How often has it happened to so many of us- something that you do just for fun suddenly acquires severe proportions and before you know it, becomes an addiction? Drugs, betting, drinking and going to a casino are harmless diversions if just done once, but the more often you travel on that road, the more hooked you are. What began as a harmless pastime is now an addiction. It’s then that betting and gambling become a problem- your personal life is ruined, your work suffers, you run up debts that you can’t pay, and your whole life is turned upside down.
How gambling becomes an addiction
This addiction is associated with an excessive release of dopamine in the brain- many times more than average. Dopamine is a ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter that triggers the ‘good feeling’ that gamblers get when they gamble. The very act of gambling stimulates neurons in the brain and encourages it to produce dopamine. Slowly, the dependency increases and the person has to gamble more just to get that ‘feel good’ feeling. Over a period, there is so much of dopamine that the brain slowly begins to produce less of the substance. Gamblers now reach a stage where gambling becomes a ‘must do’- come what may. When that becomes difficult to achieve, the addicts become physically ill and edgy. The brain is deprived of dopamine, and the neural pathways weaken.
Impact of addictive gambling
Gambling addiction is a compulsive disorder of sorts that makes you play regardless of the consequences. Very often it is associated with other behavioural disorders such as stress, depression, substance abuse or anxiety. Those addicted often steal money to gamble again or to pay part of their debts. The situation is indeed frightening for those around the victim, but remember, it’s not the end of the road for you. With the right support and help, you can bring your life back on track and bring back the smile to your loved ones’ lips.
Don’t be in denial
That’s the first and most crucial step- recognise that you have a problem and try to break the habit. You can’t do this alone, so be prepared to take help from those around you. Both require tremendous courage- owning up to your addiction and letting other people support you. It becomes even more difficult if you have lost a lot of money gambling, are heavily in debt and have strained relationships with those who matter to you. Take heart from the fact that you’re not alone in this battle like so many unfortunates and use this to your advantage.
Analyse your addiction and act
You apparently can’t do this alone- your support network is there for you, but you need to get some answers for yourself. If you gamble just because you’re bored or lonely, then learn to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Join clubs and discussion forums, listen to music, practice meditation techniques, reach out to colleagues at work, do some volunteering work- anything that will occupy you and take your mind off gambling. Gamblers Anonymous has structured programs that offer guidance and support. Talk to people that have been down the ‘gambling addiction’ road and have cured themselves.
Fight the urge
Resist the temptation to gamble- the internet does make that very difficult, but the moment you feel like it, turn your mind to something else- call a friend and talk or take up a physical activity that will rid you of the urge. Fill your day so that you don’t have the time to think of gambling. For some time, hand over your credit cards to your family and keep just a little cash with you- this could act as a deterrent. Remove all gambling sites from your laptop, switch over to more enjoyable ways of spending time and do new things that interest you.
This will take time, commitment will power and a lot of patience, but in the end, you’ll win.