There is no point in denying – gambling is an incredibly popular way of entertainment. Millions of individuals from different countries gamble from time to time. Some people may view this concept as a way to make money, while others gamble to relieve stress or simply as a hobby. Nevertheless, gambling is associated with exceptional addiction – people who have it cannot control how much money and time they spend gambling. It is paramount to understand that such fun and interesting activity can lead to dire and catastrophic consequences. In this article, you will learn everything needed to help a person who shows signs of gambling addiction.

What is a Gambling Addiction?

First of all, let’s discuss what it means to have a gambling addiction. For starters, it is essential to state that the subject matter is highly significant since gambling addiction is defined as a mental health condition. It shares numerous similarities with other addictions – alcohol or drug addictions, as well as impulse-control disorders.

The main factor of addiction is the fact that a person cannot stop such behaviour. Interestingly, the majority of people who have gambling addiction understand how dangerous and hazardous such activity can be, but regardless of such understanding, they would still continue gambling. This is probably how one can separate a person with the addiction and without one – the latter would know when to stop. There are various forms of gambling addiction, and some of them will be discussed below.

Problem Gambling

This is the light form of gambling addiction. Gambling habits of such a person are not entirely under control.

  • A person with such form of gambling issue would have gambling play somewhat a significant role in their mundane life
  • Deceiving family members and lying about gambling are everyday actions of problem gamblers
  • A person with such form of gambling issue becomes aware that it is time to stop gambling more and more often

Compulsive Gambling

Happens when a person has a massive urge to gamble

  • It can also be defined as pathological gambling
  • One will continue gambling regardless of the results – wins and losses do not matter
  • People with such form of gambling dependence would continue gambling even if they know that they cannot afford a new bet

Binge Gambling

This is a form of gambling that occurs during specific periods

  • A person with such kind of gambling addiction may not want to gamble for an extended period of time
  • One may think that they are in control of the situation

What are the Signs of Gambling Addiction in Adults?

According to the latest studies on the subject matter, it has been stated that there if at least 4 signs are present, then a person should be diagnosed with compulsive gambling disorder. However, it is essential to note that these symptoms should not be considered in case a person has a separate health problem that is not related to gambling addiction.

  • A person continually lies to cover their gambling
  • Gambling costs a person their relationships, job, career or educational opportunities, and other aspects of social life
  • Numerous unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling
  • Trying to get even after losing significant amounts of money in gambling
  • The more a person gambles, the more money should be spent
  • Asking friends and family members to help with money
  • Irritable and aggressive behaviour when trying to stop or cut down on gambling
  • Constant thinking about the possibility of gambling

It is incredibly important to remember the fact that this list does not provide you with exact symptoms that can define whether a person has an addiction or not. To get a precise and correct diagnosis, a person who is considered to have gambling addiction should be evaluated by an experienced and professional physician.

What Causes Gambling Addiction?

While there are no exact causes of gambling addiction, it is paramount to note that there are some links between family gambling behaviour, age, and how big your first wins are.

Social Matters

This is one of the major factors that can make a person addicted to gambling. Issues of personal character, constant stress, difficulties career-wise, and other social factors can contribute to the development of gambling addiction. It should also be noted that the environment in which a person lives can make a significant impact on his or her gambling attitude.

As it has been mentioned above, stress, problems, lack of communication, and other issues can cause gambling problems. When a person is depressed, anxious, stressed, and lonely, gambling can be an effective way to switch from negative to positive. It is also paramount to state that very often family attitude toward the very concept of gambling plays an incredible role in defining the significance of the very concept of gambling. Younger adults can be significantly influenced by older family members.

Biological Influence

This is another major cause of the subject matter. As it has been mentioned above, gambling addiction shares numerous similarities with other forms of addiction. According to some studies, it has been found out that a person receives the rush of adrenaline and similar neurological responses after making a bet to when a person gets a new dose of some drug. Gambling increases levels of serotonin which is responsible for happiness and wellbeing. Some people have low levels of serotonin and be predisposed to develop addiction tendencies.

Co-morbidity

As it has been mentioned above, gambling addiction shares a lot of symptoms with other forms of this mental health issue. However, it is also vital to specify that having different kinds of addiction may lead to developing other types, including a gambling addiction. People who have problems with alcohol and/or drugs have higher chances of developing compulsive gambling. Moreover, some mental health problems such as antisocial personality disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and others have been linked with increased vulnerability to developing a gambling addiction.

Psychological Factors

A person’s attitude toward the very concept of gambling may also play an essential role in whether a person can develop such a problem or not. Very often, the Gambler’s fallacy is quoted when speaking about addiction. According to this fallacy, a person believes that if after flipping a coin ten times, and every single time there was tails, then the 11th flip should have more chances of being heads. However, previous flips and results of the flips have nothing to do with defining the results of the next flip. You always have a 50% chance of guessing whether it will be heads or tails. Still, a lot of people believe that a particular sequence of results may define what will happen next. The speed of the game also plays an important role. It has been researched that games that are fast-paced are more appealing to people with addiction problems. The very fact that you may need to make a fast bet may not allow you to think everything over, depending on pure luck.

Recognizing You Have a Problem

The very first step that one should do is to define whether you have gambling addiction or not. In case you aware that you need help, you should immediately seek it.

While some may say that gambling addiction is not something that is too difficult to recognize, it is important to state that usually, those who gamble lie to other people and to themselves about their activities. Furthermore, many people simply do not see the symptoms of compulsive gambling.

According to the United Kingdom Association of Psychiatry, in case you recognize that you have a gambling addiction problem, the following actions should be done:

  • Find a friend that you can rely upon or seek help at a Gamblers Anonymous meeting
  • Try to spend your free time doing something new or enjoyable. You do not need to live in isolation
  • Try to stop gambling at once for a long period of time
  • Try to give yourself a reality check – imagine what will happen after you gamble, and the way it makes you feel

Getting Treatment

Treating gambling addiction is not a single option – there are numerous ways for you to get help.

Group Support and Self-Help

This is one of the most popular forms of treating addiction. According to a study conducted in 2017, the majority of people with gambling addiction found it difficult not to discuss their issue with another person. Gamblers’ Anonymous (GA) groups are created specifically for such reasons. With the help of GA, you may find people who have the same problems and see how their lives changed due to gambling addiction. The very fact that you are surrounded by people who have gone through the same things will allow you to receive essential peer support, and thus, realize that there are ways to solve your problems.

Therapy and Counselling

While GA is one of the most popular forms of treating addiction, combined with therapy and counselling, it creates the most effective way to deal with gambling addiction. Psychotherapy is used to help people overcome numerous mental health problems. An experienced and trained expert will assist you with your issue. They will help you make the correct choices. As it has been mentioned, a lot of people with a gambling addiction may show symptoms of other mental health issues, which is why it could be more comfortable for the therapist to find and apply the most effective treatment, and help you get rid of multiple issues.

Medical Treatment

Although there is no pill that will make you stop gambling, there are some medications that can help you feel less tempted to make a bet. Various antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, medications that have been used to address other addictions, and certain SSRIs, can be used to help with gambling addiction.

How Common is a Gambling Addiction?

Without exact statistical data, it is quite challenging to define the number of people who suffer from this issue. Since one should self-report themselves for having a gambling addiction, it is almost impossible to state how many individuals have this mental health problem. Still, it is paramount to indicate that the amount of people with this problem has increased in United Kingdom. While in 2014, there were 2% of individuals with gambling addiction, in 2019, there are more than 8%. Some regions of the country have higher numbers of people suffering from this problem. One more fact about gambling addiction is that it occurs more often among men than women.

Another issue of statistical data about gambling addiction is the fact that it is challenging to define how many people want to be helped. Although a lot of individuals realize that they have a gambling addiction, most of them do not do anything else to seek help. They do not find organizations that could help them. Indeed, some of those people may overcome their problems on their own. However, the majority of people who realize they have issues do nothing to prevent further gambling cases.

Negative Impact of Gambling

There is no point in denying that gambling addiction is associated with numerous dire consequences. Some of them may be obvious, while others are not so simple to understand.

Relationships

As it has been mentioned above, plenty of people with gambling addiction have problems with social life. The very fact that losing constantly can make one’s behaviour aggressive and irritating allows one to say that a person’s friends, family members, and people they care about may become the target for various tantrums. Various studies have found out that in a family where at least one parent has a gambling addiction, the chances for child abuse and domestic violence are higher. Furthermore, a child whose parent is an active gambler may learn that it is acceptable to gamble, thus, developing this form of addiction as well as substance abuse.

Mental Health

Constant negative effects of gambling addictions cannot be overlaid by several wins. Therefore, a person who has gambling addiction will be under constant stress, depression, and anxiety. Being in such a condition, a person can lose everything – people they care about, career, family, and other aspects of social life.

Finances

Lastly, it is paramount to say that gambling addiction can lead to significant financial problems. A person who has such an issue will take new loans easily, which can lead to poverty or loss of property. Financial problems can even lead to legal issues, as some compulsive gamblers will resort to theft or other means in order to finance their habit.

Problem Gambling & Addiction: Truth vs. False

FALSE: If a person has enough money to cover their losses, it is not a case of gambling.TRUTH: Although financial issues represent a major adverse effect of gambling addiction, it is not the only one. Having enough money to pay for bad bets will not help a person with lost relationships or serious mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
FALSE: Gambling from time to time is not real gambling.TRUTH: Making bets once a month does not mean that you do not have a problem. As it has been stated above, binge gambling can occur on certain occasions. Still, if you make bets every single time when this occasion arises, you have a gambling issue.
FALSE: Responsible people don’t have gambling problems.TRUTH: Sense of responsibility does not define whether a person can become an addictive gambler or not. There are too many factors that play essential roles in becoming a gambler. Indeed, while the very concept of gambling may seem irresponsible, it does not define a person as irresponsible. Therefore, it has almost nothing to do with responsibility as it is the lack of control.
FALSE: Young adults and children cannot be affected to become addictive gamblersTRUTH: Children and young adults represent the most dangerous part of society when speaking about gambling issues. In recent years, the percentage of children with gambling issues increased significantly.
FALSE: To help a person get rid of gambling addiction, one should pay off their debts or support financiallyTRUTH: No, such an approach will only make things worse. If you are willing to help your friend, family member, or loved one, the most effective action would be to seek professional help. As it has been stated above, therapy and group counseling represent the most effective ways to help people with gambling addictions.

How to Help Others with a Gambling Problem

There is no point in denying that it can be exceptionally difficult to tell a person that they need help with their gambling addiction. If you see that a person you care about showing some of the signs mentioned above, it is high time to help that person:

  • The person starts lying and denying the fact that they have the gambling problem
  • Your relationships suffer as your partner spends more and more  time making bets
  • The person says that they have gambling problems

If any of those behaviours can be seen, then you need to act quickly! Please remember that asking for help can be incredibly difficult and even shameful for these people. Therefore, if you see something that resembles a cry for help, do not ignore it! Once you realize a friend or relative has a problem, it’s essential not to be seen as judgmental or threatening to the person with the gambling problem

If your friend or family member requires help, the first thing you need to do is to learn as much as possible about the situation. Show support and be attentive. Show your person you care about that you take him or her seriously. By no means should you pay for their debt, as instead, you need to find a person who would help your friend or relative to solve the problems with finances on their own.

Helping someone seek treatment

It can be incredibly difficult to convince a person that he or she has a problem. Most of the time, people with gambling addiction or any other form of addiction may deny everything. Convincing a person that he or she requires help requires time and dedication. One of the most useful and practical ways to help a person in such a situation is to make an intervention. Intervention is when people who care about a person with a problem come together and express their concerns. An intervention is not a place to blame a person. Instead, it is a place where people who love and care about a person want to show that a person has a problem and they are there to help him or her. Of course, it does not mean that such a form of help can guarantee success. However, when a person is confronted by several friends and relatives who say that he or she has a problem, a person may listen to them.

Preventing Suicide in People with Gambling Problems

Unfortunately, one of the effects of gambling addiction among adults is suicidal thoughts. A lot of people who have gambling problems end their lives. In case you need help, or anyone from your relatives or friends are feeling suicidal, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1300 659 467. You can also visit the Befrienders Worldwide site to find a suicide helpline in your country.

Gambling Addiction Resources

As has been stated above, one of the first things that you need to do to help a person who has a gambling addiction is to learn about this problem as much as possible. Fortunately, there is plenty of information that can be accessed for free. Numerous resources can help you with a piece of useful advice on what to do to help your friend or yourself. However, it is important to remember that specific treatment may not be working for a particular person.

Everything depends on one’s personality, social background, the severity of the addiction, and numerous other factors. Still, you can be sure that you will find plenty of useful information on these resources. Some of them are listed below:

  • GamCare (https://www.gamcare.org.uk/) – This is a charity organization that provides people who require help counselling and guidance. This organization is available only in the UK. You can also find help by calling 0808 8020 133.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline/) – SAMHSA is a public health agency within the US Department of Health & Human Services. You can call this number – 1-800-662-4357, 24/7, all-year-round, and obtain free and professional help.
  • National Problem Gambling Helpline Network (800-522-4700) – With the help of this hotline, you can learn useful information about gambling and how to help people you care about.
  • The National Council on Problem Gambling (http://www.ncpgambling.org) – The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) provides essential support and help those families that suffer from gambling addiction. On this site, you will find useful data on what to do in case your friend or relative is an addictive gambler.
  • Gamblers Anonymous (http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/) –  As it has been mentioned above Gamblers Anonymous (GA), is a place where people with a gambling addiction can find peer support from people who undergo the same issues. Anyone who wants to stop gambling and improve their life is welcome to join GA groups. There are many countries that have local groups that assemble to help its members. There are 12 steps in the program, after which you should stop gambling and improve your life.

Gambling Addiction Help Worldwide

CountryWebsiteContacts
ArgentinaJuego Responsable0800-333-0333, WhatsApp 011-1524416058
BelgiëVAD02 423 03 33
BrasilJogadores Anônimos(11) 3229-1023
CanadaProblemGambling1-866-531-2600
ChilePsicólogos Ludopatía Chile9 222 3860
DeutschlandSpielen mit Verantwortung: Glücksspielsucht0800-1 37 27 00
EspañaFEJAR900 200 225
FranceIFAC+33 (0)2 40 84 76 20
ItaliaTVNGA800 55 88 22
NederlandAGOG0900-2177721 (€0.10/minute)
NorgeHjelpelinjen800 800 40
ÖsterreichSpielsuchthilfe(1) 544 13 57
PortugalJogo Responsável213 950 911 (SICAD – Serviço de Intervenção nos Comportamentos Aditivos e nas Dependências)
SchweizSucht Schweiz021 321 29 11
SverigeStödlinjen020-819 100 (09:00 to 21:00)