Gambling can be fun and relaxing. However, for some people gambling can become an addiction. Of all addictions and dependencies, excessive gambling has one of the highest rates of suicide. Gambling addiction can also cause an array of physical and mental health problems.
Gambling is similar to other addictions in the fact that it is often progressive. The gambler will start off making small bets, but can increase to gambling larger amounts of money and property. The gambler will need to bet more to achieve the same feelings of excitement and euphoria.
The euphoria associated with gambling is different than chemical dependency because there is not an intoxicating effect. Rather, gambling produces an intense rush that works by increasing the response in the reward center of the brain, which is similar to drugs. Research has shown that the brain of a gambler will light up in ways similar to a cocaine addict when presented with visual stimulation or gambling triggers.
Because excessive gambling is an addiction, there can be withdrawal symptoms similar to withdrawal from drugs. Withdrawal symptoms include irritability, insomnia, anger and agitation. These symptoms typically subside once the user gambles. The relief is short lived as the gambler needs to place higher and riskier bets to achieve the same feeling.
Gambling is considered an impulse-control disorder. This means that the act of continued gambling, despite consequences is impulse related. The gambler can become distraught by the social repercussions of gambling, the consequences associated with gambling and losing. The gambler may also experience anxiety and depression symptoms, migraines, insomnia or oversleeping, digestion issues, appetite changes and stress. Untreated stress and anxiety can cause ulcers, digestion issues and cardiovascular problems.
As previously noted, excessive gambling can affect the mental wellness of the gambler. The gambler may begin to show signs of depression. These symptoms can include feelings of worthlessness and guilt, loss of interest in once enjoyed activities, decreased sex drive, fatigue, a feeling of being drained and suicidal ideation. Problem gamblers often bet with life savings, homes, cars and money dedicated to family expenses. When a gambler loses possessions and large amounts of money, the only way out may appear to be suicide. This explains the high rates of suicide attempts and completions amongst problem gamblers.
Gambling can have devastating effects on the individual and the family. If you or someone you love is exhibiting warning signs or experiencing health concerns due to excessive gambling there is help.
Real change is possible. Gambling is a growing problem in Ireland, but there are resources available. Call Smarmore Castle Private Clinic today for information on our residential rehabilitation programmes for gambling addiction and co-occurring substance use disorders just outside of Dublin, Ireland: +353 41 214 5111
Page created: 22 April, 2020 Last updated and clinically assessed 26 March, 2021