WHAT IS GAMBLING DISORDER?
A gambling disorder is an addiction to the excitement and risk created by gambling. Without treatment, people who are pathological gamblers cannot stop even though it causes personal, work, or legal problems.
Many people enjoy gambling once in a while. However, pathological gambling can ruin your life as well as the lives of your family.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE?
The exact cause of this disorder is not known. The cause may be due to one or more of the following:
· The brain is made up of cells called neurons, and chemicals called neurotransmitters. The brain cells need the right balance of these chemicals to function normally. These chemicals affect your mood, emotions and behaviors. This disorder may result from too little or too much of some of these chemicals in your brain.
· A trigger, which can be stress, a drug or a thought, may cause changes in the brain chemicals. Those chemical changes may lead to urges to do something. There is usually a link between doing something and getting a good feeling. In gambling disorder, the urge is to gamble, even if it is harmful. The thoughts that link gambling to good feelings may be learned from things that happened when you are young or from recent experiences. Wanting the good feelings can trigger the same behavior in the future.
· Gambling disorder may be related to other mental disorders such as addiction, anxiety, or depression. Substance abuse is also common in people with gambling disorder.
· It may be a problem with genes that are passed from parents to children. The disorder may begin as early as age ten.
· Stressors, such as major losses, may also lead to gambling disorder. More men than women suffer from this disorder, and men are more likely to seek treatment for it. Most problem gamblers start gambling, on average, at age 10.
People may start gambling in order to:
· feel successful
· rebel or release anger
· be accepted by other people
· escape from painful feelings
· feel like a winner
· solve money problems
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Pathological gamblers have at least 5 of these signs. They:
· cannot stop thinking about gambling
· need to gamble with more and more money in order to feel excitement
· try and fail to control, cut back, or stop gambling
· feel restless or in a bad mood when they try to cut down or stop gambling
· gamble as a way to escape from problems or to feel less helpless, guilty, anxious, or depressed
· try to make up money lost in gambling by gambling to break even (“chasing” losses)
· lie to people about how much time they spend gambling
· commit crimes such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to pay for gambling
· have school, job, or relationship problems because of gambling
· try to get other people to cover financial problems caused by gambling
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
Your healthcare provider or therapist will ask about your symptoms and will make sure you do not have a medical problem. Your therapist will also check for other problems, such as substance abuse, mood disorders, and personality disorders. You may also be asked to complete a questionnaire called the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI). This helps to measure the severity of your gambling problem.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
If your gambling is causing personal, social, family, work, or legal problems, it is time to get help.
Several medicines can help treat pathological gambling. Your healthcare provider will work with you to carefully select the best one for you.
Cognitive behavior therapy may also help you overcome pathological gambling. A good treatment program should include counseling for you and your family members.
Treatment can help. Many different programs exist, ranging from Gamblers Anonymous to inpatient treatment centers. There is no one program that is right for everyone.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP MYSELF STOP GAMBLING?
· Get support. If you have the urge to gamble, stop and call someone. Talk with family and friends. Consider joining a support group in your area.
· Learn to manage stress. Find something else to do right away, such as exercise, to help yourself stop thinking about gambling. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax, for example take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, and take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
· Change the way you handle money. Keep a limited amount of cash on you at any given time. Let someone else handle your money, for example, arrange for the bank to make automatic payments for you. Don’t carry or use a debit card.
· Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
· See your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse.
FOR HELP:Call the number below or register on the Take 5 website to start a secure live chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, toll free, with a professional counselor
Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness Gambling Support Network
1-888-347-3331 (TTY for the hearing impaired)
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