We’re nearly halfway through NCAA® March Madness® tournament. The excitement is ramping up as the team in the Sweet Sixteen prepare for the next round. Those whose brackets aren’t already busted are anxiously waiting to see if their picks will help them reign supreme over their friends and co-workers, and maybe even allow them to take home a cash prize.
But some people—an estimated 6 million in fact— might instead be anxiously waiting for the tournament to be over. They are the people who struggle with pathological gambling addictions. For them, this time of year presents an overabundance of challenges and triggers. While many of us are cheering our teams on the road to the Final Four, they are fighting to stay on the road to recovery.
While participating in your friends’ or co-workers’ NCAA bracket pool doesn’t necessarily put you on the path to addiction, many problem gamblers did experience their first gambling-related rush from participating in a March Madness tournament bracket pool or purchasing a Super Bowl square. They are likely to have been introduced to these forms of gambling as teenagers by family members and middle school or high school classmates.
This may partially explain why the rate of gambling addiction is actually higher among young adults and adolescents. According to U.S. News and World Report, the rate of young adults addicted to gambling is up to four times as high as the adult rate, and 4 to 7 percent of college students meet the criteria for pathological gambling. However, it’s important to remember that gambling addiction can affect almost anyone, of any age, at any time—even if they are not entirely new to gambling.
Gambling Addiction and Its Consequences
Those who are addicted to gambling feel an uncontrollable urge to place bets, visit casinos, use Internet gambling sites, and/or buy lottery tickets in spite of the negative ways their behavior is affecting their lives and the lives of their loved ones. An untreated gambling disorder can lead to devastating personal debt and bankruptcies, and even prison time if the addicted person turns to stealing or fraud to support their gambling habits.
For those who are prone to addiction, gambling starts out as just another recreational activity but soon triggers strong, uncontrollable biological and psychological responses. Similarly to other forms of addiction, people who develop compulsive gambling behaviors tend to be those who feel disconnected in personal relationships, disconnected from a higher purpose, depressed, isolated and/or anxious. As a matter of fact, most pathological gamblers—68 percent, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology—also have more than one addiction, often to alcohol and drugs. Another study found that people who struggle with both problem gambling and substance abuse were also more likely to have issues with sexual compulsivity and to have attempted suicide.
This suggests that gambling addiction can be a sign of a very complex set of intermingling behavioral health issues. If you or someone you know seems to be struggling with a gambling addiction, it’s important to seek out a high-quality, comprehensive treatment program right away.
Signs of Gambling Addiction and Treatment
The DSM-5 lists nine criteria for determining whether someone has a gambling disorder:
- Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money to achieve the desired excitement.
- Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
- Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
- Is often preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble).
- Often gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed).
- After losing money gambling often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses).
- Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
- Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling.
- Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling
Get Help For Gambling Addiction
Since gambling addiction so often coincides with one or more additional addictions—drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.—it’s important to seek a treatment program that can address multiple conditions at the same time. Our staff spends time with each patient to develop a highly-individualized treatment program based on a thorough assessment of his or her primary and secondary conditions, and on releasing the hidden trauma at the heart of them all. Call our intake coordinators today at 800-244-4949 or contact us online to find out if one of our Meadows Behavioral Healthcare programs is right for you.