Online Gambling Problems

The advances in broadband and wireless technology have made the world come together closer than never before. Now virtually everything is possible on the net-shopping, clinching business deals, social networking, and even gambling, the ever-favorite pastime of men. Online gambling first emerged in the early part of the 1990s and had become an instant hit, with an estimated 3000 online websites on the net today. It totally radicalized the gambling industry and has seen takers from across age groups. However, just like the land version, even internet gambling is fraught with problems. The addiction problem prevails in the online world as well.

What is problem gambling?

Problem gambling is an impulse-control disorder that leads to major disruptions in all areas of life: psychological, social, vocational or physical. It also includes the stage of ‘pathological’ or ‘compulsive’ gambling. Problem gambling is characterized by an increasing preoccupation with gambling. They have an urge to bet money more frequently and become restless or irritable, if anyone tries to stop. They usually are aware of the mounting, serious, negative problems but staying off the bet becomes the most difficult thing for them.

Online problem gambling is a manifestation of the aforementioned problems. But a study has shown that people who indulge in online gambling have more serious addiction problems than those who use the lottery or play slot machines. Online gambling problems are on the rise because of the explosive growth of the internet.

Causes leading to Internet Gambling

o The privacy and anonymous nature of the internet space has led to people taking to gambling without any hesitation.

o Easy accessibility of online games in the internet has led to people spending more time on gambling.

o Those who work on the internet most of the time can easily avail of online games. This gradually leads to addiction.

Signs of problem Gambling

o Gambling much longer than intended.

o Gambling until you spend the last penny.

o Using up incomes or even saving to gamble, while bills remain unpaid.

o Borrowing money continuously to finance your gambling needs.

o Neglecting your family and professional responsibilities.

o Stoop to stealing, cheating or selling household stuff to get gambling money.

o Gamble with the hope that it will solve financial woes or even win back losses.

o Relieve feelings of depression.

o They can easily set up a gambling account and there are a variety of forms of gambling – right from traditional betting, to casino gambling, lotteries and bingo. All this makes online gambling tremendously appealing.

o There is no time limit and in the absence of a supervisor, a person can go on gambling for up to 24 hours a day.

o As you play, there is a decreased perception of the value of cash and players frequently forget that they are playing with cash.

Online Gambling and its effects

Though many believe that legalized gambling is just harmless entertainment, but people already affected by it and continuous study results have veered on its deceptive nature. In fact, it is considered to cause even more harm than playing in a live casino building. The health and emotional difficulties associated with gambling disorders includes depression, circulatory disease, substance abuse and even risky sexual behavior. Recent studies have concluded that online gambling comprised basically of unmarried and younger participants over people who never gamble. Contrary to the fact that internet is associated with high education level and higher income strata, the study pointed out that online gambler addicts belong to lower education and income levels. Online gambling is one of the fastest growing addictions to afflict the youth today.

The American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a study wherein they found that 74% of online gamblers are problematic or pathological gamblers. Among this, the group that is most at risk is the teens. Online problem gamblers spend much more money on the online gambling websites than the amount teenagers spend on drugs. The worse bit of online gambling is its anonymity. Earlier, a person had to go to a gambling house in order to satisfy their urge to gamble and everybody knew how you fare or how much you lost. But now, you just walk into your office or bedroom and there goes your savings in thin air, and not a soul gets a whiff of it. The lenient regulation measures of the online gambling industry have only added on to the problem.

Treatment for Online Problem Gambling

Those addicted to online gambling need to take the following steps to avoid and get over such problems. Its very important to remember the onus of the entire treatment process lies, first and foremost, with you. You should wake up and take control, before you reach the point of no return. The first steps are always the hardest and once you can overcome them; the rest will be a breeze of air.

o Be honest with yourself and accept your problem.

o Manage your money and keep track of the amount you are spending. Gamers should remember to spend only what they can afford to lose. Chasing losses will only lead to a further downward spiral.

o Postpone your gambling urges. Next time you want to play, catch a movie or go out for dinner. Playing sudoku will take off your mind from gambling for a while.

o When you have leisure time, indulge in recreation that has nothing to with gambling.

o Use software to block access to gambling sites and make it password protected. You should not know the password.

o Get professional help as soon as possible.

Online problem gambling may affect anyone. One should be aware of one’s gambling behavior. There are many gory examples of problem gambling which should serve as eye openers for the affected. Any form of addiction is a choice. It becomes a disease because of your loss of control. Speak to your near and dear ones. Help is never far away. One precious lifetime is all you get, and it would be incredibly foolish to attempt to ruin even a second of it by way of unnecessary problems.

When Gambling Takes Over

The casino is a world onto itself. There are no windows, no clock, but there are flashing lights, and the din of clacking coins and whirring slot machines. Beyond the slots, figures are mesmerized at the crap table. Interest in poker hit new heights with televised Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments. For the majority of gamblers, this is excitement, recreation, a fun diversion or escape from the ordinary and a chance to beat the odds. For others, an estimated three percent of the adult population, it’s an addiction, an endless roller coaster of excitement and despair.

A pervasive characteristic of addiction of any kind is that the repeated behaviors have led to a range of negative consequences. This may be putting it mildly in the case of pathological gambling, because someone in the grips of compulsive gambling usually suffers severe blows to finances and relationships before seeking help. His or her life may be in shambles.

Often the compulsive gambler’s denial leads him to believe that the next round will save the day. Of course, if the numbers come up right, the cash or credit won is then “invested” again. Gambling addiction is hardly a recent development, but the advent of electronic poker and the break-neck speed of today’s slot machines, as well as Internet gambling have actually sped up the time it takes to gamble for fun and when it slips into problematic, then compulsive behavior.

Pathological gambling, like other addictions, is both a biological and a behavioral disease. While we don’t know all the factors leading to gambling addiction, they often include social, family and psychological elements. We do know that the brain neuropathways involving the brain’s mechanisms are affected in an individual’s perception of rewarding experiences. The emotional escape that an individual finds in gambling may become entrenched.

We have seen from 15-20 percent of patients who suffer from cross-addictive disorders, such as alcoholism or drug dependency with problem gambling. Some estimates state that 35 percent of those with substance abuse or dependence also have met the diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling at some point in their lives. The SOGS (South Oaks Gambling Screen) is the accepted psychosocial diagnostic tool to identify a gambling problem and its progression.

Both substance and gambling addiction are progressive diseases, and may be characterized by inability to control impulses (to use or to gamble) denial, anxiety mood swings and depression and the need for instant gratification. Gambling, like chemical dependency, offers euphoric highs, which are inevitably followed by emotional valleys and usually remorse and shame. A major difference in gambling versus substance addiction is that the alcoholic or drug addict doesn’t believe the substance is the answer to recovery and to his problems, while the compulsive gambler believes the Big Win will be the answer to all his problems.

Gambling addictions can also result in symptoms such as blackouts and sleep disorders and hopelessness. Divorce, relationship and work problems, even arrests are some devastating consequences of compulsive gambling. A person’s general health is often neglected, including medical conditions that have been ignored. Gambling addiction is certainly a family disease, creating a dysfunctional family system that revolves around the individual’s addiction. Children may be emotionally stranded as well as physically neglected. Kids are affected long term too, with studies estimating 35 to 50 percent of children of pathological gamblers eventually experiencing gambling problems of their own.

It is important that when chemical and gambling addictions co-occur, they are treated at the same time. Like chemical dependency, gambling addiction is addressed in holistic treatment based on the Twelve Step Philosophy. Treatment is individualized and takes into account issues of gender and age.

Gambling: is it the money?

Some experts, including Dr. Henry Lesieur, St. John’s University, NY, who co-authored the SOGS screening assessment, believe it isn’t really about the money, even though money becomes a looming issue. Seeking action seems to be the major impetus for many. Being in action may be similar to the high of taking cocaine. “Chasing losses” is term use by habitual gamblers to describe attempting to recoup the gambling losses by winning. The action gambler usually likes to gamble on site, at a casino, racetrack, or other “live” venue. Often they are identified by casinos as “high rollers” and received comped rooms and meals. Others, though, don’t gamble for action so much as numb their feelings with compulsive gambling, so it becomes the ultimate, albeit temporary escape.

Age and gender as factors

A study by University of Connecticut Health Center psychiatrists published in 2002 evaluated gamblers seeking treatment and found significant differences by age and gender in pathological gamblers. Middle aged (aged 36-55) and older gamblers tended to include more women, at 45-55 percent, than younger gamblers (aged 18-35) at 23 percent. Middle aged and older women didn’t begin gambling regularly until the age of 55, while older men reported a habit of lifelong gambling. Perhaps surprisingly, the women also wagered greatest amounts in the month prior to treatment. Younger gamblers reported most problems with substance abuse, social and legal problems, while older gamblers found more employment-related problems.

There is hope for recovery

Pathological gamblers, like others who suffer from addiction can and do recover. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, can change unhealthy behaviors and thoughts, including false beliefs, rationalizations, and self-destructive feelings. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy also helps individuals to meet life on its own terms rather than escape painful emotions with compulsive addictions.

A holistic treatment program that addresses the root issues of addiction as well as any co-occurring disorders is an effective approach that treats the whole person. Continuing care may be essential, especially for impulse control, as well as ongoing participation in support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. The recovering gambler may also need professional financial advise, and family therapy can help to develop a supportive, healthy family structure for sustained recovery.