Understanding Gambling Addiction: The Signs, Symptoms, and Gambling Treatment
Updated: Jul 25
The occasional lottery ticket or a day at the casino is a fun and relatively harmless way for most people to try and win big. Still, for some people, gambling can become a compulsive and uncontrollable activity that takes over their lives. When you become involved in gambling behaviour that is no longer optional, you're dealing with a problem called gambling addiction. Like many impulse-control disorders, this condition can cause problems in all areas of your life. You may find trouble at work, with your friends and family, and most likely run into some financial trouble. Gambling can also be detrimental to your health and well-being. However, not everyone who plays the lotto or slots suffers from gambling addiction.
Here is what you need to know if you have questions about whether you have a problem and the steps you can take towards recovery.
What Is Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction, also called compulsive gambling or gambling disorder, is characterized by a strong desire to gamble and a persistent desire to continue it despite adverse consequences. There are many different ways people gamble. It could be betting on sports, scratch cards, roulette, poker, slots, the track, or online. It is generally considered gambling if you are wagering something of value to win a bigger reward.
The compulsion to gamble can range from a mild desire to an overwhelming need. You may feel an intense pressure to gamble that is almost like a "high," resulting in risky behaviours, such as gambling with money or property you can't afford to lose. Having a gambling problem means you partake in any gambling behaviour that disrupts your life. However, gambling addiction is an impulse-control disorder, meaning there is an inability to control the impulsive urge to gamble. Gambling also stimulates the brain's reward center, similar to drugs and alcohol, which neurochemically reinforces gambling behaviours and causes addiction. Problem gambling and gambling addiction can take a severe toll on your life. It can strain your relationships, interfere with work, and lead to financial disaster.
Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
The signs and Symptoms of Gambling addiction include:
Constantly thinking about gambling, planning how to get more gambling money, etc.
Trying to control, cut back, or stop gambling without success and feeling restless or irritable when you do
Gambling to escape problems or relieve negative feelings
Secrecy around gambling habits
Lying to friends and family to hide the extent of your gambling
Jeopardizing relationships, jobs, school, or opportunities because of gambling
Resorting to theft or fraud to get gambling money
Needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money
Asking others to help you out of financial trouble because you gambled your money away
Risk factors for gambling addiction
Several risk factors can lead to gambling addiction. Some of these include:
Having a history of addiction- If so, you may have a greater risk of developing a gambling addiction.
A stressful life event - When life gets stressful, you may be more likely to gamble because it offers a temporary escape.
Mental health disorder - If you suffer from a mental health disorder like personality disorders, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, or ADHD, this may increase your risk.
A lack of family support - If you don't have the support of your family, you may feel more alone and vulnerable, which is likely to increase your risk of developing a gambling addiction.
Certain personality characteristics - Being highly competitive, a workaholic, impulsive, restless, or easily bored might make you more susceptible to gambling addictions.
Gambling addictions can have harmful and long-lasting consequences for your life:
Financial problems, including bankruptcy
Legal problems or imprisonment
Poor work performance or job loss
Poor general health
Suicide, suicide attempts, or suicidal thoughts
Gambling Addiction Treatment
Addiction is a chronic condition, which means that you may have it for your entire life. Therefore, treatment will be aimed at managing your condition rather than curing it.
The most suitable treatment for you will depend on your specific needs and circumstances. The best way to find the treatment that works for you is to get help as soon as possible. Call a helpline if you’re concerned about your gambling.
Many gambling addiction treatments are available, including:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that your mindset is as important as your actions to recover from addiction. Therefore, you are taught how to change your thoughts, like rationalizations and false beliefs, to change your unhealthy gambling behaviours. CBT will also teach you ways to deal with cravings, tools to help you cope, and address your addiction's financial, work, and relationship problems.
Inpatient or residential treatment and rehab programs are for those with severe gambling addictions who need round-the-clock support to avoid gambling.
Family therapy, marriage counselling, career guidance, or credit counselling are all great ways to work on specific issues you face due to your gambling addiction and can work to repair relationships and finances.
Gambling addiction is a complex condition. It can be hard to identify, and it's essential to be honest with yourself if you're experiencing problems. If you think you may have a gambling problem, it's critical to seek treatment to help you overcome your addiction and lead a happier, more productive life.