If you think you might be spending too much time gambling at the casino or online, you should ask yourself a few questions to determine whether you might have a gambling addiction problem. These questions, from the US National Council on Problem Gambling and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada, can help you in the first step to recovery: admitting you have a problem.
1. Do you ever gamble longer than you intended?
2. Do you often gamble until you have no money left?
3. Is your ability to sleep ever interrupted by thoughts of gambling?
4. Have you ever used your money to gamble while leaving bills unpaid?
5. Have you made attempts to stop gambling in the past that were unsuccessful?
6. Have you ever broken the law or thought about breaking the law to pay for your gambling?
7. Have you ever burrowed money for gambling purposes?
8. Have you ever become depressed or considered suicide because of gambling losses or despair related to gambling?
9. Do you or have you ever felt remorseful after gambling?
10. Have you ever gambled in an attempt to win money to meet financial obligations?
11. Do you find yourself ever trying to win back your losses (chasing).
12. Do you ever gamble in attempt to cope with loneliness, boredom, depression, stress, or to escape from reality?
13. Do you find yourself gambling larger and larger amounts of money?
14. Do you find yourself gambling more and more frequently?
15. Do you gamble even when experiencing financial problems?
16. Do you believe in the “big win”?
17. Have you ever felt you were on a “winning streak”?
If you answered yes to some of the above questions, you should consider getting help from a professional. You may visit Gamblers Anonymous for the support of others, but you should also consult a psychiatrist and research additional information online or through books that can help you with your problem.
Fortunately, there have been many breakthroughs in understanding the human mind recently, and a picture is beginning to emerge that helps us understand how and why we become addicted to things. Although addiction may have been developed as a natural process to insure that we survived as a species, our modern society has developed many things that can co-opt the natural usefulness of an in-built addictive instinct.
We now know, however, that we each have a choice to dis-identify with the feelings and mind-state that come along with addiction.
Gambling Addiction a Chemical Dependency
Gambling addiction is, in fact, a chemical dependency. It is happens due to physiological processes, regardless if we normally consider those processes totally mental processes. The fact is, there is a certain mind-set that one gets into while gambling. The brain and body eventually become addicted to this feeling, as the cells in the body become increasingly more receptive to certain “peptides” that create certain states of mind. Peptides are chemical messengers that influence your mood, and over time, your cells will acquire more receptors for certain peptides if you continually generate certain mind states by your actions. There are other chemicals that come into play as well. A study carried out by a psychiatrist formerly working with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that pathological gamblers have lower amounts of norepinephrine in their brains than most people. This chemical is secreted during times of stress, excitement, thrill or arousal. Some people with a gambling addiction may therefore have become dependent upon gambling to produce norepinephrine, or may partake in gambling to bring balance to their initial deficiency.
Here’s the good news. Regardless of what we are feeling, it is our choice whether to act upon our feelings or not. The trick is to observe oneself carefully to notice the changes in feeling, and then to recognize that you are not that feeling. Quite simply, it is not you, and if you choose to not let it control you, in time the urge to gamble will decrease and disappear. Although you may still feel like gambling now and then it will be much easier to ignore that urge. Your cells will eventually abandon their excess receptors that have gotten used to receiving the peptides associated with the feelings that you have while gambling. You will then be able to independently experience these feelings once again. Indeed, if you can use your gambling addiction to become aware of your inner state, allowing yourself to observe and detach from your urges, you will have a tremendous opportunity for personal growth. If we allow ourselves to become more aware and more sensitive to the outer world and our inner world, we will then have the ability to achieve a permanent balance that goes far beyond any temporary pleasures we can gain from gambling.
With an unbending intent, it is possible. The first step is to want to achieve independence and happiness. Think of your urges to gamble as a wake up call to become more aware and stop identifying with the urge. Being addicted to something is a sign of an inner problem, wherein the person involved is neglecting their inner state. No matter how much we look outside ourselves for contentment, however, we will never find it. The place to start, regardless of how cliché or corny it sounds, is inside yourself. Let your urges to gamble wake you up to your inner processes. In this way, your weakness can become a strength, and if you resolve to never give up, you will succeed. Other people have before you, and so shall you. Visit Gamblers Anonymous for the support of people who have gone through and who are going through what you are experiencing.