In many ways, gambling addiction is one of the least understood forms of psychological dependency. While most people do realize that gambling to excess is likely to cause severe financial problems, very few understand the deep and profoundly consequences that compulsive gambling can have on the physical and mental health of those whose obsession with wagering and games of chance has steamrollered out of control. With many addictions, it is the craving for the substance or behavior or experience that dominates the addict’s every waking moment. The situation of the compulsive gambler is analogous to a certain extent, but those who are losing money right and left and falling deeper and deeper into debt are facing additional pressures and dilemmas that other types of addicts would be unable understand. Even if an addiction counselor could wave her magic wand and make the compulsive gambler’s interest in his favorite activity (or least favorite activity, depending on whether he has just won or lost) instantaneously disappear, the personal economic chaos created by his past reckless behavior will likely have significantly negative ramifications that extend far into the future. In large part because of the continuing financial troubles they constantly face, stress and anxiety are the constant companions of gambling addicts. All of this pressure takes its toll, and it is the deleterious effects it has on the human body and psyche that are responsible for the long list of serious health issues that these lost souls so often face. Another problem is that compulsive gamblers essentially become addicted to the adrenaline rush they experience whenever they place a bet, making them vulnerable to other types of destructive behaviors that can stimulate a similar emotional response. And just as financial difficulties are no passing fancy, medical problems can linger for years or even for a lifetime for those unfortunate enough to fall into the iron-claw grip of a gambling addiction.
A Problem Gambler’s Tale of Misery and Woe
So what kind of health problems do compulsive gamblers encounter? The list is long and disturbing:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Stomach ailments
- Migraine headaches
- Chronic fatigue
- Muscular aches and pains
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (a variety of manifestations)
- Mood swings and manic behavior
- Clinical depression
- Anxiety disorders
- Emotional breakdowns
- Substance abuse problems
With such a long litany of woes, it is hardly surprising to learn that 80 percent of compulsive gamblers seriously contemplate suicide at some point, and that 15 percent attempt to take their own lives. Gambling addiction tears its victims apart, physically and emotionally, and it drains away so much of their energy that their minds and bodies eventually can’t hold up under the strain any longer. If left unchecked, compulsive gambling is a raging inferno, leaving nothing but scorched earth in its path and a shattered spirits in its wake. When a person becomes addicted to gambling, he will literally have time for nothing else. And yet the world will refuse to leave them alone, as creditors, family members, employers and any other interested parties he has involved himself with will continue to make demands and establish deadlines that must be met. While his addiction itself will steal his autonomy, the consequences of it will leave the compulsive gambler helpless and twisting in the wind, unable to live up to his obligations and responsibilities and incapable of extricating himself from any aspect of his terrible predicament. Under constant stress and plagued by guilt and depression, the gambling addict will begin to crack and will eventually break down from the strain, and under these circumstances significant mental and physical health problems are all but inevitable.
Losing It All
All types of addiction have echoes, and their effects will reverberate throughout the lives of those who are unlucky enough to fall under their spell. Gambling addiction is as relentless and all encompassing as any of them, and the health effects observed in problem gamblers are a strong testimony to just how intense this type of dependency can be. Entering treatment for gambling addiction is the first step – and the most important step – for anyone whose life has spiraled out of control as a result of his inability to stop gambling all on his own. But unfortunately this might not be enough to restore all that the compulsive gambler has lost, even if his attempts at rehabilitation are ultimately successful. The disastrous health problems that so often accompany a gambling addiction can linger for years or perhaps for a lifetime, which just illustrates how firmly the odds are stacked against those who fall victim to this insidious form of dependency.