’s angle is, or what they want from them. An important realization is that some people simply want to help.

Being vulnerable is very important to growth. After all, individuals should not attempt to recover from addiction. Finding a group to grow with, provide accountability, and find common experience. Also, it’s helpful to note many are now referring to addiction as a family disease. This means that it is so misunderstood, it can cause family members to develop their own disorders and problematic coping mechanisms. The worst-case scenario is the family members develop an addiction themselves as a result. This is why many see family therapy as something that can be extremely beneficial to those in the addiction world. It helps family members to understand a gambling addiction much better, as well as helping the addict to be vulnerable with what is going on in their lives.

Finally, consider holistic care. This is a therapeutic approach to addiction treatment. It involves many remedies like meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and other things like reiki or acupuncture. Holistic care is interesting because some of the alternative methods have no scientifically proven benefits (reiki and acupuncture), yet they are almost universally vouched for as helping to improve a person’s well-being. Meditation, yoga, and mindfulness-on the other hand-are proven practices that help a person. They help people not only recover from addiction but also simply help to grow in life. The core of holistic care is providing care for the whole person, mind, body, and soul. 

Contact Us

We at the Discovery Institute want you to know it is not too late. No matter how far in the hole you are, there is always a way out. We want you to know the best way to get help is to have professional treatment. If you are wondering whether insurance covers your treatment, we have a helpful insurance guide. On top of this, recovery is a long journey that goes one step at a time. The first step is simply reaching out. You don’t have to wait any longer; please get help by contacting us today.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.