Gambling has been defined in a variety of
ways but can be best described as “putting something of value at risk on an
outcome that is due to chance.”
The majority of adults who gamble do so
on a social basis and do not cause long-term or permanent problems related to
gambling. This type of gambling, called social gambling, lasts for a limited
amount of time, and there are predetermined acceptable losses. The social gambler will pack in his losses and be happy with meagre winnings, without a need to bet more.
The next level of gambling can be described as problem gambling. These people gamble despite problems in
their lives caused by gambling. They may include gamblers who lose more money
than intended, who spend a significant amount of time gambling, or who may
choose gambling as their primary form of recreation, often at the expense of
other alternative activities. This category is akin to alcohol abuse and is
thought to represent gamblers who are at risk of becoming pathological
The most destructive form of gambling is pathological gambling. This type of gambling, also known as
compulsive gambling or disordered gambling, is a recognised mental disorder
characterised by a pattern of continued gambling despite negative physical,
psychological, and social consequences. It is a treatable disease and comes under the umbrella of addiction.
You may be a pathological gambler if you:
Feel the need to be secretive about your
gambling. You might gamble in secret or lie about how much you gamble, feeling
others won’t understand or hoping someday, that you will surprise them with a big win.
Have trouble controlling your gambling.
Once you start gambling, can you walk away? Or are you compelled to gamble
until you’ve spent your last dollar, upping your bets in a bid to win lost
Gamble even when you don’t have the
money. A red flag is when you are getting more and more desperate to recoup
your losses. You may gamble until you’ve spent your last dollar, and then move
on to money you don’t have—money to pay bills, credit cards, or things for your
children. You may feel pushed to borrow, sell, or even steal things for
gambling money. It’s a vicious cycle. You may sincerely believe that gambling
more money is the only way to win your lost money back. But it only puts you further
and further in the hole.
Experts used to earlier think of
addiction as dependency on a chemical or a drug, but they now define it as
repeatedly pursuing a rewarding experience despite serious repercussions. That
experience could be the high of cocaine or heroin; or the thrill of doubling
one's money at the casino.
All our brains follow a reward system.
This system runs on a chemical which releases happiness. This chemical is usually produced to motivate people to do things to survive. In this case, to make money. Making money is a survival skill because we need money to live in our economy. Thus, gambling is addictive because it produces a lot of this chemical as a result of anticipating the money-making process.
This produces pleasure in the brain, making you attain a “high”. Gambling helps you reach this state. Gamblers turn to their gambling to overcome life's struggles and pain. As an example, struggling with one's finances may cause one to become depressed. To cover up the pain of suffering depression, the person in question might gamble money to make up for losses. Eventually, as the depression is not addressed, the gambling gets worse over time.
Apart from the desire to experience
thrills and highs, many other factors can contribute to your gambling
addiction, such as desperation for money, the social status associated with
being a successful gambler, and the entertaining atmosphere of the mainstream
gambling scene. Unfortunately, once a gambling addiction takes hold, breaking
the cycle is difficult if not impossible, unless you seek help for it.
Gambling addiction frequently results in
other addictions that serve as coping mechanisms for people who are stressed
out by the activity. You may turn to drugs, alcohol, and other activities to
alleviate the anxiety brought on by the gambling lifestyle. Even if you never
experience financial ruin as a result of your lifestyle, you may struggle with
drug and alcohol addiction as a result of having to deal with the stress
gambling addiction has caused.
Winning, losing, and the arduous process
of continuing to find ways to gamble can have a dramatic impact on your mental
health. Pathological gambling can directly trigger or worsen symptoms of
depression, generalised anxiety, obsessions, and personality disorders.
If you have suffered from depression before you turned into a compulsive gambler, you are probably using the gambling behaviour for self-medication. But then as you start repeatedly losing
your bets, symptoms of the depression only get stronger and worse.
In addition to dramatically impacting depression, pathological gambling has a direct effect on anxiety. You
may feel increasing periods of tension before gambling that can only be
relieved through gambling. You might undergo anticipatory anxiety that may be
reported as either pleasurable, fearful, or unpleasant. You may also feel that
gambling is a way of reducing generalised anxiety by providing an escape from
reality and a temporary avoidance from life stress and responsibility.
In contrast, pathological gambling can
have direct, anxiogenic (anxiety-causing) consequences. This can especially be seen with “chasing” behaviours.
Chasing refers to a gambler who will repeatedly return to recoup losses,
usually within the same day. You will show a desperate urgency to recover
losses immediately; in failing to do so, will result in intense anxiety, fear,
and worry. In turn, this creates even more generalised anxiety, creating a
cycle where you are focused entirely on relieving this anxiety through more
Financial losses and accumulating debt
are the most obvious and visible consequences of pathological gambling. Unlike
other addictive disorders, pathological gambling can devastate your financial
portfolio in a matter of hours. You might end up losing your entire life
savings in a single gambling session.
As a pathological gambler, you will spend
large amounts of time gambling, thinking about gambling, or covering up the
consequences of gambling. Lost productivity at work will lead to lost
opportunities to advance. This will leave you in dire straits, making it harder to secure
future employment because of the damage sustained by prior gambling problems.
Legal consequences of pathological
gambling usually arise after the onset of financial problems. Researchers have
estimated that close to 30 to 40 percent of many of the white-collar crimes are
somehow tied to pathological gambling. Compulsive gamblers have
been known to resort to stealing, prostitution, embezzlement, insurance fraud,
and the use of loan sharks to finance ongoing gambling. In a survey of
Gambler's Anonymous, nearly 57 percent admitted to stealing in order to finance
There are only three options you will end
up with if you are addicted to gambling but are unwilling to do anything about
death (suicide mainly, due to landing yourself in huge amounts of debt), jail, or being admitted to an institution (a rehab in this case).
You would perhaps say that coming to us
is equivalent to going to jail. But at Solace Asia, we treat you, not punish you. We teach you
to derive pleasure out of the simple things in life and not obtain pleasure from compulsive
gambling. We stabilise the reward system of your brain and make you realise
that you don’t need an artificial external stimulus such as gambling to be
happy. To achieve this, we heal you from your pleasure dysfunction.
Addicts have a disease of pleasure. You have lost the natural ability to feel pleasure in life. The gambling has hijacked your brain's reward circuit. It's not your fault that you are this way. Everything you did in active addiction was a result of suffering from a pleasure disorder.
In rehab, we will treat you as a patient, not a criminal because as with every illness, you deserve treatment, not punishment. At Solace Asia, our program of recovery consists of fun, sober
activities that will enable you to enjoy life. We practice fun - we will take you to meet your inner child,
send you sailing, flying, and rock climbing. We will find you a sport or hobby that
you enjoy, which will help return your pleasure system to function normally
much in the same manner that physical rehabilitation returns speech and
movement in stroke patients. We will not only help you arrest your addiction,
but use various therapies from psychology to the arts to awaken you to yourself. As Shakespeare said: To thine own self, be true!