Julie Miller's Mental Health Blog

“G” is for Gambling

Posted on: March 28, 2010

Problem gambling is a “process” addiction, not a substance addiction.  Process addictions are things like eating disorders, sex addictions, spending/debting addiction – whatever is compulsive and “addictive,” that is not a chemical, drug or other substance.  Sometimes the addictions go together, as in drinking and gambling at a casino.

Gambling is a process addiction that does not create a physiological dependence on a substance and therefore does not create withdrawal symptoms upon abstinece; however, there are many similar dynamics to a physiological dependence on a substance and withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms from compulsive gambling may include cravings, urges and longing to return to gambling, anxiety, irritability, a sense of emptiness or loneliness, depression, euphoric recall (remembering gambling as a wonderful thing, and forgetting all the pain caused by it), etc.

I know several individuals who gamble, either with card games, sports betting, casinos, or online gambling.  Most of these individuals have a set limit of the money they will spend and use gambling as truly a recreational activity.  When they’ve used up the funds they set aside, it’s over.  They don’t lie about it or hide it from family or friends.  They are not preoccupied with gambling or with planning their next gambling adventure.  They do not need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to achieve the desired level of excitement (also known as tolerance).  They do not use gambling as a way to escape problems or relieve uncomfortable feelings (such as anger, sadness, helplessness or guilt).  They do not commit illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft or embezzlement to finance gambling.  They do not rely on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling.

These behaviors are indicative of a problem.  Do you notice that you relate to some of these behaviors?  Perhaps you relate, but not with gambling; perhaps you relate with shopping, internet, food, or working.

Process addictions can be as damaging to oneself and to one’s family and friends as any chemical addiction.  With the advent of legal casinos in Arizona, run by Native American Tribes, problem gambling has increased, along with options for getting help.

Next time, we’ll talk about what recovery looks like!

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