When we think of addiction, we usually think of illicit substances like cocaine, heroin or prescription medications like benzodiazepines and opiates. However, another form of addiction can be just as devastating to a person’s life – gambling addiction. It is also known as pathological gambling or ‘problem gambling”. According to the North American Foundation for Gambling Help, pathological gambling impacts almost 10 million Americans.

Gambling addiction is a behavioral or ‘process’ addiction. Other examples include eating disorders, sex addiction, and even shopping addiction. It is characterized by a compulsive need to gamble and continuing to do so despite clear negative and destructive consequences. A report in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry emphasized that behavioral addictions warrant serious consideration regarding appropriate treatment.

Gambling addiction can take over a person’s life and disrupt their work, education, and relationships. It can also lead to serious financial difficulty. Problem gamblers may be fully aware of the financial risk they put themselves in when they continue to gamble. Still, the power of addiction is strong and can override logical, rational thinking.

Studies conducted by the North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help point out the risk of developing a gambling addiction is significantly higher when a person also struggles with alcohol or substance misuse. At Excel, our recovery experts are trained in treating co-occurring disorders such as gambling addiction and alcoholism. This means that we can more effectively prevent the chance of relapse for both conditions than would be possible if only one condition were treated.

man losing at poker drinking alcohol

Help for Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction can be devastating to individuals and their families. Fortunately, recovery is possible. Focused and comprehensive treatment for gambling addiction is available at Excel Center. We treat a broad range of addictions, from substance use disorder to behavioral addictions to co-occurring disorders.

If you or a loved one are struggling with problem gambling, please reach out to us for help. Our fully customized treatment and recovery programs can help you or your loved one identify and address problematic gambling. We work with our clients and their families to create the most appropriate treatment program to support your recovery needs

What Is Gambling Addiction?

As previously mentioned, gambling is a behavioral addiction. Behavioral addictions often start as a result of past experiences and unresolved traumas. When gambling addiction occurs, the affected individual will prioritize gambling over other important areas of life, such as school, work, relationships, and even maintenance of their general health.

Gambling addiction grows in strength by continued gambling. The experience of placing a bet and winning acts on the brain’s reward system, namely its dopamine center. Dopamine is a brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, responsible for the positive feeling we get when we anticipate pleasure. It is connected to our motivation and desire to take action. When we place a bet and win, the brain’s reward center lights up.

While some people can gamble and stop without any problems, others are more prone to developing an addiction. So, when the brain’s rewards center is activated, it motivates us to continue gambling. Those who are more prone to addiction may enter a downward spiral of gambling-related behavior and feel unable to stop.

Recovery from gambling addiction requires professional treatment. Addiction is a progressive condition, so if treatment is not sought, the condition will get worse. Problematic gamblers who do not receive treatment can be subject to significant loss and even psychological damage.

Effects of Gambling Addiction

Gambling exerts a strong influence over our psychology, especially in those prone to addiction. When a person becomes addicted to gambling, they feel an intense adrenaline rush when they place a bet. This rush is amplified with higher stakes. It can be so powerful that they will jeopardize their savings and personal possessions just to increase the stakes and feel that rush.

Other effects of gambling addiction include:

  • Anxiety
  • Neglecting other areas of life
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Health conditions related to stress

Signs of Gambling Addiction

Gambling exerts a strong influence over our psychology, especially in those prone to addiction. When a person becomes addicted to gambling, they feel an intense adrenaline rush when they place a bet. This rush is amplified with higher stakes. It can be so powerful that they will jeopardize their savings and personal possessions just to increase the stakes and feel that rush.

Other effects of gambling addiction include:

  • Constantly thinking or talking about gambling, bets lost and won
  • Unsuccessful attempts at quitting
  • Gambling during times of stress
  • Gambling to influence mood
  • Increasing the stakes for an extra adrenaline rush
  • Denial about the frequency of gambling
  • Job, relationship, or asset loss due to gambling addiction
  • Increased anxiety when unable to gamble
  • Borrowing or stealing money to gamble or pay a gambling-related debt

If you notice any of the above signs in yourself or someone you love, please reach out to Excel for help. We are equipped with a team of specialists who can support you or your loved one through recovery, and prevent further progression of gambling addiction and its adverse health effects.

Gambling Withdrawal Symptoms

People struggling with a gambling addiction can experience withdrawal symptoms when they cannot gamble or when they attempt to quit.

According to the American Journal on Addictions, common symptoms of gambling withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Increased irritability and agitation
  • Hopelessness and despair
  • Panic
  • Shortness of breath
  • Digestive problems
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Intense cravings

Withdrawal symptoms are one of the biggest obstacles to recovery. They can cause such deep discomfort that a person may entirely forego their commitment to recovery just to alleviate the symptoms.

At Excel Treatment Center, we help clients manage their withdrawal symptoms by providing anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants when necessary. We also teach clients how to effectively cope with any urges and difficult emotions healthily so that they no longer need to gamble for relief.

How Is Gambling Addiction Treated?

Psychotherapy is an essential element of treatment for any behavioral addiction. The origins of addiction often lie in our past, more specifically, in our early childhood or our past unresolved traumas. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help clients explore the thoughts, feelings, and emotions driving their addictive behavior. In therapy, clients also learn practical coping skills to use when difficult emotions or situations push them to gamble.

Support groups are also an important part of a gambling addiction recovery program. 12-Step programs such as Gamblers Anonymous share the same principles as 12-Step substance addiction support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. When gambling addiction consumes a person, they are likely to feel alienated from others and suffer from loneliness and isolation. SAMHSA reports that group therapy and support networks can alleviate these feelings and show the affected person that compassionate support is available.

Outpatient Rehabilitation for Gambling Addiction

At Excel, we offer outpatient treatment programs to our clients. With outpatient treatment, you can continue to meet any commitments in other areas of life, unlike inpatient or residential treatment. Still, you may need residential care, depending on the severity of your addiction. If so, we can arrange for an appointment with a more appropriate treatment center should this be necessary.

Why Choose EXCEL TREATMENT CENTER?

At Excel, we use the latest, evidence-based treatment approaches to help you or your loved one overcome gambling addiction.

We can offer:

  • Comprehensive mental health screening and assessment, led by addiction recovery experts
  • Fully customized outpatient treatment programs to suit your specific recovery needs
  • Individual, group, family, and holistic therapies for comprehensive support
  • Fully supported sober support and aftercare

Addiction is characterized by a loss of control over one’s behavior. At Excel, we focus on helping clients regain control over their lives and returning to a life of happiness and fulfillment. Please contact us today to arrange an appointment with one of our addiction recovery experts.

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