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Signs of Gambling Addiction to Look Out for

Gambling is an acceptable part of our culture and one where we tend to expose even the youngest of our children to competition in board and internet games, sporting events, cards, and other activities to keep them happily satiated and geared toward motivations. By their high school years, they may become involved in sports betting, lotteries, and sometimes, casino or racetrack betting.

Although many of us can gamble and not develop an addiction, evidence shows that there are certain risk factors, including peer influence and family members, and the earlier one begins, the more likely they are to experience problems from gambling in the future.

What is a Gambling Addiction?

help for gambling addiction

If you cannot stop gambling despite attempts to quit you may have an addiction.

For many, what starts out as an occasional episode of fun and excitement turns to preoccupation with gambling and an inability to control gambling behaviors or to stop gambling despite adverse consequences, the hallmarks of addiction.

Like drugs and alcohol, gambling addiction is a progressive disorder and whether the person gambles for the excitement and euphoria or they gamble to escape problems, as the addiction progresses, they will go through several phases of winning, losing, desperation, and hopelessness.

Nobody wins all the time and for those who cannot control their gambling behaviors, they tend to not only increase the amounts they wager and the time they spend gambling, but, they are also more likely to suffer physical, psychological, family, and social consequences that will add to their distress.

The following are some likely signs of gambling addiction to look out for:

Defense Mechanisms

Defending the gambling behaviors is important to the addict because it paves the way for continuance. Gambling takes time and money and addicts are often secretive or lie about their relationships with gambling associates, their activities, and their finances. They may deny that a problem exists and isolate their self to avoid confrontations.

Financial Difficulties

The most compelling sign of gambling addiction is financial difficulties because in the throes of their addiction, the addict cannot stop gambling even after suffering a significant loss. Instead, they will probably become desperate to regain their money back at any cost. According to studies by the National Academy of Sciences,” most of the gamblers reported using their wages to finance gambling, supplemented by credit cards (38.7 percent), borrowing from friends and relatives (32.9 percent), and loans from banks and financial institutions (29.8 percent)”.

Obsessions and Cravings to Gamble

Like other addictions, when a person wins through their gambling efforts, they become euphoric and by repeating these experiences, physiological changes in their brain can actually reinforce the gambling behaviors. They basically, become “hard wired” to gamble and their obsessions are more than they can control.

Mood Swings

As long as the gambling addict is winning, their moods can remain elevated, but, some addicts will experience emotional withdrawals when they are unable to gamble and they become depressed, irritable, anxious, or restless. Gambling addiction is highly stressful and in one gambling episode, the gambler may experience multiple shifts in their moods, which can lead to uncontrollable mood swings in other areas of their life.

The stress, guilt, and depression that persists in these individuals as they try to appease their bookies, maintain positivity where negativity overwhelmingly resides, and to cover up their addiction is anything, but, easy and suicidal or self-harm tendencies are not uncommon.

Gambling Despite Harm to Others

Families of gambling addicts tend to suffer tremendous consequences as the addict places their gambling addiction above their relationships with their spouses, partners, or children. They may suffer from neglect, verbal abuse, domestic violence, or even develop a substance abuse disorder of their own in an effort to deal with dysfunctional family relationships.

The gambling addict may distance themselves from family and friends as their shame, guilt, and depression increases and they often show signs of sadness or hopelessness as their finances and assets dwindle.

Irrational Thinking

Irrational thoughts of making up for the harm they are causing once they get the next big “win” are common with a gambling addict and because they are so “sure” that they are due to win, they may dramatically increase their bets to recoup prior losses.

A major complication that arises from irrational thinking on behalf of the gambling addict, is the putting off of other responsibilities and commitments. Often, the true consequences of gambling addiction only come to light when the “past due” bills, collection agencies, bank repossessions, or foreclosure notices begin to appear.

By this point, the addict has advanced well into their defense mechanisms and they, themselves, may be unable to figure out how they got there as it becomes natural for them to rationalize their faults.

Illegal Activities to Finance the Gambling Addiction

As access to money becomes more limited, the gambling addict they may begin to lie, steal, cheat, borrow, or resort to other crimes to finance their habit. The National Academy of Sciences further states that pathological gamblers have been known to, “commit offenses and serve prison terms for such offenses as fraud, stealing, embezzlement, forgery, robbery, and blackmail.”

Co-Existing Substance Addictions

Gambling addiction and the use of other substances, especially alcohol, go together in most gambling settings whether it’s a ball game, a race track, or a card game and each problem can exacerbate the other.

Repeated Attempts to Quit

Similar to other addictions, gambling relapses should be anticipated. It takes a lot more than willpower to end this addiction once it gets a hold on a person and no matter how often the addict wishes they could quit, many are unable to do so on their own.