Gambling addiction is unspoken and undetected in most people yet has far-reaching consequences on persons and their families if not diagnosed.
It has been shown that a gambling habit can have many negative psychological, physical, and social repercussions. Pathological gambling and problem gambling have been re-classified by DSM-5 to be behavioural addiction. Individuals with problem or pathological gambling should seek help early to beat the habit and recover from the disorder without hitting rock-bottom
Problem gamblers experience feelings of despair when they realise how quickly their life savings are disappearing without being able to stop themselves. Individuals with problem or pathological gambling should seek help early to beat the habit and recover from the disorder without hitting rock-bottom.
A technique called "cognitive restructuring" may be helpful to some individuals who find themselves struggling with these addictions, but our main objective should be prevention!
What is a Gambling Disorder?
Most people might think that gambling is just for fun. But unknown to them, the underlying fact is that gambling can become a problem that, if left untreated, will lead to compulsive behaviour called gambling disorder.
In some people, gambling is not anymore for fun, but it becomes an addiction. Just like an alcoholic that craves more alcohol, gamblers crave gambling just the same way. Little did they know that this compulsive behaviour can lead to financial problems, personal relationships, and work.
People can notice that people with gambling disorders often lie and hide their behavior. For example, they can lie to their families and other people to cover their compulsive gambling. They may even turn to others to seek financial assistance to support their habit.
Gambling addiction in Singapore ranks high because more than half of its gamblers are elderly. However, it may be a direct result of several factors, such as retirement, lack of opportunities to socialize during their youth, death of relatives or loved ones, and illnesses that lead them to turn to gamble.
How does the brain get addicted to gambling?
Gambling addiction refers to the uncontrollable urge to gamble, despite knowing the severe consequences. Countless instances proved gambling addiction had negatively impacted a person's financial situation, family relationships, and mental and physical health. Recently, it was determined as an addiction.
The same as drugs or alcohol, gambling excites the brain's reward system, and this has the potential possibility to lead to addiction. In addition, it's been noticeable that gambling disorder shares many diagnostic criteria with those of drug dependence. Some of them are withdrawal, tolerance, unsuccessful quit attempts, and significant disturbances in life.
Located deep inside our brain is an area that sits in the centre and is called the ventral tegmentum. It is considered the brain's reward centre and has been involved in the processing of rewards. For example, whenever a person with a gambling disorder watches a video about gambling or participates in mock gambling, scientists notice changes in blood flow in some brain regions that indicate which parts are more active. The finding concluded that those people who suffered from gambling disorders have lesser activation in their reward pathways.
The finding explains why they are craving ways to stimulate their reward system. It may include a higher dose of drugs for people involved in drug addiction and increased betting until the last dollar drop for problem gamblers.
How do you stop gambling addiction?
First and foremost, you have to accept that you have a gambling problem. Second, we can't deny the fact that doing this takes tremendous strength and courage, mainly if you've been into it for quite a long time. However, don't forget that others have successfully overcome their gambling problem and started to rebuild their lives. In that case, it only means that you, too, can break the habit.
Here are some but highly effective steps on how to stop gambling addiction:
- Replace uncomfortable feelings with healthier thinking - when do you gamble? Is it when you are lonely or alone? After an argument with your boss or colleague, or wife? Regardless of your reasons, gambling is undeniably a way to eradicate unpleasant feelings or emotions. But don't forget that there are healthier ways to manage your unpleasant emotions and relieve the feeling of loneliness. Instead, you can do exercise, relaxation techniques, read, or spend quality time with your loved ones who do not gamble or take up a new hobby.
- Seek professional help from experts - certain factors trigger gambling problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, and abuse of illegal substances. It would be best if you seek the assistance of experts to stop gambling for good.
- Make a decision - for all we know, gambling doesn't happen without you being conscious about it. For gambling to happen, you have to choose to gamble. In case an urge to gamble suddenly occurs, stop and ponder on the consequences. Tell yourself that you are a new person, a new human being. Or better yet, call someone immediately to help you find something else to do so you can divert that feeling.
Counselling can also be a significant help for those affected family members. It can help you identify your family's strengths that you can use to overcome compulsive gambling. Remember that those individuals known as problem gamblers are at a high risk of committing suicide. Therefore, it is paramount not to take gambling addiction lightly.
Although their families and friends should support compulsive gamblers, the final decision will still lie on them to quit gambling addiction. Singapore has various gambling addiction Healthline that can assist them in overcoming the gambling problem.
In case you or one of your family members have a compulsive gambling problem, you can contact the following gambling addiction hotline:
1. Gambling Helpline:
2. Recovery Support Group Meetings
WE CARE Community Services
11 Kampong Bugis
For further inquiries, you can call: +65-6471-5346
3. National Council of Social Services (NCSS)
Ulu Pandan Community Building
170 Ghim Moh Road, #01-02 Singapore
Tel #: 6210 2500
Fax #: 6468 1012
4. National Council on Problem Gambling
510 Thomson Rd, #05-01 SLF Complex, Singapore 298135
Tel #: +65 6354 8154
5. The Silver Lining Counselling Centre
11 Playfair Rd, Singapore 367986
Tel #: +65 6749 0400
6. Arise2Care Community Services
5 Harper Rd, #02-01/A, Singapore 369673
Tel #: +65 6909 0628