While all addictions are broadly similar, gambling is purely a process addiction which does not require the physical intake of substances like drugs or alcohol for example.
Process in this case means that the emotive centers in the brain become rewired and only fully activated when the gambler is in action (i.e. gambling or thinking about gambling). Everything including other people become secondary to the gamble. Often gamblers suffer terribly from a type of impulse control disorder, the effects of which can be financial, relationship, and often serious legal or possibly criminal problems.
This is where the treatment profession cliché “Gambling is not a financial problem it’s an emotional problem” comes from.
Gamblers are on a constant emotional roller coaster. The cycle begins with the buildup, then the rush of the event, and then the hard come down. The only escape from this is to start and plain the next cycle over, and over again, often increasing the dose of risk to maintain the levels of dopamine and adrenaline release.
As a progressive condition (it never gets better without help or treatment) the symptoms can develop into acute anxiety, panic disorder, severe depression and suicidality.
- Preoccupation with gambling and constantly planning to raise the ammunition or money for the next gamble. This could involve borrowing from institutions, family and friends, or using money for utility and house old bills to fuel the gamble.
- Unsuccessful attempts to control or cut back. Having to break promises and lying about the time and money spent gambling.
- Becoming furtive, and secretive with family and friends.
- Others may notice that the problem gambler will appear avoidant and withdrawn, not present and lost in their thoughts.
- Money issues that don’t fit their level income.
- Lying even when it’s unnecessary.
These are a few tips for those who are in recovery from gambling addiction and how to stay on track during festival periods:
Avoid the Media– It is very difficult to engage with radio stations, newspapers, and television during this time of the year without being exposed to adverts for gambling. Protect your recovery by avoiding engagement with the media for festival periods which will keep things simple for you and keep obsessive thoughts and compulsions to gamble at bay. Remember it is just for today, just for this period, and it is not depriving you but protecting you.
Lean into your Support System– Stay in regular contact with family and friends who are aware of your gambling addiction and fellows you know who are also recovering from gambling addiction, during festival periods, for support and accountability. If you are afraid to trust yourself with your bank cards or cash, ask them to manage your spending for the festival period. If checking in with them every day helps you to stay honest with yourself about your addiction, do this. If you attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings, attend more during this period. Use all the tools that have helped you to stay well this far into your addiction recovery.
Have a Plan– The infamous saying goes, fail to plan, plan to fail. If it became habitual for you to spend festival periods, gambling day in day out, you will need to have a new plan in place to protect yourself from falling back into that. Prepare by having plans in place to spend your time in a way that will keep you from being idle, keep you connected to others, and keep you engaging with healthy outlets for you e.g. hobbies, projects. Keeping busy will buffer you from the temptation of falling back into gambling.
There is support, Let’s Get Talking have a range of addiction specialist therapist that can support you.
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