Gambling involves a wide range of activities, including everything from playing poker with friends to betting on sports.
As with any activity that makes us feel good, going overboard can quickly develop into an addiction that negatively impacts every aspect of life.
In this article, you will discover what signs of gambling addiction to look for when you suspect you or someone you love has developed an addiction to some form of gambling.
What is a Gambling Addiction?
The National Gambling Impact Study found that 2.7 percent of Americans have a gambling problem. Keep in mind that they information provided in studies such as this are based on self-reports from gambling addicts themselves.
This could mean that even more people suffer from this addiction, they just have not reported their problem.
Gambling is an addiction that plays tricks on a person. It starts out as a fun experience. It even gives you the illusion you can get easy money. Gambling takes complete advantage of our internal desire to enjoy life without so many hardships and sacrifices.
Once you begin gambling, however, you quickly realize it brings with it many negative consequences, including addiction. Your physical and mental health can suffer, as well as your family and work.
How Does Gambling Addiction Happen?
Just like any other addiction, at the start of gambling activities, your actions trigger the happy chemicals in your brain. These chemicals give you a feeling of reward and make you want to continue the activity that lead to feeling rewarded. With each win, whether small or large, these chemicals continue to be triggered, making you feel great.
Over time, however, the feelings of happiness fade, especially when you begin losing. And because gambling activities are developed to make you lose more often than win, you will feel less happy each time. Eventually, depression and anxiety appear.
But rather than stop gambling, some people continue to trigger the brain in hopes of getting a high. They find it difficult to get through a week or even a day without gambling. At this point, gambling begins to interfere with work, family, and social interactions.
While some are seeking a high, others gamble because they find themselves suffering financially and feel gambling is the only way to get back on track. When they lose at gambling, they then feel they need to win back their losses. This leads to a vicious cycle, one hard to stop and leads to the same negative consequences of losing family, friends and work.
Below are signs to look for when trying to determine if you, or someone you know, has a gambling addiction.
5 Signs of Gambling Addiction
There are several common signs of gambling addiction to watch for if you suspect someone has developed an unhealthy relationship with gambling.
Noticeable changes in mood & behavior
Keep reading to learn more about each of these signs below.
1. Obsessive behavior
When someone is obsessed with gambling, they cannot stop thinking about it or talking about it. They try to find any excuse to gamble again. They justify their reasoning for gambling. They put gambling activities before everything else, including family and friends.
People with a gambling addiction do not necessarily want to be obsessed. They do not know how to stop their obsessive thoughts and behaviors. They cannot stop on their own. In fact, many gamblers want to stop but do not have the willpower or skills needed to overcome their obsessions.
2. Unethical Behavior
Gamblers find unhealthy ways to continue their addiction. This can include committing crimes to obtain the money they need to continue gambling. Crimes can include stealing from friends and families. Some may steal money, while others steal valuable objects to sell.
Gambling addicts may also take out loans, borrow from co-workers, or even commit fraud to access the funding they want to continue gambling.
Denial is one of the first clues in knowing someone may have an addiction. They claim they do not have a problem and that they can stop gambling at any time on their own. They try to convince you their addiction is not hurting anyone else.
Denial is followed by many lies. They not only try to convince you they do not have a problem, they also try to convince themselves. They assure you that you can trust them, that they would never let their gambling interfere with your relationship, or that they are in control of their gambling behaviors.
None of these are true, unfortunately.
4. Financially Irresponsible
Just like many other addictions, it becomes hard for the addict to quit, despite problems. Even when a gambler experiences severe financial consequence, he or she is still unable to just stop.
Some of the more serious financial problems that can appear in a gambling addicts life include having overdue bills. Many gamblers are late on their rent or other bills. This is simply because they spent that money on gambling.
Other problems that arise include maxed out credit cards, inability to buy food or meet basic needs, takes part in elevated risk investing or trading, or secretly spends savings or retirement funds. Other problems can include repossessions of homes or cars, takes out loans or cash-advances from shady companies, and puts their gambling before the needs of family.
5. noticeable Changes in mood & behavior
A gambling addict will show signs of mood and behavior changes. Some addicts become manipulative, whether threatening or charming, to obtain what they need to continue their addiction. They may also be gone for lengthy periods with no explanation as to where they were.
They can become withdrawn and isolated, as well as showing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Personality changes such as an inability to sleep or overly agitated can be signs of an addiction. They may even get extremely defensive when questioned about their mood or behavior.
You may see drastic changes in their abilities to complete tasks at work and home.
There is Hope for Overcoming Addiction to Gambling
A gambling addict may not feel as if there is hope for change. They may feel they are so deep into their addiction that there is no way out. This is not true. There is help and there is hope.
Mental health professionals are trained to assist you in your journey through the addiction and to recovery.
Recovery is very possible for everyone facing a gambling addiction. The first step is to just reach out for help. Therapists will walk with you through all the other steps. You do not have to overcome your addiction alone.
There are support groups available with other who understand your issues. And they are ready to help you.