Gambling Addiction Help

Gambling is a popular form of entertainment that’s available across the globe. It gives people the chance to wager on bingo, casino games, lotteries, sports, and other games of chance.

Most gamblers maintain a sense of control when placing wagers. Unfortunately, some players struggle to contain their betting impulses.

Pathological gambling doesn’t discriminate and can affect people from all walks of life. If you struggle with this form of addiction or know someone who does, you should refer to the following guide.

What Is Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction causes people to gamble compulsively without thinking. Those who can’t control their urge to gamble eventually suffer financial and personal losses.

The following situations can arise when one suffers from an uncontrollable urge to gamble:

  • Inability to pay bills due to mounting losses.
  • Losing one’s house or apartment.
  • Arguments with loved ones.
  • Loss of relationships.
  • Wasting countless hours in casinos and on gambling sites.
  • Denial of a gambling problem.

Many addicts don’t care if they’re winning or losing. They place bets on impulse regardless of the results.

A gambling addict struggles with an underlying issue that causes their compulsive wagering. For example, they may suffer from depression or an anxiety disorder.

Are gambling addiction and problem gambling the same?

Gambling addiction and problem gambling seem interchangeable by name and nature. The latter term, however, features slight differences from addiction.

Problem gambling refers to a betting habit that disrupts one’s life. A problem gambler hasn’t quite reached the point where they compulsively place wagers.

Nevertheless, they suffer from a habit that’s beyond their control. Problem gamblers chase losses, lie about their habit, and hide their betting activities from loved ones.

Neither a gambling problem nor addiction is desirable. Anybody suffering from either issue should seek help.

What are the signs of gambling addiction?

Addicted gamblers often don’t see themselves as being different from anybody else. They may believe that their betting is purely for entertainment purposes.

However, gambling addicts display telltale signs that the outside observer can see. An addict may even come to the realization that they’re struggling on their own.

Common indications of gambling addiction include:

  • Mindlessly placing bet after bet.
  • Tuning out the world when gambling.
  • Being oblivious to past wins or losses.
  • Choosing to gamble based on emotions (e.g., happy, depressed, angry, anxious).
  • Raising stakes to feel more alive.
  • Often thinking about betting when at work, with family, or on vacation.
  • Failing to see a problem or realize that their betting habits are abnormal.

Problem gamblers are more in control of their emotions and thoughts regarding betting. Nevertheless, they still can’t stop themselves from placing wagers due to one or more issues.

Signs of a gambling problem include:

  • Frequently chasing losses.
  • Thinking that one is “due” for a winning session during a losing streak.
  • Increasing bets and/or gambling longer under the guise of being due for a win.
  • Lying to others to conceal significant betting.
  • Risking relationships, jobs, and advancement opportunities to gamble more.
  • Begging others for money after losing too much through gambling.
  • Pursuing jackpots under the guise that they’ll eventually get rich.

What causes gambling addiction?

Several factors can be behind one’s gambling addiction. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following aspects can cause a gambler to become addicted:

  • Age – Younger and middle-aged people are more likely to be gambling addicts.
  • Medication – Drugs that antagonize dopamine (the pleasure chemical) can cause one to gamble more often.
  • Peers – Those who hang out with gambling addicts are likely to follow in their footsteps.
  • Personality characteristics – People who are extremely competitive, easily bored, impulsive, or workaholics risk becoming compulsive gamblers.
  • Personality disorder – Gamblers who struggle with ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and OCD are more likely to bet compulsively.
  • Sex – On average, more men suffer from gambling addiction than women.

Traumatic events can cause one to gamble compulsively as well. For example, the loss of a loved one or being fired from a job can bring about a betting problem. 

Consequences of being a gambling addict

Many gambling addicts don’t seek help until they’ve suffered multiple hardships stemming from their betting. That said, gamblers should know the consequences before it’s too late.

Potential compulsive gambling ramifications include:

  • Crime – One may resort to theft or other criminal behavior to feed their habit.
  • Financial problems – Addicts find themselves struggling to pay bills and buy essentials.
  • Poor health – Compulsive gamblers deal with high stress levels and spend significant time sitting in casinos, sportsbooks, or other gambling venues.
  • Strained relationships – An addict might strain or even lose relationships with loved ones.
  • Suicide – Those with a serious problem may consider suicide or harming themselves in another way.

How to treat gambling addiction

Compulsive gamblers can’t simply take a pill or visit the doctor to cure their problem. In fact, no single treatment is the cure-all for gambling addiction.

Instead, compulsive bettors should explore a variety of treatments. The following measures can help one curb a betting problem.

Self-exclusion

Many land-based and online gaming jurisdictions feature self-exclusion lists. These programs let gamblers ban themselves from a particular casino or even an entire market.

Self-exclusion is a voluntary measure that can feature different types of bans. For example, gamblers may be able to self-exclude themselves for a period of one year, five years, or a lifetime.

Gambling operators are not supposed to willingly serve anybody on a self-exclusion list. They must enact policies to ensure that problem gamblers don’t bet with them.

Programs

Many programs exist for helping gamblers overcome addiction. They typically involve taking steps to gradually recover and live a productive life.

Gamblers Anonymous is a famous example of such programs. It sees gamblers meet to discuss their experiences and collectively work through a 12-step plan.

Self-help

With enough dedication, some gamblers overcome their problem through self-help alone. They might beat gambling addiction by performing research on the subject and putting the advice into action.

Peer groups

Similar to programs like Gamblers Anonymous, peer groups include a collection of gamblers working together to kick their addictions. These groups differ slightly from programs because they don’t typically involve a step-based plan.

Resources for gambling addiction

Many states and countries recognize the dangers of gambling addiction. Therefore, they’ve enacted programs and hotlines to help gamblers overcome their problems.

The simple act of joining a program or calling a hotline is often the first step to recovery. The following resources can help gamblers get on the path towards treating addiction.

Groups and resources

  • American Addiction Centers – Provides information and resources on seeking help for a gambling problem.
  • Caron – Offers programs that compulsive gamblers can use in combating addiction.
  • Gamblers Anonymous – This organization involves groups meeting to talk and work through a 12-step program to cure their addictions.
  • GamCare – Based in the UK, GamCare features a hotline (0808 8020 133) that provides counseling to addicted gamblers.
  • National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) – The NCPG is an independent organization that provides resources and information for gambling addiction.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – Funded by the US Department of Health, SAMHSA provides a hotline (1-800-662-4357) and other resources for compulsive gamblers.
Gamblers Anonymous
Gamblers Anonymous is a world-wide organization helping people to tackle problems with gambling.

Hotlines

FAQs on gambling addiction

What causes gambling addiction?

One or more underlying issues can be at the root of gambling addiction. These issues can include:

1. A personality disorder, such as ADHD, anxiety, or depression.
2. Extreme personality traits, such as being highly competitive or a workaholic.
3. Hanging out with heavy gamblers.
4. Taking a dopamine-antagonizing medication.

Addicts may not understand what causes their problem or even be aware that they possess an unhealthy habit. They might only realize the underlying issue after seeking help and talking with others.

Is there a cure for gambling addiction?

No one-size-fits-all cure exists for gambling. Instead, treatment usually involves a combination of measures.

Counseling, medication, programs, and self-exclusion can all help one overcome addiction. Depending on the severity of their problem, gamblers should commit to a long road to recovery. 

What’s the difference between a gambling problem and addiction?

Gambling addicts maintain no control over their habits. They bet compulsively without considering either short-term or long-term consequences.

Problem gamblers are aware that they should stop betting so much. However, they can’t quit gambling for one or more reasons (e.g., chasing losses).

How can I help somebody who’s addicted to gambling?

Most gambling addicts don’t admit to or see that they suffer from a problem. Friends and family members may need to hold an intervention to reach a compulsive gambler.

Interventions alone don’t typically cure the problem. However, they can at least make an addicted gambler aware of the situation.

Family and friends should also provide resources to the addict, who can use this information to take initiative in curing their addiction.