My spouse is a gambling addict

/ 05:22 AM September 08, 2017

“My husband and I started our retail business 15 years ago,” says a 40-something reader whose name is being withheld upon request. “Business was up and down, and we got some loans. My husband was so stressed out that he started gambling and now he can’t stop. When I ask him if he uses money from our business in the casinos and in online betting, he gets mad. He also drinks a lot of alcohol but says he does not get drunk. We quarrel all the time. Should we see a marriage counselor? Please help.”

My Response


Get professional help at once. Not from a marriage counselor yet, but from an addiction specialist. Ask your hospital to recommend a psychiatrist.

Eventually, your husband may have to also consult a clinical psychologist, a neurologist, and other professionals, but he needs help right away from a good addiction specialist.


My heart goes out to you and your husband and family. Your husband appears to have several addictions, which might seem particularly unfortunate. Recent brain imaging studies have shown that the brains of problem gamblers and internet addicts appear very similar to those of alcohol and other substance-abuse addicts.

In short, the various forms of addiction that your husband has most likely affect his brain in the same way: Bursts of pleasure that have to be heightened in order to feel stimulated, the absence of which would lead to painful withdrawal symptoms.

In the past, addicts were usually those who overdosed on drugs or alcohol. But in 2005, German researchers scanned the brains of habitual gamblers and found what was then a surprising result.

“They measured responses in the ventral striatum, a deep brain structure rich in dopamine and associated with sensitivity to rewards,” explains psychiatrist Carl Erik Fisher of Columbia University in Scientific American Mind.

“Drug and alcohol addicts have been shown to have both reduced activity in the ventral striatum and altered dopamine levels. This lowered activity is consistent with the idea of a reward deficiency: People with addictions have blunted responses to rewards, driving them to compensate by seeking even more gratification. Sure enough, the gamblers in this study showed less activity in the ventral striatum.”

Another study may shed light on your study’s problems. In 2000, psychologist Alex Blaszczynski of the University of Sydney and professor of social work Lia Nower of Rutgers University outlined three groups of people with gambling addiction.

The first group are those who have been conditioned to go after wins even after they lose. These would fit what most people think of as “typical gamblers.”


The second group are those who gamble out of anxiety or depression. They are more emotionally involved in the act.

Because you say that your husband went into gambling because he was anxious about your business loans, I suspect he would have initially been classified into this second group.

The third group are antisocial people who are generally impulsive. They find it difficult to control their actions, even if rationally, they realize that these have a negative impact on their work and relationships.

You say that your husband may also now be an alcoholic and an online gambling addict, which implies that he might now be part of this third (and most severe) group.

Seek help now. God bless you and your family.

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TAGS: alcoholic, casinos, gambling addict, online betting
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