In fact, if you ask anyone who has been through gambling withdrawal, they will almost certainly vouch for just how brutal of an experience it is.
But an odd stereotype exists, as many people hold the mistaken belief that a gambling addiction is less severe than substance addictions, such as alcohol.
The misconception lies in some people viewing drugs and alcohol as physically consumable substances, while gambling is perceived as an issue only affecting the mind and, therefore, the symptoms of gambling addiction withdrawal must be easier to cope with.
This assumption couldn't be further from the truth. Both addictions are equally enslaving - and the gambling withdrawal experienced by sufferers can be equally as brutal.
With such a wide range of gambling addiction symptoms experienced by different people, there is a very strong chance it will wreak havoc on multiple lives, just like any other form of addiction, and the withdrawal symptoms, for many, are almost unbearable. There is actually a very interesting biological reason for that, owing to the very nature of how the brain processes chemicals.
Let's quickly explore what that is before taking a closer look at the specific gambling withdrawal symptoms in more detail.
Gambling Addiction and the Brain
Most addictions have one thing in common: they interfere with our natural reward system, giving us an overwhelming sense of pleasure. Whether the addict is abusing drugs, gambling, or a whole host of afflictions, the end result of the activity is the same: the brain releases dopamine, which makes us feel good.
To counteract this sudden surge of dopamine, our brain tries to restore balance by creating more receptor sites for certain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These receptors act like little catchers, trying to handle the excessive levels of dopamine caused by the abuse.
This increase in receptors leads to tolerance. The more receptors that are created, the more abuse (in whatever form that takes) is needed to fill them to achieve the same high as before.
When we decide to quit and become clean, we still have these extra receptors waiting to be filled. With no extra dopamine to fill them, the addict goes into a state of withdrawal which, in turn, leads to unpleasant symptoms.
Gambling Withdrawal Symptoms
While the symptoms are typical in most cases, the severity of them will range from person to person, depending on how long they have had the addiction and how committed they are to the actual gambling issue.
Long Term Addictions
Pathological gambling addicts (identified as people who have a more serious gambling disorder according to DSM IV) are liable to face both physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms to a more severe degree. This could include (but is not limited to) a combination of physical effects such as nausea and insomnia, coupled with more intense symptoms like depression and uncontrollable cravings.
On the other hand, compulsive gamblers may have symptoms that are less severe but are still serious enough to warrant professional help or, at the very least, seek comfort with support groups. They may experience symptoms that are both physical (like difficulty in daily activities due to fatigue) and emotional (like a persistent feeling of dissatisfaction or emptiness).
Either way, one key element prevails across this spectrum: it is absolutely key to recognize that symptoms depend on the addict's unique situation and personal commitment to quitting gambling. As with all addictions, the addict must actually want to quit - without that desire, an already difficult battle will be made far worse.
Both physical and emotional gambling withdrawal symptoms can be hugely distressing in equal measure and will affect a broad range of people across the general population differently. But with the right level of treatment and support, the vast majority of people can overcome these symptoms and rebuild their lives free from the awful grip of gambling addiction.
Let's take a look at how the two categories of symptoms - both physical and emotional - will typically manifest in anyone suffering withdrawal from a gambling problem.
Among pathological gamblers in particular, physical symptoms can be particularly acute. High-frequency gambling (as seen in places like Las Vegas, for example) can lead to more severe withdrawal effects. The American Psychiatric Association has classified pathological gambling as an actual disorder, leading to research that shows physical withdrawal symptoms are indeed significant and even comparable to drug addiction.
Again, these physical symptoms are often an element of withdrawal that many people do not expect, owing to the fact there is no tangible substance being abused.
Further physical symptoms might include:
If you or someone you know is experiencing these physical effects, it might be time to seek additional resources - or even professionally supervised medical intervention if the situation is severe enough. Although fortunately, severe physical medical issues are quite rare in this regard.
Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms
It is worth remembering that compulsive gambling problems extend beyond the actual gambling activity itself. Emotionally centered withdrawal symptoms will nearly always include a strong urge to return to gambling, even when the person is aware of the harm it's causing. Unfortunately, that is simply the nature of addiction.
Another factor to consider here is that substance abuse can also become part of the gambling addiction, as individuals seek to ease their emotional pain through the withdrawal symptoms, leading to a compounded cycle of addictions in some cases.
Out of the entire spectrum, pathological gamblers are likely to experience the most profound emotional withdrawal symptoms. According to some gambling studies, people in this category will usually require therapeutic intervention to understand gambling withdrawal on a deeper level and break free from their habits.
How Are Symptoms Treated?
Many therapists refer to DSM IV for guidance in treatment on this matter, although at Miracles Asia, we believe in a more personalized approach to treatment, as each person has a unique set of requirements. There certainly is no one size fits all approach in order to stop gambling and successfully treat the symptoms of withdrawal.
Physical withdrawal symptoms might be treated with specific medications to ease discomfort, while emotional symptoms can be addressed through therapy and counseling. Support group participation may offer relief to those struggling with cravings and feelings of isolation, while some might require professional help for coexisting issues such as drug abuse or mental illness - both of which are very common among gambling addicts.
Addiction centers such as Miracles Asia offers a gambling rehab program that's specifically to gambling addiction, providing both the addict and their loved ones with the tools to stop gambling and learn how to live without this habit in their daily life.
There is Hope
The road to recovery might be long, but it is certainly within reach. If you need help navigating your gambling problems, know that professional help, support groups, and additional resources are available.
The Bottom Line
With the right support and proper environment, the awful symptoms of gambling withdrawal can be reduced greatly. Reach out to Miracles Asia today, and let the healing begin.