What Are the Symptoms of a Gambling Addiction?

Gambling is a popular pastime. Depending on the community, it can be viewed as a fun and social activity or as an unsafe, risky venture. Many people who develop harmful gambling behaviours are not aware that they have a problem and may feel it is normal to gamble. Some people are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity, and this can make it harder for them to recognize or control their actions. Other factors include the environment and culture, which can influence whether a person is exposed to gambling and how they approach it.

It is important to remember that just like drugs, gambling is not harmless. Gambling can have significant behavioural, psychological, emotional and financial consequences. Moreover, it is a common risk factor for the development of mental health disorders and can have a negative impact on relationships, work and school performance, as well as personal self-esteem.

Some people may start to develop a gambling problem because they have underlying mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety, which can be triggered by or worsened by compulsive gambling. These problems need to be addressed before gambling can be safely stopped.

Generally, people who have a gambling addiction will exhibit some or all of the following symptoms:

The person may secretly gamble or lie to family members about the extent of their involvement; the person may be reluctant to seek help for their gambling problem (fear of being labeled as a “gambler”); the person has tried to conceal his or her involvement in gambling by using lies or evasion; the person has stolen money to finance gambling or has committed other illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft and embezzlement in order to finance gambling. In addition, the person may have lost a significant relationship, job or educational opportunity as a result of his or her gambling activities and often feels guilty about these losses.

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event with the intent to win something else of value. The term includes all forms of gambling, including the lottery, casino games (e.g., roulette and blackjack), sports betting, horse racing, and more. In some cases, the player can bet on events that aren’t happening, but which could, if they did happen, significantly increase the odds of winning.

There are four main reasons why people gamble:

For social or leisure purposes – for example, playing card games with friends in a private setting is a form of informal gambling; it is usually done for fun and enjoyment.

To try to get rich – this is the most common reason; it can be a form of fantasy fulfillment and may include fantasizing about winning big, or imagining how much one would change their life with a lot of money.

To escape from reality – for example, to take their mind off everyday worries and anxieties by focusing on the exciting world of gambling; or for a calming effect – it can calm nerves or relax an anxious body.