Supporting a Gambler With a Gambling Disorder

Gambling is risking something of value (usually money) on an event involving chance in the hopes of winning a substantial profit. It has existed in virtually every culture since prerecorded history and is incorporated into many social customs and rites of passage. However, while most people who gamble do so without problems, a significant number of individuals develop gambling disorder, which is defined by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as persistent, recurrent, and uncontrollable gambling behavior that causes significant distress or impairment.

There are four main reasons why people start to gamble and why it can be difficult to quit: for fun, to win money, for a rush or feeling of high, and as a coping mechanism for anxiety. In addition, a person may also have specific personality traits or coexisting mental health conditions that make them more susceptible to gambling addiction.

When you gamble, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is a natural neurotransmitter that makes us feel pleasure and reward. When we engage in healthy activities, such as spending time with loved ones or eating a good meal, our bodies receive the dopamine reward that makes us feel happy and satisfied. When we gamble, we can get the same pleasure-seeking feelings that we experience from other healthy activities, but the dopamine produced by gambling doesn’t last as long.

Problem gambling can have serious consequences for the individual who is addicted, as well as their family and friends. The addiction can cause them to skip work, school, or other responsibilities and may result in failing classes or being fired from their job. In some cases, it can even lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts. It is important for loved ones to support the recovery of their friend or family member from gambling addiction by setting boundaries in managing their finances, taking control of household budgets, and reviewing bank and credit card statements regularly.

It’s also helpful for family and friends to attend groups specifically for those with gambling disorders. This can help them understand the specific challenges and obstacles that their loved one is facing in recovery, and provide a space to share their own experiences and learn from each other’s successes. This is especially important in preventing burnout, which can happen when someone supports an addict for too long. It is also crucial for those supporting a loved one to seek out counseling for themselves, as this can improve their own mental health and wellbeing. It is also important to recognize and celebrate small wins on the recovery journey, as these can be very meaningful for a person with gambling addiction. This can motivate them to continue their recovery efforts and encourage them to stay on the path to recovery.