What Is A Sports Betting Addiction?

Sports betting addiction is a behavioral disorder characterized by a persistent and uncontrollable desire to bet on sports despite adverse outcomes. Gambling stimulates the brain’s reward system in a similar way that substances can. Excessively betting on sports is a compulsive pattern of behavior that can lead to mental health, financial, social, and other personal problems. 

The world of sports betting is now more accessible than ever before with the emergence of user-friendly betting apps. These sleek, beginner-friendly apps and other betting websites may be responsible for the number of Americans betting on sports doubling in 2021, with 12% of Americans now partaking in sports betting. These apps include DraftKings Sportsbook, BetMGM Sportsbook, and Caesars Sportsbook.

Some examples of sports betting include bets on football games, basketball games, boxing matches, and horse racing events. While many can bet on sports casually without repercussions, some individuals obsess over and excessively gamble on sports, which may be a sign of a sports betting addiction.  

Individuals addicted to sports betting may begin to neglect their responsibilities at home and work. They may also experience withdrawal symptoms like restlessness or irritability when stopping or decreasing their betting behavior. The ease of accessing sports betting via the internet and smartphones can increase an individual’s likelihood of developing an addiction.  

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Signs And Symptoms Of Sports Betting Addiction

When someone is addicted to sports betting, also referred to as gambling addiction or compulsive gambling, they may present a wide range of symptoms that can be difficult to pinpoint due to the nature of behavioral addictions. Below are some signs that a person may display when addicted to gambling.        

  • Compulsive Behaviors: Compulsive behaviors include excessive sports gambling despite the negative consequences that it can cause. When someone is addicted to sports betting, they will continue to place bets even though it has caused financial or relationship problems. The person will have an uncontrollable urge to gamble, and they may feel a rush of euphoria when they place a bet; however, this feeling does not last.
  • Loss Of Control: The person addicted to gambling will experience loss of control and display difficulty stopping or reducing their gambling behavior. They will often spend excessive amounts of money without any rationale and disregard other responsibilities in their life. While they may be aware that their actions are harmful to themselves and others, those with a sports betting addiction will have difficulty changing their behaviors without help.
  • Neglecting Responsibilities: An individual experiencing a loss of control may also begin to neglect their responsibilities at work, home, or school. They may miss important events or deadlines because they’ve prioritized their sports gambling over other obligations in their life.
  • Tolerance And Withdrawal: A person addicted to sports betting can eventually gain a tolerance for it, meaning they need to win more money or place more bets to achieve the same euphoria or satisfaction. They may also experience withdrawal symptoms like anxiety or depression if they try to stop or reduce their betting behaviors.

Consequences Of Gambling

The consequences of sports betting can affect many facets of a person’s life. It is usually hard for people to believe they have a problem until they have suffered significant consequences, but an individual does not have to reach a “rock bottom” to receive treatment for gambling or a sports betting addiction. Some consequences of gambling include:

Financial Issues

Individuals addicted to sports betting may face financial struggles. This addiction can cause a person to spend all of their savings on gambling and sometimes even resort to illegal pursuits to obtain money for gambling. Gambling addiction may also cause an individual to go into debt, and they may feel the need to gamble even more to get back into good financial standings.

Relationship Issues

Sports betting addiction can place strain on personal relationships and can lead to isolation and loneliness. Individuals may lie to loved ones about their gambling activities which can cause feelings of distrust and betrayal. In some cases, loved ones may lend money to an individual, which can unintentionally enable their addiction.   

Legal Problems

Those with a sports betting addiction may engage in illegal activities such as embezzlement or fraud to finance their gambling. They may also get into trouble with the law for unpaid debts or other financial problems related to their addiction. Moreover, sports betting is only legal for those over 21 and in certain states. While some states place the legal age at 18 for sports betting and gambling, underage gambling can result in heavy fines or even jail time.

Physical And Mental Health Issues

Sports betting addiction can harm one’s physical and psychological health. Individuals may experience stress-related illnesses such as high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety. Additionally, the act of sports betting and gambling can cause serious mood fluctuations depending on the outcome (i.e., a win or a loss).

How Gambling Affects Mental Health

As previously mentioned, sports betting addiction can greatly impact a person’s mental health. Someone with a sports betting addiction may experience guilt, shame, difficulty sleeping, low self-esteem, fear, worry, difficulty concentrating, and poor decision-making.

Since sports betting activates the brain’s reward system much like substances, a sports betting addiction can increase a person’s risk of abusing drugs and alcohol. Addiction to sports betting can lead to severe emotional and psychological suffering, so it is paramount for individuals who experience these issues to seek help from a mental health professional.

Treatment Options For Sports Betting Addiction

There are various treatment possibilities available to help someone recover from a sports betting addiction. Treatment options may include the following:

Mental Health Professionals

There are licensed mental health professionals available who specialize in helping those with behavioral addictions. Mental health professionals can help individuals understand the underlying conditions or events that may have led to their sports betting addiction. Individuals can also call their insurance company to refer them to a mental health counselor in their area, or they can research therapy options online.                       

Online Therapy

Another feasible route for treating gambling or sports betting addiction is online therapy. Studies have found online therapy, specifically online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to be as effective as in-person therapy for various mental health and co-occurring conditions. Online therapy is confidential, convenient, and cost-effective, and it provides individuals with the confidence and skills to make positive life changes.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

A common form of psychotherapy used to treat behavioral addictions is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of therapy that focuses on changing a person’s behavior by modifying negative thought patterns. CBT can provide a person with a sports betting addiction with the skills to make positive lifestyle and environment changes. Counselors will typically use this form of therapy during individual counseling.

Support Groups

Support groups can help individuals struggling with a sports betting addiction or gambling addiction build a support network and meet others who have faced similar struggles. Gamblers Anonymous is a 12-step group that allows members to share their experiences with gambling in a safe and supportive environment. By attending support group meetings, individuals can improve their coping skills while making meaningful connections with others.

Inpatient Treatment

If someone feels incapable of refraining from sports betting and it has affected multiple areas of their life, they may benefit from time in an inpatient treatment program. Inpatient treatment programs offer 24-hour monitored care 7 days per week, access to medical and clinical staff, group and individual counseling sessions, and other alternative forms of therapy. Moreover, inpatient treatment provides individuals struggling with a gambling or sports betting addiction with the environment and support needed to address co-occurring conditions and improve coping skills.

Medications

Emerging research shows the promise of certain medications reducing the intensity of urges and cravings for gambling. These medications include Naltrexone, Lithium (a mood stabilizer), and other antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. Antidepressants and other medicines used to treat gambling addiction often target co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADHD.  

Self-Help Techniques

While therapy and treatment are always available options to pursue, there are also steps individuals can take on their own to help combat sports betting. The first thing you can do if you are trying to recover from a sports betting addiction is to close your accounts and delete sports betting apps.

You can even ask sports betting organizations to close your accounts permanently. Additionally, some websites will permanently block sports betting sites from your phone or computer, like BetBlocker, Gamblock, and Gambam. You can even ask a trusted family member to help you manage money so that you can use your finances responsibly.

Individuals can also fill out a self-exclusion form that will ban them from gambling facilities within a particular state, including casinos, horse racing, video lottery gaming, and fantasy sports activities. Self-exclusion forms, which a state’s gambling commission oversees, prohibit individuals from collecting winnings, recovering losses, and using any facility’s services. The exclusionary period can range from a year to a lifetime and cannot be altered or canceled for any reason during that time.

Find Treatment For Gambling Today

Recovering from any addiction is challenging and requires effort and the desire to want to change, but there are so many resources and treatment options to help. Keep in mind that managing the urges to gamble will get easier over time, and you may not need the help or restrictions you initially required in early recovery. Learn more information on online therapy options for sports betting addiction today.

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