Gambling Addiction – Can A Gambler Ever Stop?

Gambling Addiction

Most people who enjoy gambling gamble responsibly. This means not getting sucked into bottomless pits in which they spend more than they have, and never letting the thrill get in the way of their daily responsibilities. Deciding to partake can itself be a bit of a gamble. An estimated one to two percent of the global adult population become problem gamblers or pathological gamblers. In the United States alone, four to six million adults are estimated to be problem gamblers. Furthermore, a million or so suffer from full-on gambling addiction.

Can A Gambler Ever Stop? Gambling Addiction

Can anyone ever stop gambling once they’ve developed a gambling addiction? Is this a case of “once a gambler, always a gambler”?

How Do You Become a Gambling Addict?

Many factors can contribute to developing a gambling addiction including:

  • Desperation for money
  • Desire to experience thrills/adrenaline and highs
  • Longing for the social status that comes with being a successful gambler
  • Enjoyment in the entertaining atmosphere of the gambling atmosphere (casinos & sportsbooks)

Once gambling addiction takes hold and losses start to mount, someone that feels desperate financially may try to win back what they have lost. Although it is possible to recover some of the money that has been lost due to gambling, people will rarely recover all money that has been lost. In fact, most gamblers almost always fail to break even over the long haul. This gambling cycle can further steer a problem gambler into a gambling addiction and additional debt.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a gambling addiction

Since the 1980s, addiction has been considered a chronic medical condition — very much like asthma, diabetes, or arthritis. That means that addicts don’t choose to be addicted, and their addiction isn’t the result of a lack of willpower, but rather a powerful combination of genetics, environmental risk factors, and exposure to addictive substances or behaviors. Once an addict goes down that rabbit hole, it’s very hard to escape.

Do Compulsive Gamblers Ever Stop?

Substance abuse addictions (alcohol and drug addiction) and behavioral addictions like gambling share the same underlying mechanism. The mind of a gambler is essentially hijacked and they now depend on an increasingly bigger high to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

Compulsive gamblers who ride all the way into addiction territory will meet the diagnostic criteria for Gambling Disorder as laid out in the American Psychiatric Associations’ fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. For a year or more, they will:

  • Need to gamble ever-larger amounts of money to satisfy their urge to gamble.
  • Become restless, irritable, and anxious when they try to stop.
  • Have tried — but failed — to stop gambling or cut down.
  • Often think about gambling.
  • Gamble to remedy uncomfortable feelings like guilt or anxiety.
  • Feel compelled to gamble more to recover losses.
  • Lie to hide the true extent of their gambling addiction.
  • Suffer problems in their daily lives because of gambling — relationships, finances, and job responsibilities could all be affected.

It’s not unusual for a gambling addict’s loved ones to be aware of gambling behavior, for example, they like an online gambling bet or a slot machine game. However, they might be entirely in the dark about the extent of the problem. This is until drastic challenges like police involvement or the foreclosure of a home make it impossible to live in denial.

How To Stop Gambling Addiction

While some gambling addicts reach remission, the odds aren’t all that great.

Studies have investigated what percentage of gambling addicts reach remission, meaning they stop gambling and move on with their lives. This usually involves addicts who actively want to stop and know that compulsive gambling is ruining their lives.

Gambling Addiction Treatment Options

Overcoming gambling addiction – an impulse control disorder – will take hard work, often in the form of cognitive-behavioral therapy or in Gamblers’ Anonymous support groups. Interestingly enough, antidepressant therapy has also been found to be quite promising in helping gambling addicts stay in remission. Around 20 percent of gambling addicts work to recover on their own without the help of family members or an addiction specialist, and that can sometimes be successful. However, when intervention is needed for you, or your family and friends suffering from a gambling problem, Blue Sky Gambling Addiction Treatment in Omaha can help!

Gambling Addiction Help in Omaha

Since addiction is, at its heart, a powerful brain disease that forever alters the way in which a person processes reward, motivation, and even memory, it’s safe to say that there’s no cure. Rather, an addict can reach remission, in which the disease is dormant. In this case, that means the gambling addict won’t gamble, but not that they’re not at risk of relapsing. That’s why 12-step participants will announce that they are an addict, even if they’ve been clean or sober for a decade or more.

Long-term remission rates aren’t much more optimistic than 10 percent. Keep in mind that that’s for gamblers who really want to stop. The other 90 percent will relapse, and start gambling again, sooner or later, regardless of what treatment centers they went to, or treatment programs they participated in. This relapse rate is actually a bit higher than it is in most substance addictions.

Still — one in 10 makes it “out” and quits gambling forever, enjoying a full life on the other side of addiction. Most gamblers would probably take those odds.

Are you in need of gambling addiction counseling in Omaha? Contact Blue Sky Counseling Omaha, or the National Problem Gambling Helpline (National Council on Problem Gambling) today!

Blue Sky Counseling Omaha

I, Carly Spring, M.S., LIMHP, LADC, CPC, offer my specialized expertise to assist in the healing process to anyone who may be experiencing and suffering from a vast spectrum of mental health issues such as behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, grief, loss, trauma, addiction issues, and life transitions. I believe strongly in applying a holistic perspective addressing your whole person not just the bits and pieces of you. Contact us with any questions or to explore pathological gambling addiction treatment options today. Blue Sky Counseling also offers alcohol counseling in Omaha.