Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

Gambling is a form of entertainment in which someone wagers something of value on a random event with the intent of winning another item of value. Events can be instantaneous, such as rolling a die or spinning a roulette wheel, or they may take longer, such as placing a bet on an entire sports season. Gambling can be social or professional, casual or serious. It is estimated that the world’s legal and illegal gambling industry is worth about $10 trillion a year.

While some people enjoy gambling as a way to have fun and possibly earn a little extra cash, others develop an addiction to the activity. Compulsive gambling is a mental health disorder that has the same symptoms as substance addiction and can be just as dangerous. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction so that you can seek treatment if needed.

The symptoms of gambling addiction include:

Frequently lies to family members or therapists to conceal the extent of involvement in gambling;

Gambles large amounts of money at a single time;

Bets against friends for small sums of money;

Feels an urge to gamble even when he or she has lost a substantial amount of money;

Spends more than usual on gambling and/or uses credit card or other debt to fund gambling activities;

Continues to wager even after experiencing repeated losses;

Engages in other compulsive behaviors to relieve boredom or stress, such as forging checks, theft or fraud;

Experiences a sense of hopelessness or helplessness about the ability to control gambling behavior;

Relies on others to bail him or her out of financial difficulties caused by gambling;

Often returns to gambling after losing money in order to try to win back the original investment (chasing one’s losses);

Feels compelled to gamble, even when there is a negative impact on his or her work, family, social life or physical health;

Gambling addiction can have many causes. It can be influenced by genetics and environmental factors, such as adverse childhood experiences or stressful life events. It can also be triggered by certain medications and other mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety.

There are no FDA-approved medications to treat gambling disorders, but psychotherapy can be helpful. This type of treatment includes several different techniques that aim to teach people to change unhealthy thoughts, feelings and behaviors. This type of therapy can be done individually or in groups, and it can be very effective for people who struggle with gambling addiction.

The biggest challenge for people who have a problem with gambling is admitting that they have an issue. This can be difficult, especially if they’ve lost a lot of money and have strained or broken relationships as a result of their gambling habits. It is also important to find other ways to feel happy and satisfied in addition to gambling. This can be done by spending more time with loved ones, exercising or participating in other recreational activities.