Gambling Dependence

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Millions of individuals like gambling across the world. For the majority of those who prefer to gamble, it never becomes more than a pleasant pastime. However, some individuals may be unable to manage their gambling tendencies. When gambling goes beyond being a pleasant pastime and begins to cause significant issues in a person’s life, they may be exhibiting indicators of gambling addiction.

What is Gambling Dependence?

Addiction to gambling is classified as a mental health disorder. It has characteristics with other addictions (such as chemical substance dependency) and impulse-control problems (such as pyromania or kleptomania).

In all of these instances, the addicted individual is unable to control their conduct, despite the fact that they are harming themselves or their loved ones. It is essential to understand that not all individuals with gambling addiction have the same symptoms or intensity. The following are some of the most prevalent kinds of gambling addiction:

Pathological Gambling

When someone cannot control his or her impulse to gamble.

A compulsive gambler will continue to gamble regardless of the results, whether they win or lose.

Even when they know they cannot afford to lose, they will hunt for opportunities to place bets and wagers.

This is also known as gambling addiction

Binge Gambling

When a person shows compulsive gambling symptoms exclusively at specified times or periods.

A compulsive gambler may appear to have their addiction under control the most of the time.

They may go weeks or months without displaying symptoms of gambling addiction.

Even if they wager infrequently, their compulsive gambling tendencies will become apparent when they do.

When a person’s gambling habits are not totally within their control, yet they are not addicted to the point of compulsion either.

A problem gambler will engage in some form of gambling activity that interferes with their normal life. They may engage in loss-chase or deceive loved ones about their betting activities.

They find they cannot stop themselves from gambling increasingly frequently.

What are the symptoms of adult gambling addiction?

The American Psychiatric Association’s most recent diagnostic criteria (2018) for compulsive gambling disorder require the presence of at least four of the following symptoms during the preceding year. If these symptoms are the consequence of a distinct mental health disorder, they should be disregarded.

Increasing the amount wagered to reach the appropriate level of excitement.

Restlessness or irritability when attempting to reduce or quit gambling

Having repeatedly failed attempts to regulate, reduce, or quit gambling

often considering gambling (such as reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, thinking of ways to get money to gamble)

When upset, such as when sad, guilty, nervous, or powerless, people frequently gamble.

‘Chasing your losses’ refers to the practice of returning to a casino after incurring a financial loss in an attempt to recoup the loss.

Deception intended to conceal gambling activities or losses/damages resulting from gambling

Significant relationship, employment, or educational/career opportunity jeopardized or lost due to gambling.

Relying on others for assistance with financial issues caused by gambling


Please keep in mind that reviewing this list alone will not suffice to determine whether you have a gambling addiction. A mental health expert, such as a therapist or psychiatrist, should be consulted in order to make an appropriate diagnosis. It is crucial to visit a specialist in order to fully evaluate and rule out any mental health issues that may be behind these actions. This is due to the fact that persons with gambling addictions have a greater incidence of other illnesses, such as drug use disorders, depressive disorders, and anxiety disorders. In addition, in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis, a competent physician must do a comprehensive assessment to ensure that these behaviors are not caused by another medical problem.

What causes compulsive gambling?

Numerous factors may be implicated, yet none knows the specific reason. Although there are relationships between parental gambling behavior and gambling, it is impossible to identify cause and effect. Other considerations include mental health issues (such as drug use disorder), the age at which you begin gambling, and the size of your initial victories.

Biological Elements

Some characteristics of compulsive gambling are similar to those of other addictions, which is one of the key biological reasons of problem gambling. Imaging of the brain has revealed that a gambling victory can cause a neurological reaction comparable to that of a cocaine addict receiving a dosage of the substance. Compulsive behaviors have also been connected to deficiencies in norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter associated with stress and risky circumstances) and serotonin (a chemical associated with happiness and well-being). According to genetic research, there are even risk indicators that indicate people may be genetically inclined to have impulsive or addiction disorders.

Psychological Elements

Indirect factors, like as a person’s attitude toward gambling, may have a role in whether or not they develop a problem. Many feel that the so-called Gambler’s fallacy offers an apparently logical justification for obsessive conduct.

The Gambler’s fallacy is the misconception that a succession of separate occurrences will influence the probabilities of future independent events. For example, if a fair coin is flipped five times and each time it lands on heads, the probability that the following flip will result in a tails is still 50%, indicating that the coin is fair. However, according to the Gambler’s fallacy, the coin is more likely to land on tails in the subsequent flips in order to “make up for” the past outcomes. This might give further incentive for a compulsive gambler to continue chasing losses in the belief that their luck will soon change.

Individuals with gambling addictions frequently exhibit cognitive distortions. Denial regarding the seriousness of their gambling addictions, superstitions, minimization of losses, and overconfidence in the outcome of future events are instances of this.

It has also been noticed that fast-paced games are more prone to induce problem behaviors; a slot machine with quick bet placement, for example, may be more appealing to problem gamblers than a lottery that can only be played once a day.

Social Aspects

The manifestation of these behaviors may also be the result of external influences. Stress or problems in one’s personal or professional life may provoke behavior in a person with a gambling addiction, but they are not necessarily the source of such compulsions. The social situation in which you find yourself might also place you at danger. Gambling dependence and addiction may also be exacerbated by social isolation or inability to leave the house. Please see our related advice on responsible gaming during the COVID-19 outbreak on the blog.

There are additional correlations between problem gambling and sadness, distress, loneliness, life events, and a lack of social support from friends. Gambling addiction tends to run in families; the traits can be handed down or may impact how younger family members are raised with this in the environment.


In addition, a number of risk factors enhance the probability of having a gambling problem. Those with alcoholism or substance use are more susceptible to compulsive gambling. Various psychiatric illnesses, including personality disorders, depressive disorders, and anxiety disorders, have also been identified as risk factors for gambling addiction.

Realizing You Have an Issue

Seek assistance if you are aware of your problem, if you feel a problem developing, or if your friends or family have expressed worry that you have a problem.

It may appear that the indicators of gambling issues are evident, especially to compulsive gamblers, yet it is surprisingly frequent for both gamblers and their loved ones to overlook them. This is partly true since many of the concerns associated with problem gambling can be justified by the individual, thus hiding the problem at times.

While definitions of gambling addiction and problem gambling differ globally and across organizations, the majority of clinicians agree on the disorder’s symptoms.

If you sense the onset of a problem, the American Association of Psychiatry recommends a few very simple self-help measures to aid manage cravings.

Seek assistance by confiding in a reliable friend or attending a Gamblers Anonymous meeting.

Distract yourself with enjoyable activities; prevent solitude by seeking healthy methods to interact with others.

Delay your gambling by providing yourself a longer waiting period (it may allow the urge to pass or weaken)

Try to give yourself a reality check – consider what will occur and how you will feel after gambling.

How to Stop Gambling Dependence: Treatment

There are several therapy options for compulsive gamblers. There is no specific therapy for gambling addiction that is believed to be the norm.

Treatment and Counseling

Psychotherapy appears to be the most effective treatment method for gambling addiction. With the assistance of a competent expert, counseling has a reasonably high probability of success in modifying problematic habits. This method may be particularly effective due to the fact that many people with a gambling addiction also have another psychiatric disorder. In addition to treating the addiction, a psychologist or psychiatrist may also be able to assist with associated mental health difficulties.

Medical Therapy

Although no drugs have been developed expressly for the treatment of gambling addiction, several have shown promise in lowering the desire to gamble or the emotions of exhilaration associated with betting. These include antidepressants, anticonvulsant drugs, pharmaceuticals used to treat other addictions, and certain SSRIs.

Group Assistance and Self-Aid

Gamblers’ Anonymous is another significant resource for persons with gambling issues (GA). In combination with psychotherapy, it has been shown that group therapy facilitates recovery for many individuals by allowing them to discuss their struggles and experiences with others who have been through similar situations. Self-help initiatives and peer support systems have also been demonstrated to benefit in rehabilitation, regardless of whether they are combined with professional assistance.

How prevalent is gambling dependency?

It is impossible to determine the exact proportion of the population with a gambling issue or addiction. Self-reporting by gamblers is typically required as the initial step in diagnosing such a problem. Numerous efforts have been made to evaluate the scope of the problem. In recent years, the majority of these research have reached similar results.

Commonly stated rates of problem gambling in the United States range between 2% and 4%. Less than one percent of the population is often regarded to suffer from a gambling addiction. Not surprisingly, these numbers are greater in states like Nevada, where gaming plays a significant cultural role. The state has a specific problem gambling group. Men are more likely than women to report problem gambling and gambling addiction, which is an intriguing demographic fact.

It is also difficult to estimate how many individuals seek therapy. While groups and information to assist folks with issues are easily available, few people actively seek them out. Some people may finally overcome their gambling problem via behavioral adjustments, however many continue to suffer for years or even decades without getting assistance.

Adverse Consequences of Gambling

Others of the harmful impacts of gaming may be less visible.

Finances Obviously, continual gambling can lead to significant financial difficulties. A compulsive gambler can quickly amass huge debts, which may end in impoverishment owing to the burden of gaming costs, the loss of a house, or even bankruptcy. Some obsessive gamblers will resort to stealing or other illegal activities in order to fund their habit.

Mental Wellness

One of the most essential negative impacts to detect is the mental strain that may be caused by gambling difficulties. The condition can cause rifts in significant relationships and harm a person’s job through their conduct. A gambling addiction is associated with a variety of different problems, which might occur before or after the addiction. Additionally, compulsive gambling can result in sadness and even suicide.

A gambling addiction can also have negative effects on the addict’s closest relationships. Statistics indicate that households of persons with this sort of conduct are more likely to face child abuse or other types of domestic violence. Even children who are not directly affected by their parents’ problem gambling may develop depression, drug misuse, or behavioral disorders in the future.

Myths vs Facts Concerning Problem Gambling and Addiction

Myth Reality Gambling is only an issue for those who cannot afford to cover their losses.

Although financial difficulties are a regular and important consequence of gambling addiction, it is possible to have a major issue without experiencing financial difficulties. It might cause someone to disregard work or relationships, for instance.

A person who gambles seldom cannot be a problem gambler.

If gamblers only gamble on specific occasions, such as a particular sports season or casino vacation, they may overlook the indicators that their habit has become obsessive. However, if their betting at these periods meets the criteria for compulsive gambling, there may still be an issue.

Responsible individuals do not have gambling issues.

An addiction may develop in anyone, regardless of their typical level of responsibility. While gambling might lead to reckless behavior, it does not indicate that a person is irresponsible in general. It is a condition characterized by a lack of control.

Problem gambling does not impact children and adolescents; only adults are affected.

Not only are children and adolescents spending more and more money on gambling in recent years (particularly due to mobile gaming), but a close family member who is a gambler may indirectly impact their attitude toward gambling as they grow older.

One option to assist a loved one with a gambling addiction is by paying off their debts or rescuing them from financial difficulties.

Although difficult for family members and close friends to understand, it is generally detrimental to pay off the gambling addict’s debts. Instead of resolving the issue, it will provide them with the sense that they have a safety net should they experience financial difficulties in the future. It might prompt them to put further wagers.

How to Help Someone Who Is Addicted to Gambling

Sometimes it might be tough to determine whether a loved one has a gambling issue. For instance, if you observe the following behaviors in a person you care about, it may be an indication that something is amiss:

has begun clearly lying about their gambling; is allowing relationships with you or others to deteriorate in order to bet more; begins to state or imply that they may have a gambling problem; has begun borrowing money regularly, or has been taking money or selling items; is spending more and more time gambling; spends money gambling despite unpaid bills or lack of necessities like food; or spends money gambling despite unpaid bills or lack of necessities like food.

Then you should definitely take them seriously. They may be seeking assistance but are hesitant to ask for it or acknowledge the severity of the situation. Once you recognize that a friend or relative has a gambling issue, it is crucial not to appear judgemental or intimidating to that individual.

Educating yourself is one of the most critical measures that family and friends of a compulsive gambler can do. You must be supportive, refrain from enabling the gambler in any way, and engage in the therapy process as necessary. You shouldn’t, for instance, offer to pay off their gambling bills, as this would allow their habit. However, you may help them locate financial counseling or other organizations that could assist them with their problems.

Helping someone seek therapy

There is no foolproof technique to encourage someone to get therapy, but it is frequently helpful to demonstrate how their gambling has harmed their life and the lives of others.

Interventions are a common approach employed. Here, relatives and/or close friends confront the compulsive gambler to express their disapproval of his or her activity. While these interventions seldom change behavior on their own, they can be essential in encouraging someone in need of assistance to seek it. Any such intervention should have a cheerful, caring, yet concerned tone. The tone of these texts should never be hostile or angry. Although family and loved ones can perform interventions themselves, it is recommended to obtain instruction and help from a trained interventionist.

Remember that helplines such as the National Problem Gambling Network (800-522-4700) can provide guidance to friends and family who are concerned about the gambling activity of a loved one.

Suicide Prevention Among Problem Gamblers

There is a significant suicide rate among problem gamblers. Those in the United States who are suicidal or have a loved one who is suicidal can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Additionally, you can visit the Befrienders Worldwide website to locate a suicide hotline in your country.

Gambling Dependence Resources

If you or someone you know may have a gambling addiction, there are several services accessible to individuals in need of assistance. Keep in mind that a single treatment strategy will not work for everyone, and that many treatments may be necessary.

Options range from group gatherings with individuals in similar circumstances to advanced therapy with professional counselors and physicians. There is always aid available, whether you need to speak with someone immediately or choose to develop a more intensive treatment plan. Here are a few of the numerous organizations and services devoted to combating gambling addiction.

Alcoholics Anonymous> – Gamblers Anonymous Gamblers Anonymous (GA) was founded in 1957 and has local chapters that meet across the world. The sole prerequisite for membership is a willingness to quit gambling. GA contains a 12-step program that assists recovered problem gamblers in avoiding relapse. There are also support organizations (Gam-Anon) for family members and children of problem gamblers (Gam-A-Teen).

National Council on Compulsive Gambling

The National Council On Problem Gambling – – is a resource for those who have a gambling problem. NCPG advocates on behalf of problem gamblers and their families. It is entirely separate from the gaming sector. Their website includes detailed information about problem gambling, treatment information, and counselors qualified to deal with compulsive gambling issues around the United States.

National Helpline for Problem Gambling Network

National Helpline for Problem Gambling (800-522-4700) – The NCPG operates this hotline, which provides information about local options for problem gamblers and their loved ones.

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