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Gambling Addiction is Cause for Concern throughout Asia

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Results from a 2012-2013 study in Thailand sponsored by Sodsri-Saridwongsa Foundation was released this month stating that approximately 500,000 university students took part in gambling – mostly football betting or playing cards – despite gambling being an illegal activity in the country.

Among the gambling students was one case of a female student who was using money from her Student Loan Fund (SLF) to fuel her gambling addiction until she had no money left to pay her tuition and had to drop out of school. According to involved officials, there is reason to believe that she is not the only student using the SLF funds for gambling. According to Surachai Chupaka, a professor at Ramkhamhaeng University, many of the gambling students confessed that while they enjoyed gambling and it was often considered a fun activity, it also caused immense stress.

In these cases, where gambling turns from a fun activity to a stressful one, it is likely that the person gambling has developed a gambling addiction.

What is Gambling Addiction?

In 2013, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) classified compulsive gambling as an addictive disorder similar to substance (drug and alcohol) addiction. Gambling addiction is considered a type of process addiction in which an activity stimulates the brain in a similar way that drugs and alcohol do – to the point that an addicted gambler will pursue the activity at all costs.

Gambling Addiction in Singapore

In 2014, Singapore’s National Addiction Management Service (Nams) treated 526 patients for gambling addiction at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) – a 50% increase since 2010 when the facility opened its doors.

However, officials in Singapore are looking at these statistics as a good sign. Instead of suggesting that gambling addiction itself is on the rise, the vice-chairman of Nams’ medical board, Christopher Cheok, believes that this increase in patients shows a willingness of Singaporeans to admit that they have a gambling addiction and actually seek help – which could be the result of public awareness education over the last three years which aimed to raise awareness of problem gambling and encouraged Singaporeans to seek help.

However, Singaporeans are the second biggest gamblers in the world, with 46% of adults admitting to placing bets of some kind. Dr. Choek is sure that “there are many others who may be struggling with their addictions in silence, either because they are unaware of the availability of help channels or are in denial”. Another factor may be that not everyone is aware of the symptoms of this disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

Problem gambling, or gambling addiction can be seen in a variety of ways, but the most obvious symptoms are as follows:

  1. Gambling when you do not have money.

Gambling can be fun when you have money to spare. But when funds are low and gambling still takes priority, this is definitely a sign of addiction.

  1. Borrowing or stealing money in order to gamble.

When funds have fun out, addicts will do anything to get more money in order to place more bets. In these cases, problem gamblers will often take out loans, or turn to family and friends to borrow money. When nobody is willing to lend any more money, the only option left is to steal cash or items that they can sell.

  1. Gambling to change or enhance your mood.

Did you have a great day at work and want to go out gambling to celebrate? Did you get in a fight with a spouse and want to gamble to make yourself feel better? When gambling becomes a way to alter your mood, it is a sign of a developing (or developed) addiction.

  1. Gambling for longer than intended.

This is something that happens frequently with problem gamblers. They will intend to play a couple rounds of cards, or place just a few bets in the casino – but those couple rounds can turn into many rounds, and money will start to disappear quickly.

  1. Lying about how much you gamble.

Denial is a big part of any addiction. It is hard to admit to that an activity has so much control over one’s life, and thus a problem gambler will begin to lie about their gambling habits. They will lie to loved ones about where they were and where their money has gone. And they will lie to themselves as well – most frequently they believe they can stop when they want to, but that is not the case. Especially if they have depleted their funds and still continue to gamble.

  1. Feelings of remorse after gambling.

When the adrenaline of placing bets is over, and the reality of their monetary losses sets in, remorse takes over. Remorse is a clear sign that gambling has stopped being fun and has begun to be a serious problem.

Effects of Gambling Addiction

The most obvious effect of this addiction is loss of money which leads to unpaid bills, credit collectors and even the loss of their home and car. A gambling addict will also often get so wrapped up in gambling that they miss work and social events which could result in job loss and problems in their close relationships.

Gambling Addiction Treatment

Gambling addiction treatment can be administered in both outpatient or inpatient treatment centres which will depend on several factors including the severity of the addiction and the lifestyle and responsibilities of the addict, among others.

It is important to find an addiction rehabilitation centre that has experience dealing with process addictions, as some addiction treatment centres focus on drugs and alcohol only. It is also important to seek help as soon as you are aware of the problem, as the sooner an addiction is treated, the higher the chances are of a successful recovery.

If you are unsure about whether or not your gambling has gotten out of control, take this quiz to find out: Gambling Addiction Quiz

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