Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

Gambling involves risking something of value on an activity that is primarily based on chance in the hopes of winning something of equal or greater value. It has been a part of virtually every society since prerecorded history and has been incorporated into many local customs, traditions and even rites of passage. While gambling can be an enjoyable pastime for most people, a small number of individuals become too involved and start to experience negative personal, family and financial consequences.

Some people develop a gambling addiction because of underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. These conditions can increase the urge to gamble in response to stressors, such as relationship problems, financial pressures or a major life event. Additionally, people who struggle with gambling may also develop an alcohol or substance use disorder, which can make it more difficult to resist the temptation to gamble.

It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction, which include:

Experiencing feelings of boredom or loneliness. Using gambling as a way to self-soothe unpleasant emotions, like anger or sadness. Taking out large loans or overdrafts to fund your gambling habits. Lying to friends or loved ones about your gambling habits. Continuing to gamble even when it negatively impacts your work, school or social life.

Another reason why gambling can be addictive is that it triggers the brain’s reward center. Humans are biologically programmed to seek out experiences that give us pleasure, and often the most pleasurable experiences involve food, family and friends, exercise, art or a stimulating activity, such as reading or playing sports. When a person engages in a gambling activity, the body releases a chemical called dopamine, which provides a temporary feeling of pleasure.

The emergence of new technologies has made it easier to gamble than ever before. Previously, gambling was limited to casinos concentrated in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, but now it’s possible to gamble at any time of the day or night on websites, apps and video games. In addition, sports betting has recently been legalized in several states and will soon be available online and at many brick-and-mortar casinos.

If you suspect that someone you know has a gambling problem, try to approach the subject in a nonjudgmental and supportive manner. You can also ask them to write down their thoughts and behaviors in a journal, as this might help them identify and understand the triggers that lead to gambling. Other ways to address the issue might be to take up a healthy hobby, spend more time with friends who don’t gamble, or practice relaxation techniques. Consciously avoiding places and situations that might trigger gambling is also helpful, as well as blocking casino apps on mobile devices. Ultimately, professional treatment options can help you overcome your gambling addiction. Choosing to live without the temptation to gamble will be a much healthier choice for you and those around you. In the long run, it will also save you a lot of money and heartache.