Symptoms of Problem Gambling

Do you or someone you know have a problem with gambling? It’s actually more common than you might think. Like drugs and alcohol, gambling can rewire neural circuits in the brain which effects everything from impulse control to decision-making. As you continue to play more games and win, the brain’s reward system is stimulated, occasionally leading to addiction. Compulsive gambling is a serious condition that can have detrimental effects on every part of your life. Some of the most common symptoms of problem gambling include:

Feeling Preoccupied

When someone has a gambling addiction, it has a major impact on how that person thinks and feels. With a gambling addiction, a person may feel preoccupied by thoughts of gameplay, strategy, and winning. They may also be constantly planning on new ways to get more money for their gambling activities. For some people, these feelings can often become overwhelming and affect their wellbeing. 

Gambling to Escape Problems

The root of addiction is often associated with a triggering event. Some people gamble to get away from a bad relationship or job. Others play games to gain relief from feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression, or helplessness. Compulsive gambling may also follow a traumatic event, such as a death in the family or a serious injury or illness. 

Lying to Others

As gambling progresses from a fun pastime to a serious addiction, those effected may use lies to help cover their tracks. Many people suffering from a gambling addiction may feel guilty or ashamed of their behavior and may use lies to try and hide their activities from family and friends.

Always Betting More Money

People who have a gambling problem often have difficulty walking away. Whether it’s the slot machines or a table game like blackjack or roulette, these individuals feel like they have to continually bet more to experience the rush of a win. Unfortunately, the more they bet, the more often they lose in many cases. 

Being Unable to Stop

Compulsive gamblers often know what they are doing is wrong and have ill feelings about their behavior. However, like any other addiction, it can be almost impossible to stop. People with a gambling problem will often make up excuses about how they “have” to gamble for some reason or another. They may even try to stop gambling or cut back but with little success. 

Constantly “Chasing” Losses

Losses are enviable in casino gambling. The house always has the edge and no matter what strategies you implement, you are likely to lose more gambling than you’ll ever win. People with gambling addictions are always trying to win back the money they have lost, often resulting in more substantial losses over time. When gamblers continue to “chase” their losses, they can wind up deep in debt. 

Resorting to Theft/Fraud

When money runs out due to a gambling addiction, these players often seek out new ways to get funds. Sometimes, they resort to theft or fraud to get the money they need to continue playing. In serious cases, a person may decide to steal from friends or family, rob a bank or place of business, or steal items to sell. This can become a vicious cycle of theft, fraud, and deception that continues for many years or until law enforcement steps in.

Borrowing Money

Borrowing money is a common way for compulsive gamblers to get the money they need to continue playing. They may borrow money from friends, family, coworkers, or credit card companies. Oftentimes, they do not reveal the real reason they need the money and will instead come up with a false reason, such as help with rent or paying a bill. If problem gambling continues, the person may not have the resources to pay back their debts.

Jeopardizing Opportunities

Despite what some people think, a gambling addiction doesn’t just affect a person’s finances. It can also impact other sectors of their life in a negative way. When a person makes gambling a top priority, other things no longer seem as important. They may lose personal relationships, suffer in their job, or perform poorly in school. They may also miss out on amazing travel, career, or educational opportunities. 

Having an Obsession

Sometimes gambling goes past the point of fun and excitement and becomes an obsession. When this happens, the person is not able to stop thinking about gambling and is always looking forward to the next time they get to play. They often make every conversation lead back to gaming and may use all of their free time researching casino information and strategies. 

Get Help for Problem Gambling

The biggest step to overcoming problem gambling is realizing that you have a problem. Self-help can be achieved by finding an outlet for gambling activities, strengthening your support system, and joining a peer support group. When self-help methods do not work, talk to your doctor about different treatment options like an inpatient treatment or rehab program or cognitive-behavioral therapy.

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