Gambling Addiction: Definition, Common Signs & Options For Help


Facing addiction remains challenging for anyone who suffers from the condition. While most people consider the common types of addiction, like alcohol or drugs, they sometimes overlook other ones, such as gambling addiction.

Even though you may have a gambling addiction, you should know you’re not alone. You can understand a gambling addiction, its definition, common signs, and how to receive help, so you’ll work past it and not rely on it.

As you review these points and learn about the addiction, you can overcome it and know what steps to take to move away from it.

An Overview of Gambling: A Primer

If you plan to understand the definition of addiction and its association with gambling, you must learn about gambling itself. Doing so will help you see why people become addicted to it and how it can impact lives.

What Is Gambling?

Gambling is betting your money against an action, usually determined by luck rather than skill. If it falls in your favor, you gain money, but if it falls in the other person’s favor, you lose the money you bet.

Main Reason Why People Gamble

Some people wonder why others gamble, though they should recognize that people develop gambling habits for multiple reasons.

  • They enjoy the thrill of bets.
  • They want to win money.
  • They view it as a hobby.

Some people simply enjoy the thrill of betting. They love the idea of making or losing money, with the potential to win, so they keep gambling. Speaking of which, some people simply want to win big and make more money than they spend while at a casino.

On the other hand, some people merely gamble as a hobby, and they go there to have fun.

Effects of Gambling

Gambling has multiple impacts on people, leading to problems and addictions.

  • Barely losing money.
  • The desire to win big.
  • Wanting to keep gambling.

If you gamble, you’ll slowly lose money, making it an ineffective method to make money. Of course, people also desire to win big, so they’ll keep gambling to make money.

Because of these points, they keep gambling until they win or make their money back, which doesn’t always happen.

Do Gambling Urges Go Away?

While the urge to gamble can go away, many people live with it for the rest of their lives if they form an addiction. So instead of falling into those urges, they must remember that the odds aren’t in their favor.

If your desires don’t go away, you must learn to control and resist them. For example, people with gambling addictions may never gamble again to avoid falling into their old habits.

What Is a Gambling Addiction?

A gambling addict puts too much money, time, or effort into gambling. An addict feels like they must keep gambling to the point where they ignore other aspects of their life, including work, relationships, and even self-care.

However, gambling addiction has different levels, with some developing minor addiction while others have severe addiction.

Forms of Gambling Addiction

As you look into gambling addiction, you must note that not every addict has the same habits. In addition, you’ll come across different forms of gambling addiction, so ensure you review the types and see if you fall into any of them, so you’ll catch the problem early.

Positive End Gambler

Some gamblers don’t like the idea of gambling on a loss or when they end up with a net negative on their gambling. These can be called optimistic end gamblers, where they feel like they must continue gambling until they end on a win.

Such gambling can lead to severe money loss if the gambler faces multiple losses.

Closet Gambler

Some gamblers keep their gambling a secret from family members and friends. They’ll either go out and gamble without others knowing, or they’ll go with online gambling as a way for them to bet from their computer or phone.

Closet gamblers feel ashamed of gambling and do what they can to keep it a secret from others.

Online Gambler

Speaking of online gambling, some people get stuck in the trap of becoming online gamblers. So instead of going to casinos or finding slot machines, they’ll join gambling websites to bet their money from home.

Online gambling can become dangerous due to its accessibility for people when bored.

Big Bet Gambler

Some gamblers have tons of money and will go for large bets. While some people may only gamble one or two chips at a time, others may gamble thousands of dollars. Since they win large amounts of money, they also lose tons as they keep gambling.

Big bets can become dangerous if someone doesn’t have the money to sustain them.

Problem Gambler

A problem gambler refers to a person who doesn’t realize they have a gambling addiction until they face a negative consequence from their gambling. Gambling can include impacting their relationships, facing severe loss, and similar life-changing events.

When people realize they fall under problem gamblers, they know they need to stop gambling.

Gambling Addiction Statistics

  • Sports gambling alone led to a revenue of 1.5 billion dollars in 2020.
  • About two million people per year suffer from gambling addiction.
  • 7.9 percent of college students suffer from gambling disorder.
  • 60 to 80 percent of students report gambling once every 12 months or so by the time they get to high school.
  • 50 percent of individuals with the most severe problem gambling may commit a gambling-motivated crime, including embezzlement or opening a credit card in someone else’s name.

What are the Signs of Gambling Addiction?

You’ll come across multiple signs of gambling addiction, so you should look through them and see if they apply to you. However, these are common signs, so you could have a gambling addiction even if you don’t fall into these categories.

Frequently Thinking Of Gambling

If you can’t stop thinking about gambling or think about it more than you should, you may have a gambling addiction. Frequently thinking about gambling means you consider doing it while you work and daydream about the next time you plan to do it.

Such a fixation indicates your mind relies on gambling, so you must learn to move past it.

Gambling Withdrawals

A withdrawal means you have adverse side effects if you don’t gamble. The side effects can include increased irritability, depression, and even anxiety. You most likely have an addiction if you feel this way when you haven’t bet in a few days.

Such withdrawals will temporarily go away if you do gamble, but you must quit doing it if you want them to stop altogether.

Inability to Control or Stop

Some people also feel like they must keep gambling to the point where they don’t know how to stop themselves. Once they start gambling, the gambler will put more money toward it than they should, causing them to recklessly spend when they could use their money elsewhere.

If you want to test this, give yourself a hard cutoff for gambling and see if you won’t go past it.

Gambling Interfering With Life

Some people become so obsessed with gambling it ends up interfering with life. Instead of working, spending time with friends, or joining other activities, they gamble. Some may even lose their jobs if they bet too much and miss their work hours.

If you’re addicted to gambling, you’ll usually make it your number one priority in life.

Lowered Gambling Tolerance

The more you gamble, the more you become desensitized to the money. Some people feel good when they make money but don’t feel as good the next time.

They then bet more money as they gamble more and more, seeking that dopamine they no longer get from the lower amounts.

Types of Unhealthy Gambling Behavior

On top of the signs, you should also review the types of unhealthy gambling behavior to determine if you must receive addiction rehab.

  • The desire to win.
  • Betting against the odds.
  • Risking money necessary to survive.

Gambling can quickly become a slippery slope for people, causing them to get involved with high-risk gambling. When that happens, they need to keep gambling until they win and make money back, though the odds aren’t on their side.

What Is the Main Cause of Gambling Addiction?

As you look into consulting a counselor for your gambling addiction, you’ll want to know the root cause of it. Understanding why you gamble can help you stay away from it and avoid your triggers to keep yourself avoid the addiction.

While these aren’t the only factors, they’re the main causes of gambling addiction.

  • Genetics can impact addiction.
  • Those with psychiatric disorders.
  • People involved with everyday gambling activities.

In short, if you have family members who face gambling addiction, you have higher odds of developing it. While this isn’t proven, you should remain extra weary if it’s immediate family.

The same applies to various psychiatric disorders, so you may want to avoid gambling if you already suffer from mental health issues. It’s better to play it safe if you have a condition, so keep that in mind.

If you get involved with everyday gambling activities, you become desensitized, leading to an addiction. For example, you’re more likely to become addicted if you play slots or buy lottery tickets rather than doing something with skill, like a money match over a sport you play.

How Gambling Addiction Affects the Brain

If you review gambling addiction studies, you’ll notice how gambling addiction impacts the brain. For example, brain activity changes in multiple brain regions when people develop a gambling addiction, showing that it literally changes how their brain works.

They also noticed that brain activity would increase when gamblers saw videos of gambling, which didn’t happen in those who didn’t have a gambling addiction. It also leads to gambling becoming hardwired to the brain, making it difficult for them to stop.

What Is the Personality of a Gambling Addict?

The personalities of gambling addicts vary between people. Not every addict has the same personality traits, though you may see a few common characteristics among addicts, though they can have other personality traits based on the situation.

  • On edge or upset when not gambling.
  • Excessive or no emotions while gambling.
  • Reliance on gambling.

In short, their personality and needs revolve around gambling, which becomes their lives’ main focus. With that in mind, gambling addicts don’t have a set personality but add their addictions to their personalities.

Is Gambling a Mental Health Issue?

Gambling itself isn’t a mental health issue. The act involves getting involved with gambling and potentially losing money, but forming an addiction to gambling can lead to mental health issues, meaning you become reliant on gambling and face severe consequences.

Some people form compulsive gambling, problem gambling, and similar conditions if they become addicted. That means it can lead to a mental health issue regarding your gambling, but you shouldn’t view gambling as a condition but an activity.

What Mental Illnesses Go Hand in Hand With Gambling?

Interestingly, compulsive gambling can go hand in hand with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Since people with OCD tend to hyper-focus on a single idea or activity, they can quickly develop addictions to gambling and similar addictions.

The same applies to other mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. In short, you should reconsider gambling if you have a mental illness since you may become more susceptible to developing a gambling addiction.

How Do I Stop My Gambling Addiction?

As you overcome your gambling addiction, you’ll need to review the stages of change in addiction. You must adjust your thought process and mind to work on your gambling addiction, so you’ll need to look into programs, seek professional assistance, and be accountable.

For example, a counselor can provide advice and support, allowing you to vent your feelings while getting advice to overcome and work through your addiction.

Can Gambling Addicts Ever Be Cured?

Yes, gambling addicts can find a cure for their addiction. Treatment in this situation means the addict no longer suffers from withdrawals when they don’t gamble, so they can focus on other parts of their life rather than resisting the urge to gamble.

However, a previous addict can fall back into the addiction and must work towards soberness again. It’ll take tons of effort initially, and you’ll have to maintain good habits, but you’ll feel cured and better about your situation.

What Is the Main Treatment for Gambling Addiction?

You have a few common treatment options for your gambling addiction.

  • Interviews and motivational counseling.
  • Self-help guides.
  • Relapse prevention.

These strategies not only help you to work through your gambling addiction but to understand how you can withstand the temptations. Each involves developing and ensuring you follow a plan, so look into these solutions.

What Can I Replace Gambling With?

You can look into coping mechanisms and alternatives if you want to quit gambling. However, you shouldn’t allow them to develop into new addictions, so you’ll want to focus on good habits and ways to keep your mind off gambling.

For example, some people spend time with loved ones when they need to gamble or find an enjoyable activity to keep their mind off gambling.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you have more questions about gambling addictions, you can go through the FAQs to learn more details and understand their gambling addiction.

Is gambling a brain disorder?

Yes, some people may see gambling as a brain disorder. When people feel they must take a risk, they develop it as a hardwired behavior. That means gambling stays in the brain and makes it hard to ignore, causing them to form an addiction.

What is the gambling addiction number?

If you need additional assistance, you can call the National Problem Gambling Hotline at 1-800-522-4700. The number offers 24/7 service, meaning you can call it anytime. It’s also completely confidential, allowing people to receive help with their gambling addiction.

Additional Addictions to Be Aware Of

While you can face gambling addiction, you should know about the other addictions people face. Doing so can help you identify and address or avoid those addictions based on your circumstances and needs.

Do your best to review them, avoid the addiction, and keep yourself safe.

  • Alcohol Addiction: When someone develops a reliance on alcohol, it starts to harm their lives physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  • Social Media Addiction: A person feels they must use social media constantly, which can cause them to neglect other parts of their life and develop low self-esteem.
  • Video Game Addiction: When people play so many video games, they ignore other aspects of their life, including work, hygiene, and relationships.

Wrapping Up

A gambling addiction remains a challenging aspect of life, so many people struggle with it. If you find yourself with a gambling addiction, you should understand the signs associated with it and how you can receive help.

If you take the time to understand it and learn how to control your addiction, you can regain control of your life and turn away from gambling and the problems it can cause you.


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