Updated on May 9, 2024
5 min read

Gambling Addiction: Early Warning Signs

Addiction is a spectrum and the signs can vary from person to person. Although someone may not display the textbook signs of addiction, they may still struggle with a gambling problem.

Trust your instincts and if someone’s relationship with gambling feels off, don’t dismiss it. Gambling addiction isn't always obvious. It can often be a secret slowly consuming someone's life.

It’s better to get help for an addiction early than let it spiral out of control. It's a condition that’s more common than you think, but fortunately, help is available.

Signs of Gambling Addiction

The signs of gambling addiction aren’t always obvious. People may gamble to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression and it can gradually escalate to a destructive pattern.

A person addicted to gambling can constantly talk and think about it and spend all their time doing it. They might sneak around to gamble, hide their losses, or become defensive when asked about their gambling activities.

They may gamble most of their money or spend money they can’t afford to lose, resulting in desperately winning back their losses and gambling more.

Other signs of gambling addiction include:

  • Seeking bigger gambling risks to feel the same excitement
  • Neglecting responsibilities, avoiding activities, and withdrawing from their social life to gamble
  • Skipping showers, meals, or dressing haphazardly due to gambling binges
  • Irritability and restlessness when they’re not gambling
  • Feeling guilt and shame about their gambling habits
  • Mood swings, anxiety, and depression
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Increased stress
  • Stress-related problems (headaches, stomach issues, etc.)
  • Poor work performance or job loss
  • Self-harm or suicidal thoughts

Knowing the signs of an addiction can help you get help early before spiraling into a crisis. You shouldn’t wait for all the signs of an addiction to show up. The longer you wait to get help, the worse it will get. 

Risk Factors of A Gambling Addiction

Developing a gambling addiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s caused by a complex blend of various risk factors.

Understanding these factors can help prevent an addiction or help someone who’s already struggling with it:

  • Genetic factors: A family history of gambling problems can increase the likelihood of developing the same addiction.
  • Co-occurring disorders: Having depression, anxiety, substance abuse issues, or personality disorders leads to a higher risk of developing gambling addiction due to impulsivity.
  • Environmental factors: Growing up with friends or family with gambling problems often normalizes the behavior, increasing the risk of addiction.
  • Ease of access: Having more opportunities to gamble can increase the likelihood of someone becoming addicted to it.
  • Advertising: Ads that paint gambling as glamorous and fun can often downplay the risks of gambling and normalize it.

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The Impact of A Gambling Addiction

Developing a gambling addiction can significantly affect all aspects of your life. But it doesn’t just affect you, it can affect everyone around you.

Going into debt or bankruptcy due to gambling issues can put a strain on your relationships. Lying to and neglecting your loved ones can also break their trust in you, leading to isolation which often worsens addiction.

It can also cause stress, neglect, and insomnia, leading to physical and mental health problems. Aside from that, addiction can physically affect the brain’s reward system, making it harder to resist the urge to gamble.

Gambling can affect people’s performance at work and school, leading to dropouts or career damage. Some people might also resort to criminal activities to fund their addiction.

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How to Get Help for Gambling Addiction

Dealing with a gambling addiction can feel overwhelming, but it’s possible to overcome the condition. Here are some steps you can take to get support and treatment for a gambling addiction:

  1. Acknowledge the addiction.
  2. Reach out for professional help and guidance.
  3. Get a professional assessment from a mental health professional.
  4. Enroll in a treatment program.
  5. Join support groups like Gamblers Anonymous (GA).

How to Prevent a Relapse

It’s important to learn and identify triggers that can lead to a relapse. You can be triggered by certain places, emotions, or people. Keep a journal of your triggers to avoid them in the future this can also help you develop healthier coping techniques.

You might also want to take control of your finances. A trusted friend or family member can manage your finances so you can focus on recovery while avoiding the urge to gamble.

Additionally, you should consider blocking gambling apps and websites to prevent a relapse. You can also join a self-exclusion program that bars you from gambling venues. Many states and casinos offer self-exclusion lists.

Resources for Gambling Addicts

Remember, gambling addiction is treatable. With professional help, people can rebuild their lives. If you are concerned, don't hesitate to reach out and offer support.

However, if you’re struggling, there are online resources that might be able to help you when you need it:

  • National Problem Gambling Helpline: 1-800-522-4700 offers confidential help, local treatment referrals, and online resources 24/7.
  • Your State's Helpline: Find it on the National Council on Problem Gambling website.
  • Online Support Groups: Websites like Gambling Therapy offer forums and text-based support.

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How to Promote Awareness For Gambling Addiction

Gambling addictions can be a community issue and tackling it requires a collaborative effort from educators, mental health professionals, and community leaders. Here’s how we can all work together to promote awareness and reduce gambling addiction:

  • Education: Integrate awareness into the curriculum, partner with experts, and train staff to address potential gambling issues among students.
  • Mental health: Mental health professionals should receive specialized treatment in identifying a gambling addiction and collaborate with educators to promote awareness.
  • Community support: Establish community workshops, seminars, public events, and support groups to help those struggling with a gambling addiction.
  • Policy: Advocate and support policies that limit the expansion of gambling establishments and ads to protect consumers.
  • Media Engagement: Use media to air public service announcements (PSAs) about gambling warning signs and helpline numbers.

It’s important to change the narrative around gambling. Rather than glamorizing it as a fun and harmless hobby, people need to understand that gambling can potentially ruin lives.

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Updated on May 9, 2024
6 sources cited
Updated on May 9, 2024

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