How to Identify a Gambling Addiction
Addictive behaviors often have damaging and long-lasting effects not only on those who exhibit them, but on everyone around them, and especially on their family members and loved ones. There are ways to combat this destructive behavior, but the key to doing so is to identify and confront the problem as soon as possible.
This is especially difficult to do when it comes to identifying a gambling addiction. It’s often seen as an innocent pastime, so it can often be too long until it’s acknowledged as a problem, even by those who mean well and are close to the addict.
It goes without saying that without identifying the problem, you won’t be able to stop it. That’s why it’s useful to consult experts in compulsive behavior and be honest with yourself or the person experiencing these issues.
What is Gambling Addiction?
Some compulsive and addictive behaviors are easier to identify and treat as a problem than others. Drug abuse and alcoholism are easily seen as diseases and something that should be cured and dealt with. Problem gambling is a similar ailment both in terms of how it presents itself and how it affects those who have it, but it is much less commonly identified.
It’s also known as pathological gambling, compulsive gambling, or a gambling disorder. It’s an impulse control problem, meaning that those who have gambling addiction symptoms can’t stop engaging in these actions of their own volition.
As is the case with most addictions, problem gambling is not noticeable right away and starts as a seemingly harmless and often fun activity. Even when it becomes a problem, it often seems like one you could handle and overcome on your own. However, it is a mistake to believe so, as even those who are otherwise trustworthy are often powerless to combat addiction.
It takes time, knowledge, and effort to notice when the signs of gambling addiction turn into something that requires professional help.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association, gambling issues can manifest themselves by causing “emotional, financial, psychological, marital, legal” problems to those affected by it. Not all addicts face all of these problems, and not everyone faces them at once, but it’s wrong to believe that your financial status or personal relationships will stay intact forever if you become a problem gambler.
You’re Not Alone
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this fight. This message is often helpful to those who are struggling with gambling addiction. It’s a problem that many people are facing right now, and one that many have faced and conquered in the past.
As many as 10 million Americans are facing this illness at any given time. This is a comforting thing to know, but diving deeper into the data about those affected shows a more complex and difficult problem.
One in 20 college students has a gambling problem, and some studies show that as many as 23% of all college students are gambling online in one way or another. Even more worryingly, 6% are doing so on a weekly basis.
Gambling addiction statistics also show that those who are dealing with problem gambling are engaging in other destructive behavior as well. They are more likely to experience or cause domestic and child abuse. They are also more likely to experience depression and substance abuse than those who don’t gamble.
There’s also a link between having a gambling disorder and criminal activity. More than two-thirds of those who have a problem with gambling have committed at least one crime related to their addiction. The most common of these is writing bad checks, which has been done by as many as 60% of Gamblers Anonymous members.
Compulsive gamblers are seven times more likely to be arrested than those who don’t gamble. These patterns are something to have in mind when trying to find your way out of the problem.
This is why overcoming gambling addiction often leads to living a better and more fulfilling life overall. Those who have succeeded in quitting gambling are the first to say so.
Signs You May Be Addicted to Gambling
There are some gambling traits that are more noticeable than others, but there are also some people who suffer from this problem in silence, and they are much more difficult to spot and help. Those around you and those who know you will probably notice these symptoms before you do.
Being obsessed with gambling
This is one of the most common gambling addiction signs that show that you or your loved ones are problem gamblers. However, the difficulty here lies in deciding what qualifies as an obsession. What might seem like an obsession to some is just a strong interest for others.
You’ll probably find that talking about gambling all the time – or at least most of the time – is a good indicator that a person is in trouble with addiction. They also tend to relive the triumphs they’ve had and the big wins they’re proud of.
Just pointing out that your loved one is talking about gambling all the time isn’t really enough to bring them to gambling addiction rehab, but it’s the first step towards acknowledging a problem.
Lying about gambling
Those who are addicted to gambling will almost always lie about it. They will most commonly lie about how often they gamble and how much they have lost. It’s not possible to overcome the addiction until this pattern of lies is acknowledged and dealt with.
It’s also not uncommon for a gambler to lie to themselves about their behavior. Often it’s these lies that are the most difficult to notice and come to grips with. The root of most lies regarding gambling is that gamblers know what they’re doing is wrong and realize they need help, but can’t admit it to themselves.
Borrowing or stealing money
Among the common signs of gambling addiction are the financial problems that come with it. The desire to keep betting leads many to borrow or even steal money in order to feed their addiction. Friends and family are the first victims of this behavior, which means they’re also likely to be the first to spot the pattern emerging.
Once these sources dry out, gamblers will turn to using their credit cards in an irresponsible fashion or taking out loans to pay for gambling debts. It’s essential to notice a problem at this stage since the consequences of such actions could trouble you long after you’ve found help for gambling addictions.
Chasing your losses
Chasing a loss is a common behavior for those who are deep into their addiction. After losing a few times in a row, gamblers keep playing in order to get back all the money they have lost so far. This often means borrowing more and thus losing more. It’s one of the symptoms that show you’re an addict and you can’t quit when things go badly.
Even though it’s one of the most difficult financial issues that arise from these compulsive actions, it’s also one that problem gamblers often notice themselves. This can alert them that their behavior has gotten out of hand. One of the first pieces of advice for gambling addiction you’ll get from those who have been through it is that you should follow the patterns of your behavior closely and notice when they become destructive.
The increase in adrenaline
There’s a rush involved in betting, regardless of whether you win or lose. This adrenaline hit is among the most addictive aspects of gambling.
It’s often difficult to perceive this as a problem since it seems like a natural and positive experience, but craving that rush is one of the warning signs of gambling addiction. You’d do well to recognize it and act upon it early.
Excitement usually leads to gamblers increasing their bets and going for bigger wins, which inevitably results in bigger losses and more difficult lows. Feeling such a rush and looking for it are what give away a problem gamble instead of an enjoyable one.
This also leads to bets becoming riskier and therefore more addictive. This is typical for any type of addiction, but what makes it especially dangerous when it comes to online gambling problems is that the more “fun” it becomes, the more it ends up costing you. It’s a difficult cycle to try to break, and it happens mostly to those with a casino addiction since that’s where the highs and lows come at you the fastest.
Withdrawal symptoms are some of the most difficult moments an addict will experience, but the bright side of going this deep into online gambling addiction is that there are structures out there designed to help you. There are also the experiences of other addicts that you can learn from and find strength in.
Those who suddenly stop gambling experience withdrawal symptoms that are similar to that of quitting alcohol or drugs cold turkey. Indeed, stopping gambling can cause clinical depression, violent behavior, suicidal thoughts, and many other problems that those who go through rehab are dealing with.
There are gambling hotlines you can call, and help for gamblers can also come from those who have beaten other types of addictive behavior. The key to knowing how to help someone with a gambling addiction is to treat it like any other addiction.
Guilt and remorse
Another common sign to look for in gamblers is the feeling of guilt and remorse after gambling. This often leads the addict to difficult personal dramas that could leave a scar for years to come. Every time the addict returns to gambling, they feel as if they’ve personally failed and plunge deeper into their disease.
It’s also one of the symptoms that’s most personal and one that gamblers themselves can notice and use to spur their own recovery. On the other hand, this pattern of doing something wrong, feeling remorse for it, and then doing it again could be detrimental to personal relationships. For those who love and care for the addict, this may seem like a betrayal, and it’s difficult to recover afterwards. That’s why gambling addiction rehab works only with the help of others affected by the damaging behavior in the first place.
Who’s at Risk?
There are no rules dictating who will become a gambling addict. It can happen to almost anyone, and there are personal stories that show how easily a habit can turn into a problem. However, there are a few groups that are at greater risk than others, and those are the ones you should pay attention to, especially if they exhibit some of the symptoms mentioned above.
Again, there are no rules as to when this problem may appear, but there are some age groups that are more likely to be affected than others. Gambling issues mostly appear in younger and middle-aged people, and the compulsion to gamble becomes less strong as you grow older. This is especially so when it comes to betting on sports since it caters mostly to a younger audience.
Child gambling and addiction is also a problem that’s becoming more prevalent these days. That’s because access to gambling sites is easier to obtain than ever before, and there are gambling institutions that target younger players in particular. It’s important to stay vigilant and talk about this openly with your kids.
Mental health disorders
Those who are struggling with other mental health disorders may also be more prone to addiction. This is most noticeable when it comes to attention deficit disorders and substance abuse problems. The symptoms and the approach to addictive behavior are the same with these issues as they are with gambling.
Struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD symptoms can also lead to becoming addicted. That’s not to say that this will always happen, but it’s something friends and family of those fighting these conditions should be aware of. People experiencing these symptoms most often have a problem with sports gambling addiction since it doesn’t require you to leave your home, and there’s a strong identification with the sport teams involved.
Both sexes struggle with addiction, but problem gambling is more prevalent among men than it is among women. This isn’t to say that there are no women gamblers; there are, and their symptoms often present a bit differently to those of male gamblers.
For women, this issue usually starts later in life and becomes a problem faster, with all the aforementioned symptoms following one another in quick succession. The patterns and treatment of gambling addiction, however, are still pretty much the same for men and women.
The influence of one’s surroundings
Friends and family have a tremendous influence over our lives, and that’s also the case when it comes to addiction. There’s often a pattern within families that’s easier to spot, but small groups of friends could also have a great impact on a person’s behavior. If your friends and family have a problem with gambling addiction, there’s a chance you’ll develop similar issues.
This isn’t written in stone, and there are many who don’t follow the path of their parents and their peers. However, you should be aware of your surroundings and their potential negative influence, especially when you start exhibiting other signs of compulsive behavior.
There’s some medication that can cause addictive behavior. This is usually easy to notice, because when gambling is triggered by using such medication, it starts quickly and all the symptoms tend to appear one after another. If a person dealing with these issues hasn’t had a problem before taking the medication, that’s something to discuss with both their doctor and during gambling addiction rehab.
For the most part, this happens to those who are taking medication for Parkinson’s disease and for some forms of restless leg syndrome.
However, all of these gambling addiction facts should be treated as guidelines explaining the problem, not rules to determine who is suffering. There are those who need treatment for gambling addicts who don’t fall in any of these categories. They are usually in the most difficult of positions, as their addiction can take root in their behavior long before they seek help.
Friends and family of those dealing with compulsive gambling issues often wonder how to help them and how to convince them to check into gambling addiction rehab. This is a long and often difficult process. However, the most challenging part is the initial confrontation that needs to take place before the addict can come to terms with their problem.
This needs to be done head-on. If your friend or a member of your family exhibits the signs of addiction, you’ll need to be honest with them and tell them that their behavior is out of hand. This isn’t done to offend or start an argument, but to show your support and willingness to help along the way.
It’s also useful to explain how you feel about it and how their behavior has affected not only the gambler’s relationship with you, but also with other people in their life. It’s not easy, but only then can all involved start healing and dealing with the problem. Just remember that the goal isn’t to vent but to get gambling addiction help for those who need it.
This intervention shouldn’t be seen as judgmental towards the person with the addiction problem. If it comes across that way, it may be less effective or cause the problems to get worse.
Research and experience have both shown that the best way to overcome an addiction to gambling is to talk to those who have done it before you. This isn’t only inspirational – it’s actually a framework that will help you get your life in order and recover from the consequences of gambling problems. That’s because those involved in these groups actually know how to provide help for gambling addictions since they have already been through them.
Once you notice that you or someone you love are experiencing a compulsive gambling problem, you should contact these groups and make arrangements for the addict to join them and seek help.
A lot of this can be done online and help can be made available regardless of where you are and how small your community is. In fact, there are plenty of gambling addiction forums that can serve as such communities. The important thing is to share your experiences and to feel accepted within a group. That can be accomplished online as effectively as it can in person.
There’s also the issue of privacy, which can be very important in these situations. This is also easier to manage online.
There is, of course, a range of helpful resources out there that extend beyond any group you can join. Don’t hesitate to buy gambling addiction books or to watch movies about gambling addiction. That isn’t the same as talking to an actual person, but it shows that others have the same problems as you and that your situation can be managed.
Gambling addiction is a serious health problem. It’s similar to being addicted to drugs or alcohol, and the cure depends on accepting that you have a problem and using the guidance of those who have overcome the issue themselves.
The most difficult part of getting help is acknowledging that there is a problem in the first place. It takes time to notice and confront the symptoms within yourself or those you care for.
There are also groups that are especially vulnerable to these problems. If you notice such a pattern from someone in a vulnerable group, you should react more quickly and more forcefully. Young people, those who have a history of other mental illnesses, and those struggling with sudden loss or with other destabilizing events are more prone to developing gambling problems.
Support groups and gambling addiction rehabs are the best sources out there. Combined with medications and personal commitment, they can get the job done and help you overcome the addiction, even when it seems like an impossible task. The most important thing is to pay attention to patterns and to react when you notice that they are becoming dangerous or damaging.
What is it like having a gambling addiction?
Problem gambling is a medically diagnosable compulsive behavioral issue. That means that those who have it aren’t able to control their actions, or at least not fully as a healthy person would be able to. The symptoms include: being preoccupied with gambling to the point that it consumes your day-to-day life; trying to control your actions but failing and getting depressed over it; gambling in order to escape personal problems and reality in general; damaging relationships with your friends and family.
Is gambling a mental illness?
Gambling in itself isn’t an illness, and for many it’s just a harmless pastime that can be quite enjoyable. However, gambling addiction is not only an illness, but one that can cause serious harm not only to those who have it, but to their loved ones as well. A proper gambling addiction treatment is also similar to treating other mental illnesses, at least to an extent.
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, it’s classified as an impulse control disorder, just like other addictions. The manual states that a person needs to exhibit five out of 12 possible symptoms for at least a year to be treated like an addict.
Why do people get addicted to gambling?
This is a difficult question to answer since there are usually multiple intertwined causes behind any addiction. There is evidence that some people have a predisposition towards addiction and thrill-seeking behavior. This leads to their gambling becoming a compulsion rather than a hobby.
At the same time, there can also be outside causes. For instance, those who are going through a difficult time are more likely to turn to gambling than those who have a stable personal life. These outside causes include depression, reaching the retirement age, personal trauma, and financial difficulties.
How do you beat a gambling addiction?
The good news is that there are many different ways to find gambling addiction counseling. There are many people who have battled this issue and come out on the other end better off, healthier, and with renewed personal relationships.
This is achieved with a mixture of therapy, medication, and a struggle to change your behavior. None of these can work until a person is ready to admit that they have a problem and that they need professional help to overcome it. Sometimes, that’s the hardest thing to do.
Can a gambler ever stop?
Yes. It can be extremely hard to overcome your gambling addiction, but you can change your relationship to gambling and thus stop gambling altogether, even if the urge remains dormant inside you. There are countless gambling addiction stories that prove this; you should take inspiration and comfort from them.