February 24, 2024

Is online gambling harming you?

The world of online gambling, encompassing various websites and applications that provide access to casino games, sports betting paradigms as well as fantasy gaming options, has become a popular source of entertainment with an estimated revenue generation rate worth $9.5 billion annually which shows no signs of declining anytime soon. However for countless Americans who casually participate in such activities it can lead down the dangerous path towards grave disruptions stemming from problematic gambling habits causing extreme consequences on their personal lives.

Debi LaPlante, the director of Division on Addiction at Cambridge Health Alliance affiliated with Harvard states that like alcohol or other drugs, gambling can lead to addiction and cause harm.

Whom is being harmed?

The categorization of mental health disorders by the American Psychiatric Association has placed gambling disorder in the same section as substance-related and addictive problems such as alcohol use disorder and opioid use disorder.

It is estimated that approximately two million adults in the US have a severe gambling problem, which accounts for about 1% of all adults. Additionally, four to six million individuals (2-3%) are believed to experience a mild or moderate form of this issue.

What are the signs of a potential gambling addiction?

Have you experienced feelings of restlessness, irritability or anxiety while attempting to reduce or cease your gambling activities within the last year?

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Within the last year, did you make an effort to conceal your gambling expenses from family and friends?

In the previous year, did you experience financial difficulties as a result of gambling that resulted in seeking assistance from family members, friends or welfare to cover your living expenses?

LaPlante suggests that if you respond affirmatively to any of these inquiries, it is advisable for you to assess your gambling habits and its place in your life carefully. Additionally, she recommends seeking further evaluation.

Is there a way to differentiate between safe and detrimental gambling practices?

Gambling addiction tends to develop slowly, and people may not realize they have a problem until it has already become severe due to the unclear distinction between harmless and harmful gambling. The threshold for low-risk gambling is as follows:

Your gambling limits are set to a maximum of 1% of your total household income.

You only gamble a maximum of four days in a month.

You only gamble on a maximum of two game types.

What similarities does gambling disorder have with other types of addiction?

Other forms of addiction exhibit some common risk factors with gambling disorder.

The science of genetics.

Incorrect cognitive patterns

Disorders related to controlling impulses.

The accessibility within an individual’s locality.

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Lack of material wealth or resources.

Gambling addiction, like any other type of addiction, can cause disturbances in one’s work or personal relationships. Similarly, individuals suffering from gambling-related problems may experience similar withdrawal symptoms when attempting to reduce their behavior.

Is the brain impacted by online gambling?

At a neurobiological level, gambling games can have an impact on individuals. Various gaming options possess aspects that deceive the brain into believing failure is actually success. One such instance encompasses slot machines which trigger celebratory music, sounds, and lights for merely reclaiming $3 following a $5 wager.

LaPlante explains that our sympathetic nervous system reacts similarly to losses celebrated as wins and actual victories, according to research. Consequently, this is a potent motivator and only one illustration of how games impact the brain.

Where can you seek assistance for gambling addiction?

LaPlante notes that seeking assistance for gambling addiction can prove to be difficult as the number of healthcare professionals who specialize in its treatment is scarce, unlike other forms of addiction. Moreover, owing to social humiliation and disrepute associated with it, individuals are often hesitant or unwilling to admit their predicament concerning problem gambling.

Despite the gambling problem, assistance is readily available through resources such as Gamblers Anonymous, national and local crisis helplines – including 1-800-GAMBLER -, self-help literature like Your First Step to Change, and local public health departments that aim to connect individuals with necessary support.

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The effectiveness of addiction treatment cannot be precisely measured and results differ from individual to individual. However, certain therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing have exhibited potential in addressing gambling disorders.

CBT involves collaborating with a therapist in pinpointing erroneous thoughts and actions, such as the belief of being “deserving to triumph” following multiple defeats. The approach then delves into equipping individuals with methods for altering these detrimental thought patterns and responding effectively. In motivational interviewing, an individual engages in discussions with a counselor who aids them in enhancing their drive towards change by exploring any ambivalent sentiments they may have regarding it.

LaPlante emphasizes that it is imperative to address any underlying mental or physical health problems if a gambling addiction is symptomatically related.

How does one appear to have recovered from a gambling addiction?

There are varying opinions about the definition of recovery from a gambling addiction. Some individuals believe it involves abstaining entirely from gambling, while others view it as reducing their involvement in such activities.

According to LaPlante, the perfect treatment process should encompass strategies that hinder deviations from an individual’s self-set objectives.

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