How to Find Help for a Gambling Problem?

Here at Viabonus we are huge fans of online gambling and do our best to provide users with safe choices for online casinos. However, we also put a large emphasis on responsible gaming.

In this article we provide an in-depth look into gambling problems, how to be aware of addiction, and how to get help should you need it.

What is Gambling Problem?

Like many addictions, it can be hard to determine when your gambling habit is actually a problem. While there are some obvious signs, most of the initial symptoms of addiction present themselves gradually.

First, let’s look at what an addiction is.

Similar to drugs and alcohol, gambling can stimulate the brain’s reward systems, leading to the release of dopamine. This dopamine-driven feedback loop has been studied at length by neuroscientists and has shown to be an integral part of the brain’s addictive patterns.

Dopamine and Gambling

In 1954 neuroscientists James Olds and Peter Milner conducted an experiment that disabled the dopamine receptors in the brains of rats. They found that without the dopamine-driven feedback loop, the rats often lost the will to live altogether. When they introduced pleasurable substances such as sugar to the animals, the animals would enjoy the substance, yet still not “crave” the next batch.

This research, among many other similar studies, points to the fact that dopamine is just as important in the anticipation of the habitual act as the act itself. Some studies have shown that the anticipation of the reward is even more powerful than the reward itself.

Gambling is all about anticipation. Dopamine levels in gamblers have been shown to spike before placing a bet. These spikes are often higher than if they end up winning the pot.

Compulsive gambling, or gambling disorder, is characterized by players taking irrational and illogical risks in pursuit of a big reward.

Similar to many addictive behaviors, it often takes more of a rush of dopamine to satisfy the growing cravings. Those that suffer from gambling disorders can take larger and larger risks, often alienating family members and friends, and putting themselves in financial trouble.

According to a 2019 study, gambling disorders have been shown to have a 0.5% prevalence in the United States. These numbers are thought to be comparable worldwide.

Gambling issues are also shown to commonly exist alongside other mental conditions, such as personality disorders, depression, or anxiety. While it is hard to prove which causes which, the cumulative effects of these various behavioral disorders can require medical help.

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How to Know if You Have a Gambling Issue?

While addiction presents itself differently in every person, there are some signs and symptoms that every gambler should pay attention to. Building awareness of how your gambling is affecting your life outside of gambling can be a powerful tool to ensure you don’t develop a problem.

Here are some signs to keep an eye on to ensure your recreational gambling doesn’t become an addiction.

  • Control and Temptation

Do you have trouble walking away from a loss? If you struggle with a constant impulse to gamble, and constantly justify more spending to recoup your losses, it might be time to take a break.

Temptation and control are often things that gambling addicts struggle with. Online gambling allows for constant temptation and can make the problem worse. Pay attention to your behavior and make sure you monitor your ability to control the losses and walk away.

  • Deceitful Behavior

Do you feel the need to hide your gambling issue from friends and family? Normally if you are ashamed of something, there might be an internal conflict that is acting as a warning sign.

If you find yourself lying to friends and family, or making up excuses as to why you need more money, you could be developing a habit.

Being dishonest about the amount of money you are gambling can also be a sign that you are heading down an unsettling path. Lying about how much you are wagering, or justifying the large amounts with the hope that you will surprise your loved ones with a big win are not healthy behaviors.

  • Gambling to Deal with Stress or Other Problems

Responsible gaming is a recreational activity that should supplement our lives. Gambling responsibly can have lots of intrinsic benefits. However, when it’s used as a distraction to combat other emotional problems such as stress, loneliness, depression, or guilt, it can sometimes have an adverse effect.

Using negative feedback loops to mask other emotional problems can create layers of addiction that are hard to tease apart. Be aware of how negative emotions can affect your behavior and try not to let online gambling be a band-aid solution for deeper issues in your life.

  • Worrying Friends and Family

It’s easy to think that we have all the answers and that only we can understand ourselves. But if your friends and family continually express concerns about your wellbeing, heed their warnings and listen.

Sometimes we have difficulty seeing how our behaviors affect those around us, and it is important to use friends and family as a soundboard. Delaying these thoughts and issues will only make matters worse, so don’t be afraid to ask loved ones for help.

If they are worried about you and your gambling limits, they are probably willing to help should you need it. If nothing else, having accountability from loved ones can result in disciplined action and can create positive outcomes.

  • Chasing Losses

Chasing losses is the urge to make up for money lost by gambling more. This behavior pattern can lead to larger wagers, more debt, and more financial insecurity. And the more money you lose, the more you feel the need to make it back.

If you find yourself asking others for money with the promise of paying them back when you win big, it’s time to stop. If you find yourself pushing credit card bills, mortgage payments, or other monthly expenses to prioritize your gambling, this is a red flag.

Finally, contemplating theft or other illegal activities to gamble money you don’t have is a serious cause for concern.

  • Planning around Gambling

If you find yourself planning your life around your gambling, it may be time to take a step back. If work, family and other important relationships are taking a back seat to your gambling problem, it’s time to re-evaluate.

Gambling should be treated as a recreational activity, and time allotted to enjoy it. Spending all of your free time gambling is not healthy, as there are other things in life you will need to prioritize as well.

Putting your gambling habits in front of everything else can lead to you losing important relationships in your life, compromising your career ambitions, or alienating yourself from different social situations.

  • Feeling Withdrawal when Cutting Back

Like many addictions, taking a step back from gambling can create a withdrawal. If you find yourself having unusual symptoms when you take a break from gambling, you might be in withdrawal.

While gambling withdrawal can appear differently from case to case, some of the most common symptoms are depression, anxiety, and sometimes insomnia. Physical withdrawal symptoms vary and range from mild headaches all the way to nausea and muscle soreness.

If you experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit gambling, it’s time to take a hard look at your habits and seek help.

How to Find Help for a Gambling Problem?

Once you have admitted you have a gambling issue, it’s time to seek help. This can come in various forms, from self-help to medical professionals.

  • Reach Out to Friends and Family

It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. The first step is admitting you have a problem, the second step is being willing to accept help from those who want to help you. Remember, your actions and decisions do not just affect you.

Sometimes it is also helpful to expand your support network and find people who flourish in other circles. Seeking help through online gambling chat rooms might bring some success, but it can be helpful to surround yourself with others who have healthier coping habits.

Join a running club, a chess club, or take dance lessons. Immerse yourself in something completely different, and you may find support and acceptance that will help you cope with your gambling issue.

  • Ensure Your House is in Order

Understanding when there is an underlying issue is vital to dealing with your gambling problems. If you are often depressed, lonely or anxious, it’s easy to use gambling as a distraction and a coping mechanism. It may be necessary to go to the root of the problem, and in doing so many habitual behaviors such as gambling may work themselves out.

Find alternative techniques when you feel the urge to gamble coming over you. Start to understand what emotions trigger the behavior, and what environment is the best and worst.

Make sure you are taking care of yourself both mentally and physically, and you may notice a sudden and dramatic shift. Addictions can be a symptom of something deeper. Focusing on your mental and physical health can improve your quality of life dramatically.

  • Find Alternatives to Gambling

Once you determine the main triggers that cause you to indulge in gambling addiction, you can start to plan alternative activities that fulfill the same need.

For example, if you learn that gambling brings a sense of thrill and excitement that you are otherwise missing from your life, seek that out. Try your hand at a new adrenaline sport, you might be surprised at the rush you can attain from healthy hobbies.

If you find yourself gambling because it’s a way to relax after a hard day at work, find alternative relaxation techniques to fulfill this need. Get a massage, learn to meditate, or even go for a relaxed evening run.

If your gambling problem is the result of feelings of financial insecurity, loneliness, or social anxiety, look for ways to improve those areas of your life. Seek out help and experiences in various capacities to learn, practice, and improve in those areas. Join a speech club, hire a financial planner, or discover a new passion.

  • Learn to Deal with Cravings

Addiction is not just something we get over. It has a way of creeping back when we least expect it. Managing your gambling limits even in the best of times is an important skill to have.

Gambling cravings can arise when you are triggered by many of the emotions we discussed earlier. Learning to manage these cravings will give you confidence and resilience that can grow over time.

Even the most basic techniques can do wonders. If you feel a craving come one, close your eyes and take 5 deep breaths. Then tell yourself that you are not going to indulge in the activity for at least 15 minutes. This small time gap you give yourself can often decrease your immediate urge.

Another powerful technique is to remember the negative side effects of your gambling problem. Visualize how you felt in the past when things went poorly, and use these vivid memories to fight your urges. Avoid negative self-talk, but be honest with how your actions have affected you and your loved ones in the past.

  • Seek Professional Help

If your cravings are too intense and your impulse to gamble continues to win, it may be time to seek professional help.

Start by reaching out to a local peer support network in your area. Having support and accountability from others dealing with similar gambling problems can improve feelings of community and speed recovery.

If more support is needed, seek out a medical facility that can offer inpatient recovery of rehab programs designed for gambling disorders. These programs provide 24-hour support and help to get over the initial withdrawal phases associated with quitting an addiction.

FAQs for Gambling Problems

Everyone is different, and there can be varying degrees of gambling problems and addictions. It is best to review signs and symptoms and ask yourself if your gambling is affecting your relationships, career, or daily life.

Use public resources to determine if you have a gambling problem.

Once we start justifying how bad a problem is, we lose track of the main point. If you are not longer practicing responsible gaming, it’s time to change your patterns. Instead of trying to quantify your gambling limits, instead, start taking small steps to improve them.

It can often be very difficult to see a friend or loved one battle a gambling problem. While the urge to help them financially may be strong, it’s important to understand that like any addiction, the desire to get better needs to come from them.

Sometimes it is the case that your loved one has stolen from you, or betrayed your trust through concealing their problem. These are valid frustrations, but understanding that gambling problems can affect any of us is important to have an appropriate amount of empathy.

The best thing to do for a loved one dealing with a gambling problem is to encourage them to seek help, be supportive of their changes, and protect themselves from enabling the behavior and putting themselves at risk.

 

Gambling Problem Helplines

Contact the following organizations for more information;

  • United Kingdom

Gamblers Anonymous
GamCare

  • United States

National Problem Gambling
Helpline: 1-800-522-4700

  • Australia

Gambling Help Online
Helpline: 1-800-858-585

  • Canada

Problem Gambling Helpline

  • Netherlands

Anonieme Gokkers Omgeving Gokkers
Helpline: 0900-2177721

  • Germany

Gluecksspielsucht Problem Gambling 
Hotline: 0800 0776611

  • Finland (Suomi)

Peluuri
Helpline: 00 358 (0) 800 100 101

  • Norway

Hjelpelinjen
Helpline: 800 800 40

  • Sweden

Stodlinjen
Helpline: 0046 20819100

  • New Zealand

Gambling Helpline
Helpline: 0800 654 655

  • South Africa

National Responsible Gambling
Helpline: 0800 006 008

 

  • China

Chinese Gambling Concern Inc.
Helpline: 1800 881 663

  • Denmark

Danish Gambling Authority

  • Greece

Therapy Centre for Dependent Individuals
Helpline: 210 9241993 – 6

  • France

Adictel Prevention Addiction
Email: [email protected]

  • Austria

Spielsuchthilfe
Helpline: 01-544 13 57

  • Belgium

Gok Hulp
Helpline: 0800 35 777

  • Poland

Gamblers Anonymous – Poland

  • Czech Republic

National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addiction
Helpline: 00420800350000

  • Estonia

Hasartmängusõltuvuse Nõustamiskeskus
Helpline: 15410
Email: [email protected]

  • Croatia

Helpline: 00385 91 754 35 34

  • Hungary

Helpline: 0036 1 299 4000

 

Summary

Online gambling can be an exciting hobby, but when taken too far can create problems. Gambling problems can often appear gradually. Those that indulge in online gambling should constantly be monitoring themselves to ensure that their recreational activities don’t become bad habits.

Here at Viabonus, we promote responsible online gambling. We love the dopamine-induced thrill of the bet, but we encourage readers to be proactive and ensure that they are taking precautions to avoid gambling turning into a problem. We will continue to provide the latest and best casino offerings for our readers and help to maintain safety and security so you can enjoy your online casino experience.