An Overlooked Addiction
Your gambling routine might be fun and engaging – a harmless way to fill the time and even an appropriate outlet for stress relief. The problem creep in when the games interfere with your ability to self-regulate. Suddenly what began as an amusing pastime unexpectedly teeters out of control.
If you begin to notice moments when your downtime is continually interrupted by an urge to return to the slots, if the blackjack table beckons you in your sleep, or if online poker games occupy your cell phone round the clock – perhaps its time for a healthy self-audit.
For many people, casino playtime can gradually overtake their lives – to the detriment of their relationships, finances, other pursuits. Let’s take a look at when and how to identify, evaluate, and treat a potential gambling addiction.
How do I identify a problem? Is there a way to know when too much is too much?
Gambling compulsions clearly exist in varying degrees. They range from a slightly excessive habit, to a full-blown addiction.
For an informal diagnosis, simply monitor yourself. Do you sit down to your favorite game and find that you inexplicably lose hours and dollars you never intended to spend? Does separation from the game cause a kind of physical withdrawal you can sense when you’re away from it? More directly, has someone in your life indicated that you seem to be focusing an undue amount of time in either a virtual or real-life casino? Online casino addiction is one of the most prevalent forms this issue can take.
Take a look at your patterns and, most importantly, your current capacity to set and stick to limits. Your ability to stop playing once you’ve reached a pre-determined time or dollar amount is typically a strong indication of whether you may need to address your game play. Once you’ve confronted your habits directly, you can start taking action to self-correct.
I have plenty of money and can afford to lose it. So what’s the problem?
A severe gambling addiction amounts to more than just ongoing financial strain. It impedes relationships and exacerbates the levels of stress and anxiety you may already cope with on a daily basis — particularly in the case of an online casino addiction which you carry around in your pocket. Don’t let your liquidity be a reason not to take note of detrimental behavioral patterns and treat them as needed.
Okay, so I admit I have a problem. Am I just a weak-willed person? What exactly makes me want to play so much?
Well-documented brain studies have proven the neurological link between brains chemistry and the impulse to gamble. The distinct dopamine spike gambling elicits can create a craving to fulfill itself again and again. The repetitive action overtime will form and forge a resilient habit loop trigger that centers on the need for this ongoing dopamine hit. It’s a pavlovian response, immediate and automated, regardless of one’s natural ability to indulge or resist. The good news is, once you’ve observed this mechanism, you’re better equipped to deal with its interplay.
Rather than thinking of yourself as some kind of out-of-control junkie, consider how your hormones are serving up a natural biological response to the pattern you place them under. From that perspective, the issue is less about your own particular predisposition and more about how you can use your awareness to recalibrate. Take the guilt factor out. Just look at these as cravings and stimulants that your actions can influence. You’re capable of rewiring your brain toward the exact behavioral output you intend.
So if it’s all just about monitoring and managing brain chemistry, why do I find it so difficult?
In reality, the brain chemistry may have its roots in a more complicated psychological framework. Like other addictions, a gambling disorder is often the symptom of a separate but related underlying condition which needs to be exposed and addressed. Commonly, people with an untamed impulse for chromic gambling also deal with acute substance abuse issues, clinical ADHD, high levels of stress, a history of depression or anxiety, and even bipolar disorder.
The gambling issue might be the tip of a vaster ice berg and, once you’ve scratched the surface, you now have to do the work of digging to the foundation.
Therapy is often a great resource to identify and work through a range of behavioral issues that may be preventing you from living as your most optimized self — including the gambling urge.
If my gambling is a symptom of another issue, does that mean I have to stop. Is there a way to strike a balance?
At the end of the day, only you can determine how much gambling is too much. Certainly for some individuals, the games may be an innocent hobby that is simply beginning to take up too much time and needs to be dialed back. If this is the case, try restricting yourself to one or two hours, and once you’ve hit that time limit, cap it off and call it day.
For other people however, the gambling time has become so compulsive, prolonged, and ingrained that it actually make more sense to quit cold turkey and replace the habit with other activities and pursuits. This is especially true of an online casino addiction.
I recognize that I’m someone for whom this is a more serious problem. How else can I get help?
The need for support is real. Look into casino rehab. Today we have an abundance or resources to help you overcome a gambling addiction, and these include a variety of gambling rehabilitation centers.
Many people don’t realize the existence of an actual gambling addiction hotline at 1-800-GAMBLER. The staff behind the phone lines are trained and vetted professionals, many of them with personal experience working through addictions of their own. Their backgrounds make them uniquely qualified to help you deal with your particular challenges. They are on hand to provide guidance and walk you through the steps you may need to limit or replace some of the behavioral triggers you’re in the process of combating.
Additionally, look into architecture for humanity for gambling addiction help or
architecture for humanity for casino addiction help. The architecture for humanity is an organization that offers both casino addiction help and gambling addiction help.
What are some ways I can work on this after I’ve received treatment, or independent of outside help?
Take up a sport or new hobby. This could be an independent outdoor sport, or something like your local soccer league. It may seem like a cliche recommendation, but think about it: what better way to replace the rush of adrenaline you used to get from gambling?
If you’ve recognized that shyness or social anxiety are part of the underlying issues that drive your gambling habit, consider taking a public speaking class or finding ways to volunteer and connect with people in your community. Reducing your own isolation will automatically help you feel more at ease around people, and less anxious in the same social situations you used to find stressful. Casino rehab may be a great first step.
You could also consider heightening the interests you already possess. Art, books, sports, or movies are all worthwhile passions other people share which you could find more time to invest in.
I’ve replaced many of my former habits and changed the way I spend my time. Now what do I do if I still encountering these cravings in my daily life?
At a certain point, the familiar craving to gamble is bound to crop up — often unexpectedly when you are least on guard. Keep in mind that the feeling is completely normal, and this is your chance to reinforce then healthier habits you’ve been working to build. Use the techniques you may have learned through the gambling rehabilitation center.
When the craving strikes, it’s imperative that you steer clear of isolation. Reach out to a friend or family member or, if feasible, get yourself to a gamblers anonymous meeting.
One useful strategy is to simply procrastinate the gambling. If you can stave off the craving for a few minutes, or up to an hour, it likely won’t return and will become a less frequent occurrence in the future.
Always remember you have a wide variety of activities you can choose from to distract yourself from the craving and strengthen your resolve. Movies, theater, the gym, reading, meeting a friend, relaxation exercises — find the most suitable replacement and go at that alternative full tilt.
The day-to-day changes DO seem to get easier over time.
You can beat your casino and gambling addiction just like many hundreds before you. Find a gambling rehabilitation center. You’re not alone in the challenge and you will find yourself embracing many remarkable dividends: self-control, saved money, greater psychological insight, and the confidence that comes from the ability to improve yourself and your life.