As one of South Africa’s top addiction treatment centres, Recovery Direct is often on the frontline of reporters questions about what is driving the most effective treatment solutions for different addictions.
Problematic gambling behaviours often fly below the radar as there is a perception that they are “not quite as dangerous” as alcohol or drug addictions, often perpetuated within the family. The problem is that severe gambling addictions also carry one of the highest rates of suicide.
With the advent of “gaming addictions“, “social media addiction” other modern process-related disorders many of the same complex interplays of escape and fantasy are in play, so we should be paying more attention. However, gambling addiction still remains problematically out of the public limelight and we should be asking more questions.
This is the latest list of common questions relating to gambling addictions and our responses that provides insights into this insidious behaviour disorder.
- What is the difference between a habitual gambler and an addict?
Most of the implication of “addict” usually revolves around substances use disorders, where the terminology for “Gambling Addictions” stems more toward “Compulsive Gambling”, “Impulse Disorders” or “Gambling Disorders“.
People that gamble to the point where the behaviour reaches the point where it becomes destructive to their lifestyle or wellbeing or the wellbeing of loved ones and continue to gamble, in spite of the negative consequences, can be considered “addicted” to gambling.
A habitual gambler may for instance gamble on designated events but otherwise not risk their financial wellbeing. Alternatively, a habitual gambler may also gamble in the compulsively, and could be classified to have an “addiction” (detrimental to their financial or personal wellbeing).
- Why do some people enjoy/get addicted to gambling?
Like most addictions, gambling is an outlet to ease deeper emotional issues. Often, this stems from early childhood emotional damage to self-worth and self-esteem. People struggling with gambling addictions often have complex childhoods backgrounds that develop into adapted “coping behaviours” as adults. Gambling addictions emotional fulfilment feel often stems around the fantasy of true validation or acknowledgement. These human emotional needs are often not being met in present relationships and people opt to process of gambling to find a sense of fulfilment.
People that have not suffered from these complex emotional social issues don’t feel as compelled to take the risk to find the validation or establish the fantasy of their self-worth because their self-worth or self-esteem was established and embedded from childhood.
- What is the rush with Gambling Addiction?
The rush is the risk of knowing there is a chance of winning or losing. Dopamine is released in the brain in these heightened risk-reward scenarios. Many responses in the nervous system are activated and play havoc with cognitive thought reckoning. The essence of gambling lives in the imagination of the player, the “if only” fantasy propels many people to venture to take the chance for the “big win”.
- How do you know you have a gambling problem?
Being conscious as to what the process is being highlighted to you by friends and family is often a big indicator. Gambling, however, is a somewhat covert addiction disorder.
Families may often have very little idea as to what is going on until it is too late.
Of all the addiction disorders Gambling can be one of the most “hidden” and thus sometimes hard to catch until most often associated with suicide. Once the person hits rock bottom they realise that they have seemingly impossible debts, but mostly the sense of shame or guilt are overriding factors.
As family members, we tend to know someone “likes to gamble” and may even “normalise” or justify the behaviours and thus enable the process. Which adds complexity to the resolution or identification of the problem.
However, when abnormalities occur in the financial wellbeing of the individual or family, it is time to open up the conversation to find out what can be done to find constructive solutions like talk therapy that works on emotional needs that are driving the behaviour.
- How common is gambling addiction in South Africa?
It’s very hard to say due to the scale of what is considered gambling and the means by which data on gambling disorders is accumulated in South Africa. The prevalence of lottery kiosks, online gambling, casinos, however, are a direct indicator of the demand. With that demand, one could only surmise based on estimates the scale of the issues.
- Final note on understanding gambling addictions
Many people consider gambling to be relatively harmless, however, the suicide potential with compulsive gamblers is up to 15x more likely for them to follow through with a suicide. There are many social groups and therapists able to help people through these tough times as well more indirect online courses that directly deal with deeper emotional states like the https://recoverydirect.net/ online programme.