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Prob­lem Gam­bling and Gam­bling Addic­tions: An Introduction

Post writ­ten by Maris­sa Thomp­son, KYC’s Com­mu­ni­ty Colab­o­ra­tion and Pub­lic Resource Devel­op­ment Project Associate

At the Ken­neth Young Cen­ter, we recent­ly received a new grant to cre­ate pro­gram­ming to sup­port those in recov­ery from prob­lem gam­bling. When it comes to addic­tion, not many peo­ple know that addic­tion can take many forms. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, peo­ple have thought of addic­tive behav­iors such as sub­stance use, or alco­holism. Today, research shows that addic­tive behav­iors can include many dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties that can impact a person’s life. Gam­bling, sim­i­lar to drugs or alco­hol, stim­u­lates the plea­sure-seek­ing and reward sys­tem parts of the brain that can lead to addic­tion. Gam­bling can take place in many forms includ­ing: slot games, sports bet­ting, par­tic­i­pat­ing in the lot­tery and casi­no table games such as pok­er. Gam­bling as an action means that some­one is will­ing to risk some­thing of val­ue in the hope of get­ting some­thing of high­er val­ue in return.

Gam­bling prob­lems can affect peo­ple from many dif­fer­ent back­grounds. Peo­ple of all ages, socioe­co­nom­ic back­grounds and gen­ders can fall vic­tim to a gam­bling addic­tion. Gam­bling addic­tion — also known as patho­log­i­cal gam­bling, com­pul­sive gam­bling or gam­bling dis­or­der—is an impulse-con­trol dis­or­der. This means that a per­son can­not con­trol the urge or impulse to gam­ble, even if they know the pos­si­bil­i­ty of neg­a­tive con­se­quences. When dis­cussing the most com­mon out­come of a gam­bling addic­tion most peo­ple con­sid­er the finan­cial con­se­quences of gam­bling, when a per­son los­es more mon­ey than they can afford to gam­ble. This can cre­ate a vicious cycle of gam­bling in order to make the mon­ey back, some­thing referred to as chas­ing loss­es”. In addi­tion to the finan­cial con­se­quences, peo­ple deal­ing with a gam­bling addic­tion can lose their job, suf­fer rela­tion­ship prob­lems and even expe­ri­ence homelessness.

Addi­tion­al­ly, peo­ple can have a gam­bling prob­lem that doesn’t inher­ent­ly spi­ral out of con­trol. Prob­lem gam­bling is any gam­bling behav­ior that dis­rupts a person’s day to day life. If a per­son is pre­oc­cu­pied with gam­bling, gam­bling despite know­ing seri­ous con­se­quences, spend­ing an inap­pro­pri­ate amount of time and mon­ey on gam­bling, these may be signs of a gam­bling prob­lem. Although both titles are often used inter­change­ably, addic­tion spe­cial­ists define the main dif­fer­ence between a gam­bling addic­tion and a gam­bling prob­lem so that a per­son with a gam­bling addic­tion may need addi­tion­al sup­port such as an inter­ven­tion in order to reduce their impul­sive behaviors.

Like many addic­tive behav­iors, gam­bling prob­lems often pair with oth­er men­tal health issues such as depres­sion, anx­i­ety, bipo­lar dis­or­der and sub­stance use. Treat­ment geared towards addic­tive behav­iors has become more acces­si­ble in recent years. Research shows that most addic­tive behav­iors, includ­ing gam­bling, can be treat­ed suc­cess­ful­ly with a com­bi­na­tion of ther­a­peu­tic and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal treat­ments. If you or some­one you love has been strug­gling with a gam­bling addic­tion or prob­lem, it’s nev­er too ear­ly, or late, to reach out for help.

Look­ing for sup­port with gam­bling? You have resources!

· Call or text Nation­al Prob­lem Gam­bling Hot­line at 18005224700

· Con­nect with the Illi­nois Coun­cil on Prob­lem Gambling

· Learn more at the Helpline about prob­lem gam­bling, symp­toms, and ways to recover

· Join a vir­tu­al SMART Recov­ery meet­ing through the Ken­neth Young Center

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