Submitted by Bedford Youth and Family Service
While there is a stigma surrounding all mental health disorders, there are additional misconceptions about gambling disorder. Many people see it as a weakness or a character flaw and don’t understand how someone can’t simply stop gambling when it begins to disrupt their life.
But for those with a gambling disorder, the destructive gambling habits have become compulsive, and they may even suffer withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop.
Gambling disorder was officially defined as a mental health disorder in 1980 by the American Psychiatric Association. It was initially considered a compulsive disorder but was later re-categorized as an addiction, since the symptoms people experience are similar to that of other addictions.
There are serious consequences to gambling addiction, including a heightened risk of suicide. Other harmful impacts can also be devastating, including financial struggles like bankruptcy, relationship difficulties, loss of employment, depression, anxiety, and other forms of addiction, including alcohol and substance use.
The good news is there are growing resources available for those living with gambling addiction, including group or individual therapy support and medication. About 30% of those with gambling disorder are also able to recover on their own, without professional intervention.
It’s never too early to seek answers or seek help. Taking the first step and being able to recognize symptoms of problem gambling when you first think you see problem gambling could save you or a loved one from serious consequences.
- Escalating the amount of money gambled in order to feel excitement, or to make up for previous losses (also known as chasing the loss)
- Being unable to cut back or stop gambling, or feeling restless and irritable when attempting to stop
- Preoccupation with gambling
- Lying about the amount of time or money spent gambling
- Losing a relationship, job or other opportunity due to gambling
If you’re unsure of whether you or a loved one might have a gambling disorder, you can take a free, anonymous online screening at www.bedfordma.gov/youth under the screenings section to get more insight into your particular circumstances. After you take a screening, you’re connected with local resources that can aid in recovery.