However, such an issue can be difficult to admit. Players often end up jeopardizing essential aspects of their lives due to being ashamed or anxious about needing help.
To start your recovery journey, read the guidelines below on how to assess your gambling activity better and what you can do to improve your situation.
DSM-5-TR: 9 Signs of Gambling Addiction
- You need to place progressively higher bets to obtain the same satisfaction as in the beginning;
- When you attempt to reduce or stop gambling, you become irritated and restless;
- You repeatedly tried to control, reduce, or stop gambling without success;
- You’re chasing your losses;
- Gambling is an active part of your thought process (for instance, you have constant thoughts of past gameplays, or you persistently try to make up strategies to win more money);
- You lie about the extent to which you’re involved in gambling;
- Often, you gamble when you experience a negative emotion, such as sadness or anger;
- To get out of dire gambling-related financial situations, you rely on others for money;
- You lost something significant because of gambling, such as a relationship or a job.
Gambling disorder comes with several thought distortions. The most prevalent ones among casino players are:
Denial is a defense mechanism. It protects you from the overwhelming feelings of acknowledging your addiction, such as fear or guilt. As you may know, negating wagering issues can lead to more mental difficulties when trying to stop this addiction.
You can notice denial in people who:
- Find justifications for their gambling habit;
- Blame other people/external factors for their situation;
- Postpone addressing the issue;
- Become aggressive or highly defensive when confronted.
When playing a game of chance, superstition offers hopes of fluke and a sense of control over what happens.
This makes players misattribute their wins and losses to random objects, rules, or practices that fuel their habit until it becomes an addiction. Here are some examples:
- A seat, color, or any other game-related item can be regarded as lucky or unlucky;
- Using certain types of bills to bet (many gamblers think that $50 bills bring bad luck);
- Lending cash to a player is also considered to bring bad luck;
- Blowing on dice is a common good fortune practice in casinos.
Often the result of a winning streak, overconfidence is a common trait among both new and experienced players.
While it may seem harmless, this thought distortion can lead to dangerous behaviors, such as:
- Spending more than you can afford to;
- Acting as if you’re too strong to develop an addiction;
- Creating an unrealistic perception of control.
Comorbidity: Gambling Addiction doesn’t Come Alone
In most cases, gambling addicts have poor health, with certain diagnoses (such as angina) being common among them.
At the same time, pathological gamblers have high comorbidity rates with other mental illnesses.
Whether depression can trigger gambling addiction or the other way around, what we know is that an overwhelming amount of studies link the two.
Even more, the study above shows significant differences in the interaction between gambling addiction and depression based on biological sex.
Regardless of the dynamic, it’s important to recognize depression symptoms in gamblers. For instance:
- Reduced interest or pleasure in most of your activities;
- Constant tiredness;
- Significant appetite fluctuations;
- Lowered ability to focus.
Alcohol Use Disorder
Out of all substance use disorders, alcohol use disorder is one of the most prevalent comorbidities in pathological gamblers.
While you may think that it’s easy to notice when someone develops such an addiction, you still need to be aware of specific symptoms:
- Spare time activities, as well as essential activities, are reduced, postponed, or given up in favor of alcohol consumption;
- There are social and interpersonal problems that persist due to continued alcohol use;
- Recurrent use limits you from accomplishing essential obligations at home, work, or school, for instance;
- If alcohol consumption is limited or stopped, withdrawal symptoms occur;
- You develop an intense desire to control or stop using alcohol;
- You have several unsuccessful quitting attempts.
How Prevalent is this Issue?
The percentages of problematic gamblers have oscillated between 0.3% and 0.2% between 2018 and 2020 due to many problem gamblers not coming forward.
Today, official estimations show that the issue is so widespread as to cost the UK approximately £1.3 billion annually. Prioritizing composure when wagering could help minimize the costs of gambling.
Based on official statistics, experts can identify gambling addiction in the general population by observing the following:
- The total number of gamblers in a country;
- Frequency of gambling sessions;
- The number of players who end up gambling in the workplace or other inappropriate contexts;
- Many gamblers wager more than they can afford.
How Does this Issue Propagate?
Today, authorities show concerns that gambling addiction may spread further because of various factors:
- Casinos determine at-risk users to develop a gambling addiction by using strategies to keep players engaged;
- Gambling remains socially stigmatized, which perpetuates playing in secret;
- Economic instability prompts many players to try to earn money by gambling, which increases debt;
- The stigma of gambling provokes feelings of shame and disrupts healthy self-esteem, which only worsens addiction.
What to Do
If you’re at risk of gambling addiction, the most effective solution you can choose is therapy, in particular:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Behavioural Therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
However, not all gamblers can afford treatment.
If this is your case, consider reaching out to specialized organizations, enrolling in self-exclusion programs, or looking for groups where you can meet people who face the same problem.
There’s no shame in having an addiction or asking for help. Frequently, fear can cause the most severe long-term consequences when we allow it to influence our decisions.
From speaking to a psychotherapist to seeking guidance from non-profit organizations, there is always something you can do about your health. If you research the symptoms you have early on, you may be able to prevent a more pressing diagnosis.