Common Signs of a Gambling Addiction & How to Treat

Gambling addiction is not new, but in today’s modern world where you can gamble right from your phone without ever leaving your home, the complexity of recognizing and treating gambling addiction is evolving. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying gambling as a form of recreation and entertainment, for some people, it can cross over into an addiction. Gambling addiction, just like any other type of addiction such as drugs or alcohol, works with the brain’s reward system, giving your body a pleasurable dopamine hit. Though not everyone who gambles will struggle with addiction, those whose brains experience a dopamine hit and crave more of that same feeling, along with other factors such as a family history of addiction, may suddenly find themselves compulsively gambling and unable to stop, even if it is negatively impacting their life.

Many people do not recognize their own addiction to gambling, and it can be even harder for family and friends to recognize it. There are some common signs to watch out for and, if you notice that you or a loved one may have a gambling addiction, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Gambling addiction can and should be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and other tools, depending on the needs of the individual as well as the severity of the addiction.

Common Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

  • Lying About Gambling
    • Lying to hide a compulsion or addiction is a key symptom of addictions of any kind. Lying to hide choices that you know are detrimental shows an awareness that you have a problem and an unwillingness or inability to stop. Addicts may even lie to themselves in an attempt to emotionally and mentally shield themselves from the destruction it is causing in their life, and to the lives of those around them.
  • Inability to Stop or Control Gambling
    • Impulse control is a central part of any person’s healthy life. When choices are made as a result of an inability to control impulses, it is often a sign that an addiction may be present.
  • Spending Excessive Amounts of Time Gambling or Thinking About Gambling
    • When a person begins to spend a large portion of their day thinking about gambling, ruminating about gambling, or strategizing about gambling, it is often a sign that they are struggling to control their impulses and have become hyper-fixated on gambling. Ultimately, this typically leads to someone neglective normal life responsibilities, relationships, or other activities so that they can spend as much time as possible gambling.
  • Borrowing or Stealing Money to Support a Gambling Habit
    • When an individual borrows or steals money to pay for their gambling habit, it is a clear sign that they are unable to control their gambling impulses. They are aware that it is leading to unmanageable financial loss, or that they cannot financially support the size of their gambling habit, but rather than simply stopping, they find other means by which to gamble. Any habit that is harmful to your life that you are unable or unwilling to stop is likely an addiction, and gambling is no exception.

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