Gambling addiction — alternately known as problem gambling or compulsive gambling and officially referred to as clinical pathological gambling — is a type of behavioral addiction that also happens to be classified as an impulse-control disorder. By definition, an impulse-control disorder is a mental health disorder is characterized by an individual being unable to restrict, regulate, or otherwise control his or her behavior. Of course, impulse-control disorder and behavioral addiction intersect when the behavior in question is addictive, resulting in a situation where a person starts off choosing not to exercise self-control but ends up becoming physiologically addicted to the behavior.
Typically, gambling addiction is defined as when an individual experiences an intense and frequent urge to gamble, even in spite of the likely negative consequences that could result from excessive gambling. Additionally, one of the hallmark characteristics of gambling addiction that helps with identifying and diagnosing the disorder is when the individual’s gambling habits negatively affect him or her and others, including the individual’s family members, friends, and other loved ones.
Problem Gambling vs. Impulse Control Disorder
Many people enjoy gambling from time to time. While there are some who are put-off by the prospect of gambling and, more specifically, of losing money to a game of chance and risk, there are some who thoroughly enjoy the gameplay behind gambling games. For the most part, it’s the prospect of winning that makes people want to gamble. As well, the excitement of being unsure of the outcome and the stakes involved in gambling give players a rush of adrenaline that reinforce the addictive potential of gambling, causing them to continue returning to gambling-based games even after losing repeatedly.
Of course, there’s a difference between gambling, having a gambling problem, and gambling addiction as an impulse control disorder. Those individuals who are simply gambling can enjoy gambling-based games for what they are and quit when they need or want to. A gambling problem is the next level of severity and sees the individual continue to gamble beyond the point when he or she should’ve stopped; this often occurs when the individual has suffered a big loss, causing him or her to want to recoup from the loss. Finally, gambling addiction is a more extreme version of a gambling problem. When a gambling problem has evolved to become gambling addiction, the individual becomes more desperate to continue gambling, meaning that he or she is increasingly willing to skip work or school, use money for rent and bills, and damage relationships in his or her pursuit of gambling.As with most forms of addiction and impulse-control disorder, there are a number of characteristic signs that an individual is suffering from gambling addiction. Perhaps most notably, an individual with an addiction to gambling tends to have immense financial difficulties. Though mild at first, the financial hardship becomes more pronounced and dire over time as an increasing amount of the individual’s income is gambled away at gambling-based games. By most standards, this is one of the most reliable and readily apparent signs that an individual is struggling with a gambling problem.
Besides the financial difficulties that often accompany gambling addiction, individuals with gambling addictions tend to exhibit issues with impulse control in other aspects of life. Likely due to the adrenaline of gambling, these individuals might seem to become thrill-seekers who are more interested in high-stakes excitement. As well, their fixation on gambling often comes at a sacrifice to most other aspects of their lives; for example, people who suffer from gambling addiction tend to take poor care of themselves, are much less interested in their former hobbies and pastimes, and seem to be much less concerned about their relationships and other responsibilities.
Gambling Addiction & Substance Abuse
Although there are inherent differences between substance use disorder and gambling addiction, the two are far more similar than they are different. This is highlighted by the fact that so many people who suffer from gambling addiction have some type of history with substance abuse, whether it was in the past or is occurring in the present alongside the gambling addiction, as has been confirmed by growing research. With so many people suffering from both gambling and substance-based addictions, there are many who wonder whether there might be some kind of relationship between the two. More specifically, does gambling addiction cause drug addiction, or vice versa?
Similarities Between Gambling & Drug Addiction
When a person gambles, he or she experiences a surge of neurochemicals and hormones in the brain, causing feelings of happiness and pleasure. Additionally, there’s a rush of adrenaline due to the risk that’s inherent in gambling. If a person begins to chase the “rush” that he or she experiences when gambling, it becomes exponentially more likely that the individual develops an addiction to gambling. This works very similarly to substance abuse, which causes a comparable rush of euphoria and pleasure. With increased frequency of substance abuse over time, a person becomes physiologically dependent on the substance, meaning they need the substance to experience any pleasure at all while also keeping withdrawal symptoms at bay.
In spite of the similarities, however, it’s inaccurate to say that one causes the other. Instead, the reality is that both gambling addiction and drug addiction involve a similar development trajectory and similar areas of the brain.
Choose Just Believe Recovery in Carbondale for Your Recovery Needs
For more information about our dual-diagnosis treatment in Carbondale, PA, or to learn more about how we treat gambling addiction and substance use disorder, call Just Believe Recovery today at 877-871-3356.