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Compulsive Gambling And Addiction: Co-Occurring Disorders

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Like several anxiety and mood disorders, people with a compulsive gambling problem have a high risk of developing substance use problems. Compulsive gamblers often turn to substances to self-medicate from the result of their gambling outcomes.

Unfortunately, a gambling disorder can intensify a substance use problem, enhancing symptoms of both diseases. Treatment for these co-occurring disorders is most effective when both issues are addressed together, rather than separately.

This treatment is referred to as dual-diagnosis treatment. The first step for a co-occurring compulsive gambling and addiction problem is to enter an inpatient treatment program for substance use first.

What Is Compulsive Gambling?

Compulsive gambling is an uncontrollable urge to continue gambling, despite the toll it takes on your life. Often called a gambling disorder, this compulsion involves repeat behavior that causes significant problems or distress.

When you gamble, you risk something you value in hopes of getting something of even higher value. Most casual gamblers stop when they meet their threshold of loss. People with compulsive gambling problems are compelled to keep playing to recover their money.

The compulsion to gamble and chase bets can be crippling to someone’s life and finances. If not stopped, this pattern of problem gambling becomes destructive over time.

Common symptoms for people with compulsive gambling include:

  • Always thinking about gambling.
  • Thinking about reliving previous wins, or new ways to secure money to gamble again.
  • Wanting to gamble with larger amounts of money to get the same thrill.
  • Trying to control or stop gambling without success.
  • Asking others for money to resolve financial situations from gambling.
  • Committing crimes to secure money to finance gambling.
  • Feeling annoyed, restless, or irritable when trying to cut down on gambling.
  • Attempting to get back lost money by gambling more (chasing losses).
  • Using gambling to escape feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety.
  • Lying to friends and family to hide gambling behavior.
  • Risking meaningful relationships, employment, or other opportunities from gambling behavior.

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What Are The Risk Factors Of Compulsive Gambling?

Compulsive gambling disorder is a combination of biological, genetic, and environmental factors. However, other factors increase the chances an individual will develop a gambling addiction.

Compulsive gambling risk factors include:

Age: Compulsive gambling may develop at any age but is more common in younger and middle-aged people. Gambling during childhood or teenage years increases the risk of developing a compulsive gambling disorder.

Gender: Compulsive gambling is more common in men than in women. Women who gamble later in life become addicted more quickly than men.

Family or friend influence: If your loved ones have gambling problems, your risk factors increase. You may believe their behaviors are acceptable, which increases the chances you may develop a problem as well.

Mental health disorders: Compulsive gamblers have higher instances of co-occurring disorders such as substance use problems, depression, or anxiety.

Medication side effects: Some drugs have a rare side effect that may result in compulsive behaviors.

The Link Between Gambling And Substance Use Like Alcoholism

While many people use gambling as a form of fun, over 5 million Americans become addicted to it. A person becomes so wrapped up in placing the next bet, and the euphoric rush that accompanies a win, that they begin to crave the euphoria.

When a gambler loses, the emotional crash of a loss requires another win or “fix” to regain the high. The extreme highs and lows of the gambling lifestyle open up the door for substance use.

Many compulsive gamblers turn to substances like drugs or alcohol to distract themselves from the stress or anxiety of crippling financial losses or unraveling relationships.

The combination of gambling and substance use is an ongoing cycle of desire and compulsion. It becomes challenging to manage and separate both problems as they start to inflict both physical and mental harm.

The Dangers Of Untreated Gambling And Substance Use

Compulsive gambling often goes untreated. Many people have a hard time admitting they have a problem and only realize they need help until it is too late.

Many compulsive gamblers use substances to attempt to recreate the high of a big win and quickly become just as addicted to substances as they are to gambling.

While substances may relieve stress, anxiety, or mask the symptoms of the gambling “euphoria,” this makes symptoms worse. Coming down from alcohol or a drug-induced high will tax the body and negatively affect the mood.

Treatment Options For Gambling Addiction And Substance Use

The most effective option for treating co-occurring compulsive gambling and addiction is dual-diagnosis treatment. This addresses both of the disorders at the same time rather than treating each disorder as a separate problem.

Treating substance use without addressing the co-occurring gambling problem increases the risk of relapse. If both are not addressed, someone is also more likely to stop treatment sooner than recommended.

Help Available At Vertava Health

Compulsive gambling is a legitimate mental health issue that responds well to treatment. The longer the compulsive gambling goes untreated, the greater the financial, emotional, or health consequences become.

Co-occurring substance use and compulsive gambling treatment are individualized for each client.

At Vertava Health, our specialists provide each person with a highly tailored recovery program. This rehab program uses addiction treatment with other addiction therapies to treat both compulsive gambling and substance use.

Vertava Health Therapies For Compulsive Gambling And Addiction:

Inpatient Care

Successful treatment for compulsive gambling and addiction usually begins with inpatient treatment. Offering 24-hour supervision, inpatient treatment is the safest setting for people to detox from drugs and alcohol.

This type of care immerses a person in a rehab program that provides individualized addiction treatment services necessary for a successful outcome.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. The treatment involves identifying how thoughts can impact emotions and behaviors.

People undergoing CBT for substance use and compulsive gambling disorder are taught how to cope with their thoughts and emotions in healthier ways. This involves relearning how to live without gambling high and to avoid using drugs or alcohol for symptom relief.

Recovery from addiction and management of compulsive gambling symptoms is a lifelong process. This process can only begin if you reach out for help. Once in treatment, you can develop a plan with our specialists to find options that suit your needs.

Contact our treatment specialists today for more information about treatment options for compulsive gambling and addiction.