Gambling addiction isn’t just all about a lack of will power. We spoke to a therapist who specializes in treating addictions to find out what it really is about. Did you know that becoming addicted to gambling can actually cause your brain to physically change?
Gambling before you’re 25 can also make you way more likely to develop problem gambling habits. Read on to pick up more fascinating insights into how a gambling addict’s life can unravel.
Beth Burgess is an Addiction Psychotherapist, academic and author of two books about gambling addiction and recovery. Over her lifetime she has come to terms with many personal issues herself. This includes overcoming alcoholism and social phobia. These days she is qualified psychotherapist and NLP practitioner who helps addicts through her recover coaching business Smyls.
Are there specific things that cause people to become gambling addicts?
The cause of gambling addiction is a mixture of nature and nurture, as well as environmental factors. Some people have a predisposition to addiction, which is caused by their genetic make-up. But gambling can also be inherently addictive, because it produces a high caused by a rush of dopamine to the brain.
Dopamine is usually referred to as a reward chemical, because we get it from things that are genuinely rewarding and help us survive and prosper, like socializing and eating. But dopamine is also a craving chemical. If artificially high amounts are released, as they are during thrilling things like gambling, it makes you want to do more of that activity.
In order to become seriously addicted, gamblers have to have the means to gamble (accessibility in the environment), a genetic predisposition to addiction, and beneath it all, some feeling they want to get rid of (usually low self-esteem), which the buzz of gambling masks.
What is the thought process of a gambler who carries on gambling when they’re losing?
When does an addiction become and addiction?
It’s also possible to detect addiction in the brain. In MRI scans, certain areas of the brain light up when gambling addicts are exposed to betting situations, which doesn’t happen with non-addicts. So, it’s also a pathological process, not just a psychological one.
Do people with particular personalities tend to develop gambling problems more often?
At what age is a person most vulnerable to gambling addiction?
Can you think of any famous people who seem like they could be at risk of developing a gambling addiction?
Charlie Sheen is the classic addict. He has had problems with addiction to alcohol, drugs and sex and was deeply in denial about all of it for a long time.
Unless he manages to stay on track with his addiction treatment, he could be at risk of cross-addicting to gambling or spending, or even relapsing into his other addictions.
What’s the worst gambling story you’ve heard from a patient?
Can medication cure gambling addiction?
Do you think online gambling makes it easier for people to become addicted to gambling?
Do you think the media plays a role in encouraging problem gambling?
If you have been addicted to gambling before, are you more at risk of getting addicted to something else?
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