When I was gambling addictively and to the point of my first failed suicide attempt in 2002, I was transferred from the hospital to a mental health and addiction crisis center for a 20-day stay and where my gambling treatment began. While I was there my primary doctor and their psychiatrist found after a series of tests that I was also suffering from several mental health disorders.
I wasn’t until my gambling addiction that brought to the surface these symptoms and could be properly diagnosed. They both came to the conclusion as well that I may have been suffering from some of the mental and emotional disorders since birth. Now, the catch was to be properly diagnosed and reassessed after you begin the path of recovery. It took some months to get it right.
See, I was using gambling to escape, and numb out many haunting memories and feelings from my abuse and traumatic past that began to came back and had happened to me as a little girl including being sexually abused. So needless to say, I was suffering from PTSD, severe manic depression, mania, OCD and bipolar one with insomnia at the time I entered the crisis center.
They ordered a brain scan at the time and found I had depleted the “pleasure and reward” chemical and system of my brain from the many years of addictive gambling and had no feelings or sense of pleasure, but thinking I was getting it when I gambled. I was a Hot Mess!
I know, it all sounds confusing and was for me at the time. But, I listened to my doctors and began medication and therapy process that would take a long while and a few changes to my meds to get my mental health under control and begin the recovery work needed to regain my life back and to begin feeling better.
So, what are Dual Diagnosis, Co-occurring, and Co-addictions? I came across a good article by way of the fine folks of “Recovery Ranch Center” that really explains the differences when you are treated for gambling addiction. Co-addiction however, just means you are suffering from more than one addiction at a time.
The most recent research I could find about dual-addictions, meaning being treated for more than one addiction at the same time was from an article from 2003: …”About 1.1 million Americans received treatment for addiction to drugs, alcohol, or both on a typical day last year, according to findings from the 2003 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS). Half of those receiving treatment were addicted to both drugs and alcohol.”
I am sure this total has risen in the past 15-years now with the opioid crisis and epidemic happening. Here is the article I found and more about Gambling Addiction and having Mental Health and Disorders as being Dually-Diagnosed …
Gambling Addiction Often Co-Occurs With Other Disorders
Oftentimes, when a person shows symptoms of an addiction to something, there are other problems at play in their mind. For the addiction to be treated, the other disorders also need to be addressed, like mental illness.
A webinar that focused on how to counsel the pathological gambler revealed other disorders that often co-exist with a gambling addiction. Dr. Jon Grant, Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago and supervisor of an outpatient clinic for those with an addictive-impulsive disorder, discussed other mental health disorders and other addictions that are associated with gambling addictions and offered ideas on how to treat those individuals.
WHEN A FULL HOUSE CAN WRECK THE HOME
People start gambling for multiple reasons. Some enjoy the thrill, the risk-taking, and the power. Some, who feel isolated, use it as a way to feel social. Others use it as a way to relieve stress and anxiety or even to try to cure their depression. Yet, one addiction cannot properly heal another.
Gambling addictions are associated with multiple problems that weaken personal and family life:
- Poor physical health
- Poor mental health
- Losing a job
- Criminal behavior
Sometimes those problems come before the gambling problem, driving the person to look for satisfaction in a dangerous venue if not controlled. Those who already suffer from a mental health disorder are more at risk for addiction when gambling. For others, gambling addiction is the cause of the other family and personal problems that come later.
ADDICTIVE BEHAVIORS ASSOCIATED WITH GAMBLING
Those with gambling addictions also often suffer from substance abuse. Dr. Grant states that substance abuse is seven times greater in those who gamble. Nicotine and alcohol are the most commonly used substances.
Grant also mentioned that disorders with symptoms of being impulsive and risky were also frequently seen in those with gambling addictions. There were associations between individuals with gambling addiction and those who also had problems with impulsive shopping, stealing, eating, and sexual behavior.
MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH GAMBLING
Pathological gambling has been associated with serious mental illnesses, sometimes as the cause and other times as the result of untreated mental illness. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental illnesses associated with gambling addiction. Some hope that a roll of the dice or the spin of the slot machines can help them have some fun in life and help them relax. In reality, over time it often makes the depression and anxiety worse.
Dr. Grant revealed that 76 percent of a gambling addiction treatment group suffered from depression. Astoundingly, 16 to 40 percent of pathological gamblers suffered from lifetime anxiety. For some, the pressure becomes too great. The risk of suicide is higher in gamblers than non-gamblers.
Other mental illnesses associated with gambling are bipolar disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Of a study group, 24 percent of pathological gamblers had a lifetime prevalence of bipolar disorder. Twenty percent had symptoms for a life-time prevalence of ADHD or OCD and most likely born with them.
Dr. Grant stresses that when treating those with a gambling addiction, all of their disorders should be identified and prioritized for treatment. Through methods such as medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and support those with a gambling addiction can find healing and become a winner for life.
I Hope you find this article and my sharing of my recovery from gambling addiction having still today, managed mental and emotional disorders. I make sure now I make all my doctor visits and get a physical each year to remain healthy and managed. If you don’t have your health? You can’t be of help to others. And maintaining recovery means having to put YOU! First including your Health!
~Catherine Townsend-Lyon, Advocate/Author