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Gambling Addiction: Signs, Causes and Prevention

Gambling addiction is a condition that can affect players and family members alike. Problem gambling addiction presents itself in several forms, some more conspicuous than others. Learn more about compulsive gambling in this guide, how to identify it, and what you can do about it.

What is Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction is an uncontrolled urge to place wagers and bets, no matter the consequences. Addicts feel the need to keep on betting, even if they go broke or get into debt. Losing while online gambling can feel as exciting and intense as winning.

Gambling entails placing a wager on an event where the outcome is based on chance. Examples of events where you can gamble can be found at online gambling sites, the lottery, racetracks, land-based casinos, and sportsbooks.

For instance, if you suffer from a sports gambling addiction, you might place a huge long shot on a player prop hoping to strike it big. You might keep betting with any winnings you make until you’ve lost the lot.

It’s important to learn to recognize the signs of gambling addiction before it’s too late. This could help you and even friends and relatives who might be suffering in silence.

Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

Regulated gambling sites provide a checklist that you can use to determine if you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of gambling addiction. We have also highlighted the most common gambling addiction symptoms here.

  1. Preoccupation with Gambling

    If you find that you are constantly preoccupied with gambling, whether it’s reminiscing about past wins or planning your next casino session, it might be a sign that you have a gambling addiction. Sure, you must have a plan when you gamble; setting aside time and money you want to use in advance – that’s responsible gambling. But thinking of ways to get money to gamble all the time is a sign that you might need to cool off.
  2. Inability to Stop or Control Your Gambling

    As with other addictions, stopping gambling can be difficult. If you have tried repeatedly to stop but find yourself gambling again, this might be a sign of gambling addiction. You may also have set limits and gambling goals for yourself but failed to keep to them. Stopping gambling is the hardest thing for an addict, win or lose. Self-discipline and bankroll management are the first steps toward getting a grip on your habit.
  3. Restlessness or Irritability When Trying to Stop

    Most players don’t know how to stop gambling addiction and don’t know what to do with themselves when they stop betting for the day. You may have sleepless nights when ending your day’s play, or you become irritable at work if you can’t get online and place a bet. This restlessness and irritability can quickly spill over and affect personal relationships.
  4. Lying to Conceal Your Gambling Activity

    Lying about your gambling habits is another symptom that your behavior needs assessing. You start by lying to yourself, then your loved ones, family, and friends. Players suffering from compulsive gambling usually lie about the amount of money they spend on gambling. In addition, they may also try to conceal the amount of time they are dedicating to betting every day.
  5. Gambling to Escape Personal Problems

    Gambling for any other reason than to have fun is a clear indication that something might be wrong. Problem gamblers may treat betting as a way to get away from personal issues. If you find yourself in this state, you might have a gambling addiction.
  6. Chasing Losses

    When you are gambling you must be comfortable with the fact that at some point you will lose money. This is important because it allows you to decide your response when this happens. The last thing you want to be doing is chasing losses. If you are the kind of player who cannot take a loss, step back, and come back the next day. Serious problem gamblers will continue to chase losses until they win everything back. More likely, they will end up in deeper debt.
  7. Effects on Personal Relationships and Careers

    Gambling addiction is a progressive disease that, at its worst, jeopardizes relationships and even job opportunities. The person suffering from it prioritizes gambling over everything else. You must constantly check yourself to find out where your priorities are. If you are constantly finding excuses to miss important family events or work to gamble, it’s a strong sign that you are heading down the path to addiction.
  8. Financial Problems

    Gambling-induced financial problems include debts, unpaid bills, and constant borrowing. These may lead to other serious issues like losing your home or engaging in criminal activities, just to fund gambling. Gambling addiction is a menace that can ruin lives if left untreated. Monitor your spending habits and take necessary action at the first sign of any financial problems.

What Causes Gambling Addiction?

The root cause of gambling addiction depends on a variety of factors. Some players are just desperate for cash and see gambling as a way out, while others fall for glamorized casino movies and crave the “high life.”

With regards to the psychology of gambling addiction, the highs are as potent as hard drugs. These addictive agents harm the brain’s reward system by releasing excessive amounts of dopamine. The worst part is that it becomes harder and harder to reach the same highs, meaning players take riskier bets.

Research from the NCBI shows links between gambling addiction and a person’s genetic predisposition to impulsivity.  In these individuals, longer-lasting neuroadaptive changes were noted when they were exposed to addictive agents.

Effects and Risk Factors of Compulsive Gambling

Addiction impacts the person suffering from it and those around them. These may be family, friends, business partners, or work colleagues.

At a personal level, compulsive gambling wreaks havoc on one’s finances. It’s not uncommon to find gambling addicts who are over $50,000 in debt. This may lead to more serious issues like crime and fraud.

Relationships are also strained when someone in the family is suffering from addiction. Besides the obvious toll on the family’s finances, the secrecy behind the disease isolates the sufferer from everyone else.

Work colleagues and business partners are not spared either. This is because most people suffering from addiction cannot be counted on to deliver as they promise. At the height of the addiction, their number one priority is getting more money to gamble, not work, tenders, or contracts.

How to Help Someone With a Gambling Addiction?

Helping someone with an addiction problem is not easy. In many cases, the person who’s suffering will try to hide the problem and believe they can handle it on their own. However, isolation is never a good option when dealing with any addictive agent.

The best way you can assist someone with an addiction is to direct them to professionals trained to handle such situations. There are lots of organizations across the US that provide a confidential service to people suffering from compulsive gambling.

It is also important not to blame the person fighting addiction. As we have discussed earlier, relationships might be strained and trust might be broken. But treating gambling addiction like any other disease that anyone can contract is key to providing support and care to problem gamblers.

Can Gambling Addiction be Cured?

It’s not easy, but yes, gambling addiction can be cured. The ease with which this problem is dealt with depends on its severity, and the willingness to receive help shown by the player. It will take time and a lot of patience, but it is possible.

Gambling Addiction Test: Self-Assessment

If you are worried about your gambling behavior or that of your loved ones, you can conduct a simple assessment. Organizations like Gamblers Anonymous provide free self-assessments online. These assessments are a series of questions where you answer Yes or No. If you answer Yes to any of the questions, it might be a sign of addiction.

You must be entirely honest on these questions for the assessment to be valid. Playing down an issue or answering wrongly will invalidate your gambling addiction test and worse of all, rob you of the opportunity to get help in time.

Prevention of Online Gambling Addiction

One of the easiest ways to prevent online gambling addiction is not to gamble at all. But this means you will miss out on an activity millions enjoy daily, with no issues at all.

Therefore, the next best option is to have a detailed plan and make a budget. A plan lays out how much money and time you put aside for betting online. It also reveals how and when you cash out and, more importantly, when you step back or walk away.

In addition to a detailed betting plan, make use of online gambling tools available at casinos and sportsbooks to prevent addiction. These tools help you stick to the limits set in your gambling plan.

Responsible Gambling Practices

You can also adopt responsible gambling best practices when betting online. These include:

  • Only gambling money you are willing to lose
  • Setting and sticking to limits
  • Stepping away from gambling after a big win or loss
  • Managing your bankroll wisely

In addition, you must ask for help if you feel your gambling behavior negatively impacts you or others. Many organizations can assist with gambling addiction and problem gambling in the US. But you must be willing to take the first step by letting someone know you need help.

Gambling Addiction Resources

Here are some helpful links. You will find gambling addiction facts and resources, as well as expert assistance:

Related Articles

Gambling Addiction FAQs

What is considered a gambling addiction?

Can gambling addiction be treated and cured?

Are there any self-help strategies for dealing with gambling addiction?

Is it possible to gamble responsibly after being addicted?

Can young people develop gambling addiction?

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