4 Interesting Facts About Gambling Addiction and Recovery

X-Ray Image of Human Brain With Poker Chip Background

Gambling is a very social activity much like having drinks with friends on the weekend.

However, also much like drinking, when some people start to gamble they can’t stop and when they want to quit gambling, they find that they can’t.

How our society views addiction has changed over the past 100 years. Although there is a strong stigma still attached to addiction, the medical field recognizes addiction as a disorder of the brain.

The addict’s brain is unable to make rational decisions because part of the brain is affected by addictive behavior.

The past 100 years have also given birth to a multitude of 12-step fellowships for addictive behaviors.

These fellowships have meetings that members attend regularly in order to help each other keep from going back to their addiction.

Here are 4 interesting facts about gambling addiction and recovery:

1 – The Need for More and More is a Strong Sign of Gambling Addiction

It is interesting that gambling addiction closely mimics substance abuse rather than obsessive-compulsive disorder.

One of the ways that these two addictions are similar is the need for more and more to get the desired effect.

When a cocaine addict is addicted, they usually have to increase the amount they use over a considerable amount of time in order to get the feeling they seek. What $20 worth of cocaine used to do now takes $80 worth.

With gambling addiction, there is a need to bet more and more money as the addiction progresses.

What seemed like big bets at the onset of the addiction are now relatively small compared to the size of the bet that the addict must make to continue to get the desired effect.

Both substance abusers and gambling addicts share a delusional perception about the current state of affairs.

Upset Woman With Pile of Poker Chips in Front of Her

In the grips of the addiction, the addict believes that they are completely in control.

They also minimize the seriousness of the problem and often refuse to look at the consequences of their actions.

When the addict tries to cut down or stop altogether, they are usually very restless and irritable.

This restlessness and irritation is only quelled by gambling again which releases the cycle all over again.

The Australian government defines the problem of addictive gambling as, “characterized by many difficulties in limiting money and/or time spent on gambling which leads to adverse consequences for the gambler, others, or for the community.”

2- Mental Health Disorders Contribute To Addictive Gambling Behavior

Addictive gambling usually doesn’t happen all by itself. There is an underlying condition or a co-occurring addiction that is going on when addictive gambling becomes evident as a serious problem in an individual.

Much research has been done on Narcissism Personality Disorder and Pathological Gambling.

There is a definite link between narcissism and problem gambling. Impulsivity and the need for sensation-seeking are both traits of narcissism.

With this in mind, it is easy to see how that could lead to problem gambling.

Narcissists also believe they are better at certain things than they actually are. So, narcissists may continue to gamble despite consequences because they actually think that they are really good despite evidence to the contrary.

Narcissists tend to display a lack of judgment in many areas of their life and tend to have the belief that they can control things such as the outcome of an event.

Even in the face of losing consistently, many think that the ‘next one’ is going to be better or different than the previous attempts. This is also a trait of drug or alcohol addiction.

Many gambling addicts also have a substance abuse disorder. There could be an environmental factor to this as most casinos serve alcohol.

It can be common that someone who used to be addicted to alcohol but is now sober, can develop a gambling addiction even after sober from alcohol for several years.

When taking a closer look at addiction, there comes a lot of guilt and shame coming from the sufferer. The gambling addict may use drugs and alcohol to lessen those feelings after a bad night.

Gambling coupled with cocaine use is a common occurrence. The cocaine addict may try to supply their habit by gambling. This could occur as a scratch-off lottery ticket problem.

A cocaine addict may also have a delusional perspective of how well they do at the gaming tables.

There are also many illegal gaming rooms across North America and for various reasons this seems to attract methamphetamine abusers.

There are many compulsive behaviors that can emerge once someone gets high on methamphetamine, but the desire to gamble at an illegal gaming room seems to be one of the most common.

3 – Gamblers Anonymous Was Founded by a Member of Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous is the original 12 step program. From it have emerged numerous other fellowships that use the 12 steps as a means of recovery. Regular meeting attendance is a huge part of the recovery process.

In 1957, Gamblers Anonymous was founded by a gentleman by the name of Jim Willis.

He was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and thought that the 12 steps could be applied to compulsive gambling as well.

The very first Gamblers Anonymous meeting took place in Los Angeles, California. There were 13 people present at that meeting.

Much like other 12 step fellowships, Gamblers Anonymous has 20 questions that an individual can answer to see if they think they have a problem with compulsive gambling.

Since Gamblers Anonymous is not a group of professionals, only an individual with the help of a doctor can diagnose themselves.

The American Psychiatric Association states that compulsive gambling includes the need to increase the amount of money bet, the need to borrow money in order to continue gambling, and keeping gambling a secret from family members and co-workers, among other behaviors.

Stack of Poker Chips

Counseling is highly suggested as well as a means to help a gambling addict achieve recovery.

Just like in Alcoholics Anonymous, Gambler’s Anonymous has definite suggestions for the newcomer.

These include 90 meetings in 90 days, not going to gambling establishments, refrain from hanging out with people who are active gamblers, getting a sponsor to work the 12 steps with, and frequently calling other GA members when they are not at a meeting.

Like AL-Anon, there is also GAM-Anon that is for the people in the gambling addict’s life who have been gravely affected by their loved one’s gambling addiction.

4 – Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy is a Best Practice for Problem Gambling

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy has a lot of success with many compulsive behaviors.

The object is to use therapy sessions to rewire a patient’s brain so they react to situations differently.

This can help with how an individual deals with certain triggers that might set them off to return to the destructive behavior.

There are thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs that are considered ‘faulty’ in an individual who shows definite signs of problem gambling.

CBT has been shown not only to keep problem gamblers from the pitfalls of gambling, but it has helped problem gamblers gamble less.

A goal of CBT when it comes to problem gambling is to make the individual aware of their cognitive distortions or ‘faulty’ thinking.

The individual will have delusional beliefs around their gambling activities.

They may not think they have that severe of a problem while everyone around them knows that they do. Problem gamblers usually think their beliefs about gambling will affect the outcome of the thing they are gambling on.

CBT for problem gambling occurs mainly in a one-on-one setting. However, a therapist may hold group sessions for several problem gamblers and therapy can be applied in this setting as well.


If you or someone you know is showing signs of problem gambling then you should call the National Problem Gambling Hotline at 1-800-522-4700.

You can get help 24/7 and the help you receive is confidential.

By calling this number, you can get in contact with many resources that can help anyone struggling with problem gambling.