A trip to Las Vegas can be a fun way to blow off steam, especially if you're chasing the adrenaline rush of hitting the casino floor. But when the roller coaster of emotions that comes with winning and losing starts to become addictive, it may be indicative of a gambling problem.
What Is a Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction is very real, and just like any other addiction it can lead to long-term problems both for your health and your relationships. Pathological gamblers can win and lose thousands of dollars in a sitting, or over the course of a few days, because they are unable to walk away. It's not about the dollar amount, per se, but it's chasing the highs of winning, just as addiction to a substance is chasing the feeling that comes along with using that substance.
"Addiction is an indiscriminate disease that can involve both substances and behavioral patterns," Dr. Lawrence Weinstein, Chief Medical Officer of the American Addiction Centers tells WebMD. "Behavioral addictions, or process addictions such as gambling, trigger pathways in the brain in the same fashion that substances do."
Dr. Weinstein adds that gambling produces a neurological response that influences feelings of pleasure, and has the potential to manifest as addictive behavior.
Signs You May Have a Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction is often easily hidden, so it may be difficult to spot the signs of someone who is gambling pathologically. Someone struggling with a gambling addiction may exhibit the following signs:
- Money missing
- Household items and valuables missing (due to being sold for gambling money)
- Regularly short of money
- Borrowing money
- Multiple loans
- Secrecy regarding financial records
- Unpaid bills
- Withdrawn socially
- Slipping work performance
- Manipulative behavior
- Personality changes
Gambling Treatment Centers
Fortunately, there are many treatment options for people who are living with a gambling addiction.
Residential gambling treatment centers are just one of the options available. A residential gambling treatment center is much like a substance use treatment center. It is designed to remove a person suffering from the disease of addiction from their current addictive life. It allows individuals to experience 24-hour care while participating in therapy to confront their addiction.
Most treatment centers hold patients for 30 to 90 days, where they undergo dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Often in group settings, these treatments use systematic exposure to the behavior clients want to unlearn.
"Residential treatment works because patients are physically unable to continue their behavior because they are detached from their usual life," says Ryan Cain, President of the SPERO Group. The SPERO Group is a network of rehabilitation and mental health facilities focused on serving their communities. Cain is a former addict turn counselor, as well. "While they are in treatment, patients are exposed to the nature of their disease, are made aware of their destructive patterns, and are able to see the triggers that may have caused their gambling."
At residential treatment centers, patients can learn relapse prevention techniques and experience intensive group work, which allows them to relate to others struggling with the same problem.
"Learning to trust others in a safe, residential group setting sets the stage for life after treatment," says Cain.
Residential treatment also helps to set up aftercare plans, such as recovery meetings or groups, individual therapists, or outpatient treatment programs.