Recent innovations make it increasingly easy to gamble. Between betting shops, sportsbooks, lotteries, and an array of online gambling dens, the activity is harder to miss than ever. This exceptional accessibility makes it a fun indulgence for many people across the globe. However, for others, it develops into a problem they struggle to stay in control of and comes with devastating mental health impacts.
The habit’s social, financial, and personal effects can drive people into depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues as they struggle to control the behavior. In other cases, such problems are the causal factor for gambling addiction. This post assesses the gambling impacts on our psychological health as it continues to grow in popularity.
From Fun to Compulsion
The relationship between gambling and mental health is a fascination that has been a research topic for decades. In the past, the issue was dismissed as an impulse serving only as an escape from the real world’s stress and anxiety. However, experts noticed that it would quickly turn into an intense craving that was not fun anymore.
The habit continued even when players were fully aware that the games were designed to lose in the long run. Gambling addiction was finally declared a mental sickness after seeing how games were designed with hidden hooks to capture the casual player’s mind.
Pathological gambling functions a lot like drug addiction. A lot of exposure to the activity affects the dopamine reward system. The neuron network responsible for the chemical rewards the brain with this happy drug whenever they are stimulated. Gambling compulsively changes the network structurally and keeps the brain awash with dopamine.
Eventually, the chemical’s effectiveness reduces due to built-up tolerance. Punters get hooked on gameplay seeking euphoria since normal dopamine levels have lost their effect. Like a drug addict increases their dose chasing a more intense high, pathological gamblers take risks they cannot afford and worsen the habit.
External factors related to gambling can also affect players’ psychology. The circumstances within which an individual gambles are unique, and some of them can encourage addiction. These factors include;
- Genetic disposition and family history
Genetics influence our habits significantly, making some people more likely to become addicts than others. In some cases, people are born with permanently underactive reward circuits that cause them to chase thrilling risks to experience standard dopamine levels. Such punters do not have to indulge in gambling for too long to become addicted.
- Mental disorders
Mental health disorders can come before gambling addiction and even be the causal factor. Issues like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder can magnify one’s interest in gambling until it becomes a coping mechanism. Research shows that many problem gamblers suffer from Parkinson’s disease. Treatments used to reverse the dried-up dopamine-producing neurons turn them into junkies for the happy drug, and some chase it in casinos.
- Personality traits
People who are restless, bored, impulsive, or working all the time are more susceptible to gambling addiction than the average person. There have been cases of highly competitive people falling victim to the habit trying to beat the house.
Surroundings influence most people’s habits. Therefore, if someone is surrounded by individuals that gamble all the time or gambling adverts are everywhere, they are likely to adopt the practice. If it is not being consumed responsibly, they are also expected to develop an addiction themselves.
- Age and gender
The younger generation’s higher exposure to the internet makes them more likely to become addicts. Also, men have a higher chance of falling victim to mental health issues than women due to gambling.
Signs of Problem Gambling
Online gambling’s psychological effects often lead to a betting addiction identifiable by repetitive behavior patterns. Problem gambling manifests in physical, personal, and mental distress only soothed by indulging in the activity. The signs tied to the addiction include;
- Most of the time is dedicated to thinking about gambling
- You mostly reach for your PC or smartphone to play some games even after being intentional about stopping
- Spending too much on bets and chasing losses after the designated bankroll has run out
- Being financially strained from stealing or borrowing to pay for the habit
- Keeping the extent of the practice a secret
The intensity of these symptoms varies from one person to another.
Stacking the Recovery Deck
The good news is recovery from gambling addiction is possible when one takes the proper steps. The results are not immediate, but they come with time. You can overcome the issue by;
- Admitting its existence
Quitting gambling requires the addict to admit the problem’s existence without justifications like comparisons or minimization. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, acknowledge that change is necessary. Also, take time to understand the problem and how it manifests. Knowing the actions that trigger the habit helps to be mindful of them in the future.
- Get ready to change
The desire to quit gambling is not actually quitting the habit. Remaining within the same daily motions will most likely result in a relapse with more repercussions than before. Prepare yourself by eliminating any triggers like casino accounts and gambling company. Cutting off toxic social relationships may be difficult, but you can surround yourself with others that have similar goals as yours.
- Find new hobbies
Rekindle hobbies you had forgotten about in your time gambling or learn new ones. When you quit the habit, your brain will crave stimulation. Excite your brain with healthy activities like walking, jogging, drawing, or swimming.
- Preplan every day
Sobriety can be boring after being used to constantly riding on a high. Keep your mind preoccupied to avoid being pushed into relapse by boredom. Plan even your free time with mind-engaging activities to take out any chances of rekindling the habit.
- Get professional help
Visit an addiction specialist if you’re having trouble beating pathological gambling yourself. Such professionals can be found online and offline as individuals or part of organizations like GameStop or Gamblers Anonymous.
The Safer Bet
The safest bet when it comes to gambling and mental health is to keep it within sensible limits. Stay away from bets that are high risk that could lead to significant losses quickly. Also, cap the time and money you spend in casinos, and always quit while you're ahead.