Gambling addiction is a disorder in which the individual has an uncontrollable urge to keep gambling, despite the negative consequences. Gambling, in general, is taking a risk, and once you have an addiction, the risk becomes even more significant.
Addicts often are at risk of more outstanding debt, relationship issues, and legal problems. The individual’s job, as well as mental health, can also be affected.
It is essential for the addict or a friend/family member of an individual suffering from a gambling addiction to take action. The first step in treating the behavior is acknowledging the problem.
Tackling the issue early on can result in a behavior change instead of even more negative consequences such as financial ruin, criminal behavior, or divorce. Read on to learn more about gambling addiction and help yourself or your loved ones overcome the disorder.
In general, there are symptoms and signs that one can look for to know if you or a loved one are affected by a gambling addiction. An example of this is constantly being preoccupied with gambling or needing to increase the amount spent to get the same thrill.
Some people with an addiction will chase losses or use gambling to escape problems. Learning more about symptoms is essential in starting the path to treatment.
Gambling as an Escape: Using gambling to feel good and escape any life problem is a significant sign of gambling addiction. The individual will play slots or table games to relieve depression, sadness, anger, etc. Gambling is their escape from the stresses of everyday life.
Constantly Gambling: For most people, gambling involves visiting a casino or placing a sports bet online from time to time. When a gambling addiction is present, the individual is constantly thinking about betting. They may talk about it all the time or try to find ways to gamble on random things, such as the outcome of a television show with friends or a board game.
If you notice a friend or family member constantly thinking, talking, and acting on gambling impulses, they may have a problem.
Increased Gambling Spend for the Thrill: Addicts experiencing a gambling problem for a long time may increase their spending on gambling to get the same high. Notice if a gambler in your life is spending more money. If so, they may feel the need to use more funds to place bets to feel satisfied with a win.
Chasing Losses: One of the most common symptoms among a problem gambler is chasing losses. The individual will continue to gamble repeatedly, trying to make up for what was lost.
This type of behavior is where the most financial loss can be seen due to the constant need to play and then win. In addition, this symptom can lead to criminal behavior when the individual needs more money to wager.
Lying: Another big sign is when the individual is lying about gambling. Perhaps you found receipts from a casino visit at a time when your loved one said they were working. An individual will easily lie to loved ones to visit a casino or sportsbook to gamble.
The reason behind a gambling addiction will vary based on the individual. In some cases, the motivation is not understandable. Compulsive gambling often is a result of environmental factors, biology, or genetics.
However, for people with addictive personalities, a big win at a casino could trigger the need to keep gambling, and the issue only grows from there.
While the causes may be complicated, there are risk factors that can play a role in gambling addiction. For example, mental health disorders, family or friend influence, and personality characteristics can dictate if an individual is more apt to become addicted to gambling.
Once a gambling problem develops, the individual will be subject to negative consequences. The effects of addiction will vary from person to person based on their situation and level of addiction. In general, the results below are the most connected to a gambling addiction issue.
One of the main issues connected to this type of addiction is financial problems. Because gambling has become a necessity instead of entertainment, the individual is spending more than they should on a regular basis. This can lead to bills going unpaid, resulting in the utilities being cut off and, in a worst-case scenario, the individual losing their home.
A gambling problem can result in the individual using the money they have to gamble instead of their responsibilities. A sign of financial struggle of a gambler is when the individual asks to borrow money to cover living expenses like their utility bill or rent/mortgage. The individual may also have limited food and drink in the home due to a lack of funds.
The type of relationship problems connected to gambling addiction will vary based on the individual. For married couples, the addict may often exhibit behavior that results in the marriage ending in divorce. Lying about gambling, spending money, constantly going to a casino or sportsbook leads to fighting between the two parties.
Friendships and family relationships can also suffer due to addiction behavior. For example, lying, stealing, borrowing money to pay debt or gamble, lack of communication, and fighting about the addiction can lead to the loss of friendship or a disconnect with family members.
Gamblers with an addiction often resort to criminal activity to be able to obtain more funds to gamble. When money is short, an addict might decide to steal from someone they know or a stranger. This leads to criminal charges and possible jail time.
Additional legal problems can occur if the addict does not pay their mortgage or car payments. Over time, the missed payments lead to foreclosure or repossession, leading to legal issues when trying to reacquire the items. Divorce is also a common issue with gambling addicts, and when children are involved, the legal drama can be far worse.
An addiction connected to gambling can also affect the individual’s job performance. The addict may be too tired to work due to staying up late gambling. The individual may also be unable to focus at work due to constantly thinking about gambling. The addict may lose their job due to calling in too many times to gamble or failing to complete assignments.
In severe cases, an individual will lose their job and face jail time for stealing from their employer to gamble. Every year, there are cases of employees stealing funds from company bank accounts in the five and six-figure range to gamble or try to win back debt incurred from gambling.
The mental health of an individual can also be affected by a gambling addiction. Individuals with a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression will only find their condition affected more due to the addiction.
Gambling addiction and depression are often interlinked due to the high that players can experience from a win. Gambling will stimulate the brain’s reward system with a win, similarly to how a drug would.
When the gambler loses, they are still producing endorphins and adrenaline, which then causes gambling to continue. This is because the individual feels good when gambling, and they want the good feeling to continue.
For a person with anxiety or stress disorders, gambling is a way to relax and unwind. However, debt starts to rack up, and the anxiety or stress is pushed to the limit. The cycle continues as the individual gains more debt as they try to deal with the need to gamble to feel better and make up for the losses.
There is no one way to stop a gambling problem because every addict is different. What works for one person might not be a solution for someone else. To begin, the individual needs to recognize they have a gambling problem and understand the issue. You cannot start to fix something that you do not understand.
Being honest with yourself is the first step to recognizing the problem and preparing to do the work to resolve the issue.
Look at your life (or loved ones) and think about the signs of gambling addiction. What symptoms do you see? Do you have money trouble? Are you constantly thinking about gambling? Recognizing the signs can help to have a better understanding of the behavior and how to fix it.
To start working on the problem, join a support group. People who organize these groups have experience with addiction, and you have a place where you can feel safe talking about your addiction.
For example, Gamblers Anonymous is a well-known support group that offers a 12-step approach to moving past the addiction, like Alcoholics Anonymous.
Learn how to avoid temptation. To stop gambling, you must prevent the activity. Do not go to casinos or even drive by one as it could trigger you to gamble. Avoid logging online if you play via your desktop or ban yourself from a site to stop your ability to play.
Consider the consequences. For some addicts, thinking about the consequences is enough to avoid the activity. Think about how your relationships, job, and financial situation have been affected by gambling. Thinking about the negative rather than the positive can help you to avoid getting back into old habits.
There are many resources you can employ that will help you on the journey to recovery. Learning more about the tools and services you can use to assist you will ensure that you are successful as you try to stop gambling.
Self-Exclusion: One of the best options for a gambling addict is to choose self-exclusion. This option applies to online and in-person betting. If you have casinos in your area, you can choose to self-exclude. They will place your name on a list, and you are not allowed inside. This is a way to stop yourself if you feel that self-control is limited.
Online gaming sites also have self-exclusion options. Have a friend or family member set you up to be excluded at any sites you frequent. This helps you avoid any temptation to play and ensures you cannot access gambling sites when you feel the urge.
Find Alternatives: Think about why you were gambling and how it made you feel. Then, find ways to achieve this same feeling with other activities. For example, release endorphins by exercising or feel at peace with meditation. Volunteer at a cause you support or try new hobbies. It will take time to find something new to enjoy, so be patient with the process.
Contact a Mental Health or Addiction Specialist: If you have a severe case of gambling addiction, you may need help from a specialist. You can enlist the help of an addiction or mental health professional to find the right path for treatment. Learn how to stay away from gambling and refine your learning skills to live a healthy and gamble-free lifestyle.
To further assist in the recovery process, you must understand the difference between myths and facts. You may feel bombarded with the information once you try to get help and be confused about what you need to do. You may also feel confused as to whether or not you have an addiction.
The following information can help you learn more about gambling addiction and if you have a potential problem.
“I’m on a losing streak, so a win is coming soon.”
This is not true. It is essential to understand that past gameplay does not dictate what will happen next. You are not due to win any time soon, as wins happen at random.
“I feel lucky.”
While you may feel good when gambling and think a lucky charm or a feeling of luck will help you win, this is untrue. So don’t let a feeling push you to feel justified to continue betting.
“This slot machine is hot and due to provide a win!”
Gaming machines are never ‘hot’ and due to offer a big win. Do not feel that if you play a machine for an extended time that it will eventually provide a large jackpot, as this is not true.
“I don’t have a gambling problem because I am rich!”
Even though you do not have any financial problems right now, it does not mean you do not have a gambling problem. Individuals with a gambling problem are obsessed with the activity. Gambling can affect financial stability, but it also affects work and relationships.
“I’m responsible, so I won’t become addicted to gambling.”
Just because you consider yourself a responsible individual does not mean that becoming addicted to gambling will never happen. Anything that triggers an addiction, from the sudden loss of a job to the death of a loved one. Know the key signs of addiction so you can determine if you have an issue, no matter how responsible you are.
Like any addiction, a gambling problem is tough to overcome. However, if you have a support system in place, recognize your addiction, and take the proper steps to fight the compulsion, you can recover.
Use the resources in this guide to help you or a loved one get the help they need and start on the recovery path.
Content Updated: June, 2021