Gambling Addiction: What is it? How do you know if you have one?

Most addictions begin with small steps that don’t seem like they could lead to a dependency on a substance or abusive practice. In many cases, gambling can be a social activity that is enjoyed for several years before it becomes a problem. For those with gambling habits, it can often be difficult to recognize a problem for something that first began as a hobby and developed into a gambling addiction over time. When learning to recognize a gambling addiction, there are several distinct red flags that indicate the addictive behavior.

Those with a gambling addiction often feel the same relief and pleasure that is associated with a high from using drugs or consuming alcohol. It’s known as an impulsive-control disorder that can become an obsession with time. For many people, gambling can be something that is constantly thought or talked about. Another sign is that they are willing to gamble at all costs, even at the risk of hurting themselves or their loved ones. It can involve chasing losses, exhausting all of your resources to continue the addiction, or finding relief in the act to escape difficult circumstances in life.

For some, it’s important to remain secretive about their hobby and conceal it from friends, family members, especially a spouse. You may lie about how much you gamble or the money that you may have lost, only telling them about recent wins that you may have had. Gambling can also become a problem if you have a need to continue the act even if you don’t have the resources. You can become late on paying the bills, begin to borrow money from friends, or even go to the extreme of stealing to continue the addiction. Although it may feel exhilarating to visit the casino and gamble in the present, there is often a feeling of regret or guilt that follows. This can lead to greater risks taken with gambling just to experience the high; it is an addiction that can quickly become more severe and dangerous.

Some people may take gambling addiction to extremes when they experience stress or depression in life; however, the need to satisfy the urge to gamble only provides temporary joy or contentment. There may even be short times of remission when the gambling stops, but the individual picks it up again after a few months of abstaining. This seemingly controlled habit makes it difficult to decipher whether there is a real addiction and if the habit can be controlled. Unfortunately, without proper treatment, the gambling addiction still exists even if it seems as if the individual takes several hiatuses from the act.

Although it can be difficult to admit to having a gambling addiction, one of the most common ways to recognize that you have a problem is to see if the relationships around you have changed. You may have family or friends that constantly ask about your well-being or seem worried about you. Your community may have attempted to have an intervention or suggested getting treatment for your gambling habits. As an adult, it can be difficult to admit to a problem, but the consequences of a gambling addiction can only become more severe with time.

If you think that you may have a gambling addiction, there are a number of recovery programs available that are specifically tailored to your needs. Several 12-step programs that model Alcoholics Anonymous are offered in most communities for a practical way to regain your well-being and freedom. Take the first step by asking a family member or friend for help to ensure that you obtain the resources and tools that you need to full recovery.

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