Gambling Addictions: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Gambling addiction is referred to by different terms in different parts of the world. Some of these terms include compulsive gambling, problem gambling, or gambling disorder. Despite the different names, they all mean the same thing, namely, the presence of a strong urge to gamble despite the negative impact it brings to your life.

Some consequences of gambling addiction are:

• Inability to develop and maintain healthy, long-term relationships
• Financial difficulties, even bankruptcy
• Legal problems that lead to incarceration
• Self-harming thoughts or actions
• Work performance difficulties
• Home life difficulties

Symptoms of Gambling Addiction


Symptoms of Gambling AddictionMost gamblers feel that they are in full control of their habits at all times. Casual or responsible gamblers often employ the use of stop losses—a predetermined amount of money they are prepared to lose while gambling, after which they stop gambling for a certain period of time to ensure that their habit will not encroach on their lives, hurting themselves or others they care about.

For instance, if a responsible gambler bets on a sports game and loses, hitting his or her stop loss amount, he or she would refrain from chasing that loss, knowing that bets are never a sure thing.

A gambling addict, on the other hand, may feel compelled to chase that loss with more bets, ready to risk more and more of his or her money because they delude themselves into thinking that the next bet is a sure thing. More often than not, these bets lose, and gambling addicts are left without money or a way to make them back.

The symptoms of gambling addiction are many. The Mayo Clinic states that some of the most common ones include:

• Being obsessed about gambling—for example, consistently thinking and planning about gaining more money for gambling

• Feeling compelled to gamble for higher amounts of money to get the same excitement

• Periodically trying to pull back from one’s gambling activities and failing every time

• Burdened with negative feelings—such as irritability or restlessness—whenever trying to stay away from gambling

• Gambling to forget problems, or to alleviate negative emotional states such as guilt, depression, helplessness, or anxiety.

• Attempting to get back the money lost gambling by gambling even more

• Deceiving friends, family, and others as to the extent of your gambling activities

• Jeopardizing your career because of gambling

• Committing fraud or stealing from others to continue your gambling

• Having to seek financial help from others due to your gambling losses

Gambling addicts can sometimes stop or lessen their gambling activities for a short period of time, before resuming, sometimes at a more intense rate than they did before. These periods of remission can fool many gambling addicts into thinking that they can control their habits. However, without treatment, these changes often do not last.

This is why gamblers would be well-served by soliciting and listening to opinions of family, friends, and other loved ones regarding their gambling.

It can be difficult for gamblers to always be self-aware about their habits; external opinions can sometimes be more objective. So if someone you care about thinks you might have a gambling problem, be sure to listen and consider their opinion and seek professional help.

Self exclusion from gambling doesn’t work  as expected in some cases. For example, changes in the Swedish online casino market in 2019 due to new regulation (The Swedish Gambling Act) introduced self exclusion mechanism called Spelpaus. But foreign online casinos without Swedish license (usually with Curacao or MGA license) can be googled with the keyword ‘casino utan Spelpaus’ (example).

Here is the fresh Google Trends graph for ‘casino utan Spelpaus’ keyword, which represents growing interest among addicted gamblers from Sweden to finding ways of removing a self-exclusion:

'Casino utan Spelpaus' in Sweden - from Google Trendsn

Causes of Gambling Addiction

It is not yet known what exactly causes gambling addiction. Our current understanding suggests that gambling addiction is the product of a constellation of biological, environmental, and genetic factors.

It is important to understand that none of these factors in isolation is enough to produce gambling addiction. Rather, all factors work in concert with one another, although the exact mechanisms for their interaction remain hazy.

Biological and genetic factors renders some more susceptible to gambling addiction, but this susceptibility can only be activated if one’s environment is conducive to their problematic gambling behaviors.

Many gamblers are able to enjoy themselves responsibly; gambling addicts typically have some of the following risk factors:

• Mental health disorders— people with existing mental health conditions are at a higher risk for gambling addiction. Most gambling addicts also have substance abuse issues as well as personality disorders, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). If you have one or more of these conditions, it would be prudent to monitor your gambling to ensure that you do not develop addiction.

• Age— most gambling addicts tend to the younger or middle-aged portion of the population. Learning to gamble from a young age may increase the likelihood of gambling issues come middle-age, when one is more financially able to support the habit.

• Gender—men are historically more likely to engage in problem gambling than women. Women gamblers generally start gambling in adulthood, when people have better self-control. However, recent evidence suggests that gender differences in gambling are gradually disappearing, with men and women gambling today at similar rates.

• Social influence—those with friends or family who gamble are more likely to engage in gambling at a younger age, which could then lead to gambling addiction if left unchecked

• Personality—some personality traits make it more likely for certain people to become addicted to gambling. Examples of these traits include: competitiveness, impulsiveness, prone to boredom and restlessness.

While gamblers who possess the aforementioned risk factors do not necessarily become gambling addicts, the risk factors are a useful resource to consider before deciding to gamble. If you are aware of the risk factors to gambling addiction, it would be easier for you to reflect on your own gambling habits and decide whether gambling makes sense in your life.

If you still wish to continue gambling with these risk factors, it would be best to ensure that you have mechanisms in place to prevent you from going too far, such as stop losses, daily limits on deposits and an option to self-exclude.

Gambling Addiction Treatment

It is difficult to treat gambling addiction, as many victims refuse to admit their problems until they hit rock bottom. When this happens, it is usually a tough time for the addict as at this stage most family members and friends would have washed their hands in frustration most of the time. When this happens, it usually puts the gambling addict in a very precarious position with very little to no help in embarking on the arduous path toward recovery and avoiding relapse.

This is why it is so important to listen to family members and friends who believe that you have a gambling problem. Not only can they be more objective than you, they can also help you while on your path to recovery.

Some of the more common treatments given to gambling addicts are therapy, medications, self-help groups—often a combination of at least two.

Whatever your specific circumstances are, recovering from gambling addiction will likely be a long and difficult process. You will need a lot of help from others. This is why it is more advisable to monitor your gambling activities before addiction takes hold.

Make sure gambling remains a fun, fulfilling way to pass time by gambling responsibly. Remember that by being a responsible gambler, you will get to gamble for far longer, with fewer negative consequences.