Addicted to gambling…
I always wondered why that delicate moment caused such a storm of spontaneous emotions every time it’s mentioned! Why makes us blush for a second or falling into a sudden fit of rage? Do we feel powerless when facing the word “addicted” or it’s just anger to ourselves and even to the whole world? Where exactly goes the thin line between vice and entertainment? Who and what determines this line? Have I crossed it already? Am I addicted to gambling?
So many difficult and complex issues with even more difficult and delicate answers! The human psyche is a vast ocean of thoughts, feelings, decisions and emotions, and no matter how strange and inexplicable it seems to us sometimes, in the end, it all comes down to a very simple and pragmatic moments and events of our lives! And since the problem gambling or addiction to gambling if we have to be more precise, is explained mainly by the presence of certain psychological problems, I will try to define those simple events that led to this negative development. And what is most important, I will speak and share from my own point of view! The point of view of someone, who has struggled and managed to overcome this sort of problem!
In my opinion he most important, but the most difficult part of identifying the problem, called "gambling addiction" is related to the lack of explicit understanding, understatement or even complete denial of the facts of life, and several truths about the world of online gambling! Without being fully aware of them and without being realized in a sufficiently large extent, each of us – the ordinary gamblers, is threatened to face the problem of addiction sooner or later. Unfortunately, I believe that a little is said about that kind of problems, quite often they are described with just generalities without anyone trying to call things with their real names. Well, thanks to the opportunity given to me by AskGamblers.com, I would afford myself to share with you all the real facts, no matter how unpleasant and even ugly they might be!
I sincerely beg you to remove the mask of a cool and unruffled by anyone and anything man, and to read the following lines and pages with a completely open soul! It is of great importance to try to understand and feel the things with your heart - honestly and frankly!
The first truth – It is vital to understand that gambling is not only an entertainment or a thrill, or joyful emotion or even a sudden rush of adrenaline! The problem gambling could be completely devastating! It could have smashing consequences for you, your family, your career, your friends... It could destroy you mentally, morally and unfortunately, sometimes even physically! Yes, I know it sounds very scary, but believe me, the examples are all around us, even within us. For me, gambling could be compared with one of those huge Bengal tigers in The Circus - it is unbelievable to see how this mighty, deadly beast obey your commands and it’s a fun, but somewhere deep inside us, something tells us that anything might go damn wrong in just a hundredth of a second! Gambling is a game, but this game is played with money! And when money is involved, I'm afraid that none of us can afford to underestimate the situation. Our own demons could be easily and imperceptibly released out of control and then we will wonder how to fix it, if not too late already! So do not ever afford yourself thinking that gambling is just a game, you know, a way to have some fun... Do not be naive and always try to consider your possibilities and psychical strength very well, otherwise you risk to fall into the trap of dependency, the escape from which is difficult, long and painful, not to mention that it is often impossible! A self-deception, as well as the incomplete understanding of what you're doing, will definitely bring you a lot more trouble than good, so look soberly and objectively upon your gambling habits!
The second truth - Addiction could come very fast, in most cases, even imperceptibly, and while you realize what is going on it's often too late already! The damage is done, you Lost a lot of money, the desire for revenge and regain of these losses is compelling and here you are - already at the spiral of addiction. You gamble more, spend more, can’t even wait to regain losses, to return to the winning way, so you bet again, lose again... And this way leads only down and down, until one day realize you are at the bottom! Without money, because you blew your last savings! Without family, because all of them were awfully tired of listening to your constant lies and excuses! Without friends, because you have betrayed their trust too many times! Without a job, because your employer is tired of being haunted by banks and lenders you owe money!
The third truth - The worst in all types of addiction is that those who suffer from them are completely denying to the last possible moment! And when that time comes, however, unfortunately it is often too late, irreparable damage is already done - on the addict himself, on his family, his relatives, his social status, career! His whole life is in danger - psychologically, morally, mentally, in some cases even physically!
The most difficult moment in the life of an addict, no matter whether we talk about addiction to alcohol, *****, gambling or drugs, is to stand face to face with the ugly truth and be honest with himself! No matter how long we run, no matter how deep we try to hide, no matter what we try to do, sooner or later the moment of truth will come, when a man should just stop for a sec and ask himself the simple question – “Am I addicted?”. So much depends on the answer that it is often with dramatic consequences for both our life and for the closest around us!
Well, now as you know how dangerous gambling can be for you and your loved ones, it is time to answer the question, "What about me? What if I’m already addicted?”. The answer is quite complex sometimes, because it may contains many small and not so seemingly important details, which actually could be of significant importance in determining the degree of dependence!
How do I know if I'm addicted?
According to the latest classification of the American Psychiatric Association, to designate a person as a gaming addict, it must meet at least four of the following criteria:
- The subject has frequent thoughts about gambling experiences, whether past, future, or fantasy.
- As with drug tolerance, the subject requires larger or more frequent wagers to experience the same "rush".
- Restlessness or irritability associated with attempts to cease or reduce gambling.
- The subject gambles to improve mood or escape problems.
- The subject tries to win back gambling losses with more gambling.
- The subject tries to hide the extent of his or her gambling by lying to family, friends, or therapists.
- The person has unsuccessfully attempted to reduce gambling.
- The person has broken the law in order to obtain gambling money or recover gambling losses. This may include acts of theft, embezzlement, fraud, or forgery.
- The person gambles despite risking or losing a relationship, job, or other significant opportunity.
- The person turns to family, friends, or another third party for financial assistance as a result of gambling.
If you apply to one or two of these signs, than you are considered as “risk” gambler, if apply to 3 or 4, than you are a “problem” gambler and if apply to 5 or more – a “pathological” gambler. But no matter how many criteria you apply to, even if it’s only one better take immediate measures!
How the gambling addiction is treated?
Although it is relatively difficult, the problem gambling is a treatable disease. There are different types of psychotherapeutic treatment - psychodynamic therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, support groups, family therapy when necessary. For many people, a combination of approaches is most effective.
- Psychodynamic therapy - this therapy is very useful for people who want to escape from problems or are depressed and oppressed. It works with everything a man could possibly hide even from himself - unconscious psychological problems, conflicts that lead to the activation of problem gambling behavior.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy is helpful in learning to recognize those of your beliefs and distorted thinking associated with money and your superstitions of a control over the result of the so called "games of fortune". It can help you in building and practicing ways to relax and avoid stimuli associated with gambling.
- Family therapy can work with your relationships in the family, which to facilitate and maintain your problem. The aim is to understand the roles of other members in supporting problem using strategies that "do not work" for anyone, such as concealing problem, controlling your behavior, payment of debts, allying with you in gaming, making compromises on behalf of your family.
- Support groups – Gamblers Anonymous are based on 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. The meaning of these groups is to become aware of the seriousness of this problem and the desire of efforts to stop gambling. To allow you in these groups, you need to have a desire to go there in the first place and to do it regularly. The aim is to realize what kind of damage in your life has caused gambling and find a "sponsor" (usually a person of the same *****, but not required) to help you in this kind of program. The group Gamblers Anonymous expect from people, who stop their problem behavior associated with betting, to know that from now on they won’t be able to play socially acceptable and just for fun, just as the Alcoholics Anonymous can not drink socially acceptable within the standard use of alcohol.
Important! - Very often, people who are addicted to gambling, have other addictions as well - of psychoactive substances or alcohol. Some gambling addicts might have supporting psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and even suicide attempts. If you also feel or think this way – please, talk to a psychiatrist as soon as possible, most likely you need from a medical therapy.
How can I prevent myself from problem gambling?
Prevention of this dependence is much more difficult because it is not possible to predict when a person will develop the disorder, practicing some sort of gambling. But if you start to feel that there are problems associated with this behavior, you should immediately seek for assistance from a professional (psychologist, psychiatrist) or a specialized program. This can be a preventive measure to the development of a more serious condition that can affect many areas of a gambler’s life, and to protect you from legal troubles and serious financial losses.
Very often people who have gambling problems are using gambling as an opportunity to escape from other problems in their lives, such as loneliness, boredom, anxiety, home troubles, troubles at work… It is crucial to understand the exact role, which gambling is playing in your life in order to beat the problem. But no matter what type of advices and measures you will find over the Internet to cope with problem gambling, in my opinion there is only one way – to stop gambling at all! Or at least for a period, during which you will gather strength and confidence to put all kind of issues, concerning playing in casinos into a full control. There is no shortcut, you have to fight and it will definitely be a pain, but it’s worth. Here follows some steps, which I have gathered across some of the biggest online portals, dedicated to struggle with problem gambling, most of which worked for me and my friends perfectly over the years.
- Be honest with your family and share the whole truth. You will be surprised how relieve a man could feel, once the awful burden of hiding your problems is released! Ask them for a help, make them understand the problem, because no one else could provide you with a better support than your own people!
- Make it impossible to reach your money for a certain period of time - let’s say at least a month or two. Ask someone of your closest people to take care of your financial matters and not to let you touch them in any circumstances.
- Self-exclude from any casinos you are a member of. It is not necessary to ask for a permanent exclusion at all costs, but rather choose some cooling period of 3 or 6 months. If that time is not enough to overwhelm your gambling problems, I’m afraid you will never manage to do it, so better look for a permanent decision of that matter.
- Start your own calendar and mark each day you don’t gamble. At this way you will have a constant visual proof in front of your eyes that you are doing great.
- Reward yourself after a period free of gambling and spend some of the money you saved for yourself. Buy something you wanted to have from a long time, this will make you feel much better and give your additional strength to finish the battle with the temptation.
- Try to be surrounded always by lots of people, especially with your family members. Nothing could be as refreshing as the good old family habits.
- Return to your favorite hobbies, before the gambling period. If any of these hobbies involves other people, try to choose people, who are not gamblers.
- Be positive and with each goal you achieve and your confidence and self-esteem will grow.
- If you were a long time gambler don’t expect your life will change immediately – it will take months, sometimes even years, but if you succeed, it’s definitely worth the struggle.
- And always remember - YOU CAN OVERCOME THE GAMBLING ADDICTION! It’s all a matter of explicit self discipline and a great will along with a helping hand from a friend! YOU CAN DO IT!