Gambling Addiction

Written by: Joseph Falchetti, Editor-in-Chief, Pro Sports Bettor and Casino Expert
Last updated:
7 minute read

Gambling addiction is when you can’t control your gambling, or it is negatively impacting your life and the lives of your friends and family. Studies show that addictive drugs have a similar effect on the human brain as problem gamblers. For some time, problem gambling was a compulsion rather than an addiction.

However, modern-day psychology has evolved to a point where pathological gambling is now viewed as an addiction. Problem gambling affects millions around the world. It’s one thing to have a night at the casino or place a bet at a sportsbook, but it’s an entirely another issue when it becomes abusive and destructive to someone’s life. Gambling addiction statistics show that about 1-3 percent of all U.S. adults have gambling addiction symptoms each year.

Gambling Addiction Symptoms

There are several signs of gambling addiction. Gambling addiction and drug and alcohol addiction often look quite similar. Those that suffer from substance abuse and gambling addiction will both often lie about the amount of time they use drugs and gamble. And, the amount of money they spend on substances or gambling. These are just a few of the signs of gambling addiction. If you or a friend or relative is experiencing some of these symptoms – then you may have an issue with problem gambling. This is not an uncommon disorder, especially with the legalization of different forms of gambling in many U.S. states and around the world. Below are some of the primary gambling addiction symptoms.

Lying About Gambling

Those who have a gambling problem will do their best to hide their issues from their friends, family, and co-workers. They may only talk about their big wins and not mention their losses. They also may be dishonest about how much they bet and how much time they spend at the casino.

Borrowing or Stealing Money for Gambling

Once problem gamblers run out of their own money or simply can’t feed their habit, they then to look to borrow money or worse, begin stealing or committing fraud to continue to gamble. There have been countless stories in the news of employees embezzling money to feed their habit.

Always Wagering More

Like substance abuse, lots of gamblers need to up their bets over time so they can still keep getting that “high” from betting. This also falls under chasing your losses or wagering more whenever things are not going your way.

Being Unable to Stop

Gambling is undoubtedly a problem if you’re unable to stop, even if it has affected your life negatively. Many problem gamblers become obsessed with gambling to the extent that they can’t stop thinking about the last time they gambled and they will use any excuse to gamble or go to the casino.

Gambling to Forget

Once again, like substance abuse, many gamblers have problems in their lives that make them want to forget their issues or to reduce stress. Gambling is not entertainment for them. Instead, it is a way to escape the problems in their personal life and go to a happy place where their problems are not invited.

Negative Effects Of Problem Gambling

The negative impact of gambling addictionThere are many adverse effects on those who have gambling issues. Many gamblers are in denial that they have a problem and don’t see the impact it has on themselves, and their friends and family. Problem gambling has destroyed families and ruined careers. Depression, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse, such as alcohol or drug use are also common with those who have a gambling addiction.

The likelihood of developing an addiction to gambling increases 23-fold for people affected by drug and alcohol abuse disorders. Young people, under legal gambling age, are also affected by gambling addiction. Recent statistics from The North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction in the United States, show that approximately 2.6% of the population has a gambling issue.

More than 50 percent of those who have a gambling addiction commit crimes to support their habits. Addiction statistics show that college students and those between the ages of 20-30 have the highest rates of problem gambling. Those with PTSD symptoms have a higher percentage of problem gambling. Thirty-four percent of people seeking help for problem gambling disorder exhibit symptoms of PTSD. People who experience problem gambling have a higher probability of developing other mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and anti-social personality disorders.

Tips To Stop Gambling

If you have noticed issues with your gambling and want to stop, then there are ways to stop gambling. It’s not always an easy fix, and it can be a long road ahead depending on the severity of your problem. However, there are plenty of resources and help available if you’re looking for gambling addiction diagnosis or tips to stop gambling. Below are several tips to attack a potential problem gambling disorder.

  1. Admit You Have A Problem – The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Be honest with yourself about your gambling habits and your wins and losses. Once you’ve done some introspective on your gambling habits and realized you have some issues, that is the first step to getting help.
  2. Avoid Places That Trigger Your Habit – It would seem obvious that you should avoid casinos or other gambling establishments if you have a gambling addiction. However, there can be other triggers that may cause you to want to gamble. These can be drugs or alcohol or simply just hanging out with friends and family that gamble a lot. Analyze what gives you the urge to bet and do your best avoid these places and people.
  3. Get Help – Family members and friends usually know when someone has a gambling problem, even if they won’t admit it. Once the person acknowledges the issue, then they are often a great source of help and support. There are also many organizations across the world that can help with recovery. Some of the most prominent ones are listed at the end of this article.
  4. Replace Gambling With A Healthy Activity – One of the best ways to kick a bad habit is to replace it with something positive. Search your interests and start a new hobby that will get your mind occupied with something new and away from gambling. Exercise is always a helpful activity for both body and mind. Any healthy hobby or activity that takes the place of gambling is going to be positive.
  5. Set Goals And Track Your Progress – Overcoming addiction isn’t an easy task. It might help to set daily, weekly or monthly goals to stop your gambling habit. Write notes around your place to keep you on track, think of it as reminders about why you need to stop betting, at the end of the week analyze your progress or failure and why it happens.

Gambling Addiction Myths Vs. Facts

There are many misconceptions when it comes to gambling addiction. Lots of gamblers use these myths to justify their problem gambling or their style of play. The truth is that they are nonsense used to justify their habit. Here are some of the most common myths you will hear when it comes to gambling.

Gambling Addiction Myths Vs Facts Infographic 2019

How To Help Someone With A Gambling Addiction

If you have a friend or relative that is suffering from gambling addiction, it can be a tough situation. In many cases, problem gamblers don’t realize they have a problem or won’t address their issues. Broaching the subject with someone who exhibits symptoms of problem gambling can be hard. There are a few ways to start the conversation with someone who you think has a gambling addiction.

  • Look For Signs of Addiction – Before bringing up the subject, be sure that the person has a gambling problem. Use our above list for gambling addiction symptoms and gambling addiction facts to try to determine if your friend or loved one indeed has a problem gambling disorder.
  • Talk To Them About Their Problem – Explain to them that their gambling seems to be negatively affecting their life. Don’t judge them for their gambling but explain to them that you are concerned about their habits and that you are worried. They may get defensive or be combative towards you if you question their gambling habits. Be prepared for that.
  • Encourage Treatment – If the person is receptive to your conversation about their gambling problem, then you can move forward with them. That involves telling them to curtail or stop their gambling altogether. Offer them help with their problem and encourage them to seek professional help if necessary.

Gambling Addiction Treatment

There are many options for gambling addiction treatment. Gambler’s Anonymous offers meetings around the world and the only requirement to attend a meeting is that you want to stop gambling. They also have an organization for the friends and family of compulsive gamblers and their children.

For gamblers that want immediate help, there is an online gambling helpline at 1-800-522-4700 in the United States where someone will answer 24 hours a day. There are also hotlines for each state. Going to meetings will help, but there is also the option of therapy.

If the gambling problem is so severe that it cannot be helped with just meetings and the support of friends and family, then it may be worth going into therapy. Therapy will help the person figure out why they have a gambling problem, identify their triggers, and possibly diagnose any other underlying conditions. As a last resort, medication may be prescribed to treat compulsive gambling if nothing else works.

Gambling Addiction Treatment Centers Map

Gambling Helplines

CountryWebsitePhone Number
United Stateswww.ncpgambling.org1-800-522-4700


About the Author

Joseph Falchetti

Joseph Falchetti

Editor-in-Chief, Pro Sports Bettor and Casino Expert

Joe is the author of the majority of sports betting pages on SBS and he serves as a gambling consultant to our content team. He's been mentioned on as a gaming analyst, and his articles have been linked by larger publications, such as the New York Times.

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