Approximately 6.8 million Australians are regular gamblers, spending thousands on one or more gambling activities each month, according to a new analysis by the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC). Gambling addiction is a disease and several scientific studies have proven that it is; but is it really that bad and how bad can gambling even get? We’ll discuss how bad can gambling ruin your life in a matter of weeks or even days and what it does to your brain in this article.
According to the Australian Gaming Council’s 2014/2015 gambling industries report, the average Australian adult drops $1,172.14 on gambling per year, making Australia the gambling capital of the world. When you win a simple bet, you get this really good feeling, like everything is right in the world; the feeling of euphoria. Well, it’s because your brain releases all these “feel-good chemicals” like endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. This is one of the reasons why gambling is so addictive, to get that rush, that high and being intoxicated by our own self-produced chemicals.
Christopher Hunt a clinical psychologist at the University of Sydney Gambling Treatment Clinic told CNN, “While gambling on sports tends to be male-dominated and seen as a traditionally masculine activity, playing the pokies has more equal distribution across the sexes.” He also said that about four out of five gambling addicts in Australia experience their problem on pokies machines. They’re prevalent in the community, they’re high-intensity, they’re highly addictive.
WHY NOT JUST QUIT?
According to Melbourne gambling help group Bayside therapy, stopping an addiction on your own can be difficult while the costs of not changing become huge. Draining your account, stealing, selling your belongings for gambling money and even lying to others in order to gamble are common signs of the problem. Win, lose, or draw; nothing seems to cure the itch. The fact of the matter is, for a gambler’s addiction— it’s not as easy as losing a bet and then that’s going to be the end of it, the addiction isn’t just instilled by winning, it’s also at the expectation of the results.
A gambler’s perspective would be as much as the same as it is from losing as to winning for a gambler. “Winning and waiting to see if you’ve won, the anticipation, they’re both pretty much the same; and that’s a really key point about gambling. It’s not just the winning that counts, it’s the taking part— repeatedly when you don’t win is as the same as the gambler winning.” – Leading expert on Addiction, Professor David Nutt a director of the neuropsychopharmacology division of Brain Sciences, Imperial College London.
Alex Tseroz, 26, shared his experience gambling at Crown Casino in Melbourne to let people know that gambling is an addiction we can fight. He said peer pressure was the only key that led him to gamble otherwise he wouldn’t have chosen to do it by himself. Alex suggested that we should save money for a better future as he lost a lot of money that he would have used for something more useful.
CONTROLLING WHAT I BET
Then why not just control what you bet? The problem would be getting the addiction— the craving of it. Saying that you have things under control or believing that you won’t get addicted to gambling is just like promising to yourself that you’ll be rich, handsome and happy by the age of 25. In reality, you’ll likely to be more addicted to gambling than you think.
HOW WOULD I KNOW IF I’M ADDICTED TO GAMBLING?
One would barely notice if you’re addicted or not, the symptoms wouldn’t be obvious to the person itself. Some people would justify it as a mere past time activity, and end up saying to themselves that they can quit anytime, they have it under control or even acknowledging to themselves that they know what they’re doing. These are the common phrases and/or excuses people tell themselves and to friends and loved ones. While in a real sense, people DON’T HAVE IT UNDER CONTROL.
Ruby a professional gambling counsellor I met at Crown Casino Melbourne said that there are several indications that someone is addicted:
- Tolerance: Like drug tolerance, addicted gamblers feel the urge to gamble with large amounts of cash in order to achieve the desired excitement.
- Loss of control: An addicted gambler would make repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
- Preoccupation: An addicted gambler preoccupied with gambling and would have frequent thoughts about gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble.
- Withdrawal: An addicted gambler would be restless or irritable when attempting to slow down or stop gambling.
- Escape: Some addicted gamblers like to gamble as a way of dodging personal problems or to feel relieved from a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of anxiety, guilt, helplessness depression or any other problems they may be going through)
- Chasing: After losing money gambling, addicted gamblers often returns another day to get even.”get what they lost.”
- Lying: It’s easy for an addicted gambler to lie to friends, family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
- Illegal acts: An addicted gambler would have committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance gambling.
- Risking Relationships: An addicted gambler would have jeopardised or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling.
- Bailout: An addicted gambler would rely on others, such as friends or family, to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling and would rather miss out on family events in order to gamble.
Ruby said the counselling they give to addicts tends to help. But sometimes some of these addicts tend to fallback into gambling if they find themselves thinking of their losses or something as simple as getting bored. In such occasions they advice the addicts to seek financial assistance, family assistance in collaboration with mental health therapy which are available in Melbourne.
WHAT’S THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN ANYWAY, RIGHT?
Worst case, you’ll lose a couple of hundreds of dollars, right? Well, if you’re a gambling addict, you’ll see your assets liquidated into cash and even place it as winnings if push comes to shove, just to finance your gambling needs. It’s so easy to lose everything in a blink of an eye when you’re in too deep into gambling. Next thing you know, you’ll be getting loans from questionable sources and your friends or family will start being suspicious of your loans. You could also risk your relationship and your whole family along with it. Eventually, once you’ve hit rock bottom with all the problems that gambling has brought you. Worst scenario, you’ll end up taking your own life because of the pressure or losing it all. “A 2010 study by The Alfred Hospital (Australia) indicated that 17 percent of emergency room admissions for suicide were related to compulsive gambling.” — Northstar Alliance, 2013
HOW DO I PREVENT IT?
If you are just going to gamble for fun with your friends, always remember to have each other’s back and have your money limits. Call them out if they’re getting in too deep into any gambling games. If you’re alone and thought it would be a good past time, never forget to set a limit in your games or better yet, don’t even make it as a past time at all. Better to be safe than sorry. Gambling is all fun and sure it can be amusing at times. However, before you start getting into the game you should practice good self-control first before you step in to that gambling table: Practicing self-control and self-awareness would be an ideal method of to fight off gambling addiction. In a perfect world, a simple pill would be enough to counteract addiction but they we’re not in a perfect world, but the perfect method in fighting addiction is proper self-control.