How to recognize if you have a gambling addiction

By Iasmina Bunea updated:

Gambling addiction is a progressive issue, so most of the time, gamblers don’t even realize they have a problem until it becomes severe. Whether you are worrying you might have a gambling addiction yourself or are concerned that someone close to you is dealing with it, there are signs you can look for. You can check for these yourself, but some gamers may need the help of a professional to open their eyes to their addiction.

The different types of gambling addiction

There are different types of gambling addiction, or better said, different ways in which it is expressed. So before we dive into its symptoms, we should first know what we are dealing with.

Most people think that gambling addiction is exclusively related to casinos, slot machines, and games such as Poker and Roulette. However, that is not all. Gambling comes in many forms that may not even include casino games. Buying a lottery ticket, making a bet with a friend, or entering a raffle are also types of gambling, and they are dangerous to people who are battling gambling addiction.

Gambling in any form may occur either as a form of entertainment at first or when a person feels like they need to win money and fix their pre-existing financial issues. This is a fantasy, as it usually leads to a cycle of winning and losing and then chasing the losses.

Some gamblers engage in risky betting not because they don’t know they are placing risky bets, but because they want to experience the emotional high that this brings them.

Therefore, depending on the type of gambler we are talking about, the symptoms may be different. However, they will be noticeable after a while. As mentioned before, gambling addiction is a progressive issue, and if overlooked, it can cause a lot of harm to the gambler’s social and personal life and his own health.

Behavioural signs - gambling addiction

Gambling addiction symptoms

Gambling addiction affects the individual in many aspects, not just one. The first thing people think about when it comes to compulsive gambling is the financial aspect. This, indeed, is the most affected, but there are other areas in their life that problems will appear when dealing with this addiction.

Financial signs of gambling addiction

Since any real gambling activity requires money, this is the first aspect of your life that will see some significant changes and, quickly, some significant problems. The signs that one may be a compulsive gambler are the following:

  1. Always being short on money even if they have a job;
  2. Money is missing from joint bank accounts or family members’ purse or wallet;
  3. Regularly borrowing money from friends and family;
  4. Having multiple loans at the same time and not being able to pay them in time;
  5. Unpaid bills or constant lack of food in the house even if they earn a wage;
  6. Being secretive about their financial records.

Depending on the severity of the addiction, all the signs may be present or only a few. However, the main sign everyone should always take seriously is when a person who is working and earning a wage continually complains about money or cannot make ends meet.

Financial signs of gambling addiction

Compulsive gambling starts with casual gambling, but as time passes by, some players spend more time engaging in this activity, some even to the point they do not have the time to do much of anything. Here are the signs to look for when it comes to time management:

  • More time is spent gambling;
  • Taking many sick or personal days off from work for no apparent reason;
  • Have plenty of unexplained absences and being secretive about them;
  • Taking way too long to complete basic tasks;
  • Being consistently late for meetings and other commitments.

These changes can be seen especially in people who are organized and almost always on time. These signs alone do not prove the existence of gambling addiction, but paired with the other ones, they can make everything obvious.

Behavioural signs

Aside from time and financial changes, people dealing with a gambling addiction will show plenty of mood changes and symptoms related to their day-to-day behaviour. These include but may not be limited to:

  1. Work performance decreases;
  2. Changes in personality as well as eating and sleeping patterns;
  3. Becoming withdrawn from friends and family;
  4. Being restless, upset or worried for no apparent reason;
  5. Feeling depressed, frustrated, or hopeless;
  6. Controlling and manipulative behaviour that also includes threats or lies to obtain what they want.

Family and close friends will know the individual’s behavioural baseline and will be able to notice these changes. If they appear together with the ones mentioned above, the possibility of them suffering from gambling addiction is relatively high.

Self-assessment – how to know if you are a compulsive gambler

If the person of interest here is not someone around but yourself, you can check and see yourself if you are dealing with a gambling problem. Here’s what to pay attention to:

  • You cannot stop gambling – if you have decided to give up gambling multiple times, but your attempts were unsuccessful, that may mean you are a compulsive gambler;
  • You lie about your gambling habits – if you feel the need to not disclose or lie about your gambling, it may mean you already know it is not right for you. You may have already crossed the line and don’t want others you know you did;
  • You gamble when you can’t afford it – when you go over your budget and start betting the money you had for rent or bills, that may indicate the presence of a problem;
  • Your gambling budget increases – if you continuously go over your budget, you might feel tempted to allocate more money to this hobby. If you find yourself doing that now and then, it might be time to stop;
  • Gambling is not entertainment anymore – at some point, there is no more fun in this activity for compulsive gamblers, but it becomes something they need to do to win back lost money or relive a certain feeling of excitement it gives them. If you notice this in yourself, you may be dealing with a gambling addiction;
  • You put gambling before other things in your life – as a leisure activity, gambling should not be a priority. When it becomes one, and you notice you have been neglecting other people and responsibilities in your life, that is when the problems start to arise;
  • You try everything to get money for gambling – if you resort to borrowing money from multiple people at once or start gambling on credit, then it means you can’t afford it, and you should stop.
Self-assessment - gambling addiction

If you show these signs, it is best to get in touch with a professional and talk to your family or friends. A professional will always be able to recommend the best treatment, and the support of the family will help you overcome this issue and get back on track quicker.

Risk factors to consider

Although it can become addictive, gambling does not affect everyone. Some factors need to be taken into consideration, especially when trying to figure out if someone else has a gambling problem:

  1. Age – while this issue can appear to people of all ages, it is most common in younger and middle-aged people. People who have engaged in gambling activities in childhood or teenage year have an increased risk of becoming problem gamblers;
  2. Friend or family influence – having someone in your family with a gambling problem or someone in your group of friends who gambles a lot may increase your risk of developing the same issue;
  3. Sex – while gambling patterns among men and women are becoming more similar, men engage in compulsive gambling more often. Women start gambling later in life, and their addiction may appear sooner;
  4. Mental health disorders – a pre-existing issue such as personality disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety may be linked to compulsive gambling. Also, these gamblers often deal with substance abuse problems, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD);
  5. Medication – sometimes, drugs prescribed for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and the restless leg syndrome called dopamine agonists may result in compulsive behaviours as a rare side effect. This can include compulsive gambling, for some people;
  6. Certain personality traits – being a workaholic, a restless person, highly competitive or impulsive by nature may increase the risk of developing a gambling addiction.

Conclusions and references

Gambling addiction can be treated, and it is a lot easier to do so when treatment begins in its early stages. For that to happen, you may look for these signs in yourself and others. This is a severe problem that can have plenty of complications and harm many aspects of the gambler’s life. That is why it is essential always to gamble responsibly and keep an eye out for the symptoms described above. Also, keep in mind that if you think you might be having a gambling problem, it is best to seek professional help!

The following websites have been used for references:

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