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Gambling Addiction: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Gambling Addiction Chattanooga, TN
Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohsin Ali, MD

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohsin Ali, MD

Dr. Mohsin Ali MD is board certified in Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Trained in Syracuse NY, he has worked in Tennessee for the last sixteen years.

Table of Contents

Gambling addiction significantly impacts health, finances, and relationships. With gambling opportunities now widespread beyond casinos, into online and mobile platforms, the challenge of escaping the grip of compulsive betting grows. However, there are viable paths to recovery. This guide explores methods to tackle gambling addiction and offers support options for individuals or their loved ones seeking a way out.

What is a Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction, also known as pathological gambling, occurs when someone cannot resist the urge to gamble, despite facing negative consequences or a strong desire to stop. It often results in placing increasingly larger bets to recapture lost excitement or to recover from financial losses. This condition impacts around two million people in the U.S., with an additional 20 million experiencing significant interference in their work and personal lives due to their gambling behavior. The addictive nature of gambling is linked to its stimulation of the brain’s reward system, similar to that of drug or alcohol addiction, making it the most common form of impulse control disorder worldwide.

Several factors can lead to a gambling addiction, including the thrill of risk-taking, the allure of the potential financial rewards, and the enticing atmosphere of gambling establishments. Initially considered a compulsive behavior fueled by an individual’s search for adrenaline, recent studies have drawn parallels between gambling addiction and substance dependence. This shift in understanding prompted the American Psychiatric Association to officially categorize gambling as an addictive disorder in the DSM-5, released in 2013.

Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

circumstances like job pressures, relationship conflicts, or financial difficulties. People with tendencies toward compulsive behavior are particularly at risk.

Compulsive gambling is often driven by emotional needs, such as the desire to escape social isolation, experience the rush of adrenaline and dopamine, dull painful emotions or unresolved conflicts, alleviate boredom, or relax after stressful situations.

Noticeable symptoms of a gambling addiction include:

  • A persistent urge to gamble, despite knowing the negative impacts
  • Problems at work, including frequent absences, diminished productivity, or trouble concentrating
  • A fixation on gambling, leading to the neglect of hobbies or responsibilities
  • Increasing the stakes of bets to recoup losses or to feel a thrill
  • Harmful effects on personal relationships due to gambling activities
  • Concealing the true extent of gambling from family
  • Stealing money to support gambling habits
  • Denying the severity of the gambling issue

Physical symptoms might also surface, reflecting anxiety, irritability, headaches, gastrointestinal distress, and other symptoms related to stress.

Signs of Gambling Addiction

Signs of Gambling Addiction

Recognizing the signs of a gambling addiction is crucial, even if they might not always be obvious.

Here are several key signs of gambling addiction:

  • A deep fixation on gambling, including spending a lot of time thinking about past gambling successes and planning for future gambling endeavors.
  • Taking increasingly greater risks with gambling.
  • Utilizing gambling as a means to escape from stress or personal troubles.
  • Hiding the true magnitude of the gambling habit through deceit.
  • Sacrificing or risking important relationships, employment, or academic and professional opportunities because of gambling activities.
  • Possibly engaging in unlawful acts, such as theft, to finance gambling.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, including depression, restlessness, cravings, anxiety, and irritability, when attempting to cut back or quit gambling.
  • Being in denial about the gravity of the gambling issue.

It’s important for the loved ones of those exhibiting these behaviors to remain alert and supportive, as recognizing and admitting to a gambling problem is often difficult for those affected.

Effects Of Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction can have devastating effects, both financially and personally, on individuals and their families. Those caught in the grip of this addiction often face overwhelming debt, sometimes amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, as they chase losses or seek the elusive big win. This addiction frequently leads to significant professional setbacks, including job loss due to neglecting responsibilities or decreased performance.

Moreover, the addiction can drive some to engage in illegal activities such as theft or fraud, pushing them into legal troubles and financial ruin. The ripple effects extend to the family, causing stress and often leading to relationship breakdowns and a turbulent home environment for children.

On a physical level, the constant stress of gambling addiction can lead to serious health issues like ulcers, stomach problems, headaches, and sleep disturbances. Additionally, it’s common for gambling addiction to be intertwined with substance abuse, worsening the overall impact on health and complicating the path to recovery.

Risk Factors for Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction arises from a web of factors including genetic, environmental, psychological, and societal influences, making it a complex issue that can impact anyone.

  • Age: This disorder can emerge at any stage of life, but it’s often initiated in young adulthood or later years.
  • Gender: Although men are slightly more inclined to develop gambling addiction, it escalates quicker and is recognized earlier in women.
  • Family History: A genetic link has been noted, with those having family members who gamble compulsively at a higher risk.
  • Personality Characteristics: Individuals who are impulsive, seek excitement, are competitive, or easily bored may be more susceptible to gambling addiction.
  • Mental Health: A significant majority of people with gambling addiction also struggle with other psychiatric conditions, including mood disorders, anxiety, substance use, and personality disorders. Alcohol use disorder is particularly prevalent among those with gambling problems.
  • Military Veterans: Veterans have a higher incidence of gambling addiction, often compounded by co-occurring mental health challenges such as PTSD, substance misuse, and suicidal thoughts.

Understanding these risk factors is crucial in identifying and addressing gambling addiction early.

Substance Abuse and Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction frequently coexists with substance abuse, creating a complex web of challenges. In settings like casinos, free alcoholic beverages are often provided, reducing patrons’ inhibitions and promoting higher spending. Substance use becomes intertwined with gambling for various reasons: to celebrate victories, to numb the distress of defeat, or to escape the guilt and shame associated with gambling habits. Additionally, the same neurochemical factors that make individuals susceptible to gambling addiction may also predispose them to substance abuse, indicating a link between compulsive gambling and other forms of addiction, such as drug use and alcoholism. Mental health conditions, including personality disorders, anxiety, and depression, are prevalent among those battling gambling addiction.

A notable study in the American Journal of Psychiatry involving 69 compulsive gamblers revealed that:

  • 62% experienced a concurrent psychiatric disorder.
  • 42% met the criteria for a personality disorder.
  • 33% struggled with alcohol abuse or dependence.

Individuals with dual diagnoses suffer more intensely from their gambling issues, further complicated by simultaneous mental health or substance use disorders. The combination of gambling and substance abuse exacerbates the adverse effects of addiction, impairing judgment, increasing risk-taking behaviors, and leading to serious health concerns like heart disease, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and a heightened risk of heart attack or stroke. Without timely intervention, the dual challenge of substance abuse and gambling addiction can lead to devastating health consequences.

Gambling Addiction Treatment Chattanooga, TN

Treatment for Gambling Addiction in Chattanooga, TN

Seeking assistance for gambling addiction in Chattanooga, TN, is a critical step toward recovery, and it’s a journey that doesn’t have to be taken alone. At Iris Wellness Group, we provide a supportive and effective framework to address the challenges of gambling addiction with a range of treatments tailored to your needs:

  • Therapy Sessions: We utilize proven methods such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to help reshape your thoughts and reactions to gambling triggers. These therapies aim to equip you with strategies to manage urges and rebuild healthier habits.
  • Medication Management: For individuals dealing with co-occurring conditions like depression, our qualified mental health professionals may prescribe appropriate medications to help manage these symptoms, supporting a more focused recovery process.
  • Support Groups: Joining a community of individuals who understand exactly what you’re going through can be immensely beneficial. Our support groups provide a space for sharing struggles and successes, offering and receiving encouragement throughout the recovery journey.

Iris Wellness Group is dedicated to guiding you through the complexity of gambling addiction in Chattanooga, TN. Our outpatient treatment options are designed to integrate seamlessly into your life, allowing you to continue with your daily routines while accessing the support you need. With flexible scheduling for therapy and support group meetings, we’re here to support your path to a gambling-free life. Reach out to us at 423-460-9766 to start your journey toward recovery.

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