Playing casino games and betting on sports can be a great source of fun and entertainment for many, but there’s also a dark side to this beloved pastime. A gambling addiction can cause strain on a gambler’s finances, their relationships with friends and family, their mental and emotional health, and many other areas.
Gambling can be enjoyable and fun, but problematic practices can lead to financial ruin, destructive behaviors, and self-loathing.
In this review, we will focus on what it looks like to slip into problem gambling habits and develop a gambling addiction. We will also focus on what responsible gambling entails. This page reveals resources for those struggling with gambling addiction and provides outlets for those who need assistance.
If you’re looking for help with gambling addiction or you struggle with problem gambling, you’ve come to the right place.
Table of Contents
Use the navigational links below to find the section you need!
- What Is a Gambling Addiction?
- Causes of Gambling Addiction
- How Problem Gambling Affects Us
- Signs of a Gambling Addiction
- Myths of Gambling Addiction and Problem Gambling
- What Does Responsible Gambling Look Like?
- Dealing With Gambling Urges
- How to Stop Gambling for Good
- Resources for Getting Help
- Tips for Loved Ones of Problem Gamblers or Addicts
- Partners of Those With Gambling Addictions
- Additional Resources
What Is Gambling Addiction?
One of the key things to understand when it comes to gambling addiction is that there’s an additional layer to the whole scenario, and it is called “problem gambling.” There is a clear difference between this and the concept gambling addiction itself. Neither is desirable over the other. But it’s important to know the differences between these because the root issue for each is completely different. In order for a gambler who is caught up in an unhealthy cycle to get help, they or those trying to help must know where the source of the problem lies.
Gambling addiction is mainly based around compulsion. This is characterized by an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way. In this case, the gambler or bettor does not really think about what they are doing when they gamble. They simply feel the need to do the physical act of gambling and betting their money away regardless of whether they are winning or losing. In many cases, the player could blow through their entire bankroll and not realize what happened until it’s too late!
Gambling addiction can also be referred to as compulsive gambling, a gambling disorder, or pathological gambling.
Problem gambling is different from a gambling addiction in that the player knows exactly what they are doing and is aware of their unhealthy behaviors and practices. It’s not rooted in compulsion but rather chasing a desired outcome. Problem gamblers typically begin to spiral out of control once they begin experiencing an increase in their losses. Their desired outcome at that point might be to continue playing in order to experience a rebound in luck.
Causes of Gambling Addiction
How do gambling addictions form, and how do problematic gamblers slip into unhealthy behaviors? Many of the starting points for these issues can come from an innocent place then become distorted over time. The process of overcoming gambling addiction and problem gambling involves knowing the source of the problem in many cases.
Many addictions have their beginnings when someone has nothing better to do and wants to pass the time betting on sports or playing casino games. This cause can stem perhaps from a lack of hobbies on the gambler’s part or a lot of down time that breeds boredom.
Another innocent cause of gambling addiction or problem gambling is an individual who begins playing casino games or betting on sports because it’s a relaxing or fun way to pass the time. It might be a great way to unwind when work or responsibilities are finished or during some downtime throughout the day. Relaxation, however, can turn sour and result in addictions or problem gambling.
3. Looking for Some Excitement
In a way, this cause is somewhat rooted in boredom. Sometimes, people are just looking for a rush, something to break up the monotony of the day and add a little excitement or spice to their life. Gambling can certainly provide a rush of adrenaline for many, especially when a player or bettor is able to rake in a big win or beats the odds to collect a huge payout. This cause is one of the more classic stepping stones for those who stumble into gambling addiction or problem gambling.
4. Loneliness or a Lack of Community
As with many hobbies, recreational activities, and pastimes, gambling is a place where players and bettors can experience community with others who share the same interest. Gambling can also provide a social outlet for some who may not have anything else. Some people get into gambling because they feel lonely or isolated. That feeling of wanting to belong or be a part of a larger community can be an innocent need that eventually develops into a full-blown gambling addiction or lead to problem gambling.
This cause tends to be more strongly rooted in gambling addiction more so than problem gambling. The bettor or player might have another issue in their life, might be going through a personal crisis, or may be dealing with some sort of trauma and are using gambling as a way to cope or escape their circumstances. Escapism and not directly dealing with your problem can result in much larger problems.
6. Attempting to Make Money to Pay Off Debts
Some people are motivated to gamble because they feel it is a good way to generate some extra income. They might want to bet a little extra money in their spare time or need it to help pay off bills or debts. In an attempt to take care of business, many can slip in a cycling of gambling addiction or get into problem gambling in no time!
How Problem Gambling Affects Us
Problem gambling and struggling with gambling addiction naturally comes with a whole slew of unfavorable effects. The effects begin small then grow bigger the deeper a person slips into the addiction and their spiraling increases. A small effect leads to a bigger effect then to an even bigger effect down the line.
Here are a few of the terrible ways gambling addiction and problem gambling can affect an individual and how there’s a domino effect as one bad circumstance leads to another.
|Effect of Addiction or Problem Gambling||Details|
|Trouble Controlling Your Emotions||In the case of gambling addiction, a gambler is operating based on compulsion, the irresistible urge to behave in a certain way. With problem gambling, a gambler pictures a desired outcome in their head and might spiral out of control in order to reach that goal.|
|Guilt and Deception||Gamblers who have a problem will try to mask their issues, operating under a façade before their friends and family. This can lead to feelings of guilt.|
|Anger and Frustration||Gamblers who struggle with addiction and problem gambling often experience feelings of helplessness because they cannot control their habits. They experience guilt from lying to their friends and family about their condition. This can manifest in feelings of frustration and anger.|
|Financial Trouble||Once gamblers are deep into their addiction, they begin experiencing the financial loss of control. People can end up going broke and will resort to borrowing from friends and family or even stealing just to satisfy their addiction.|
|Hurt and Fear||Those who do not deal head on with their gambling addictions will ultimately experience hurt, from finances to relationships. They will also have feelings of despair or hopelessness as a result of their destructive behaviors.|
Signs of a Gambling Addiction
These are the top signs that you or someone you care about has developed a gambling addiction or is in the vicious cycle of problem gambling. It’s important to know the signs in order to take the steps to get help. These are the top red flags and warning signs to be on the lookout for, whether it’s for someone you know or even for yourself.
You Have Trouble Stepping Away
Do you have a tough time being able to walk away from gambling once you have begun? Do you feel a compulsion to continue placing bets no matter what the condition of your bankroll? If this sounds like you or someone you know, it might be a gambling addiction. Those who struggle with this type of addiction feel the compulsion to keep placing bets or wagers.
You Keep Gambling, Even With Insufficient Funds
This one may be one of the most obvious signs and one of the hallmark traits of gambling addiction. Those who feel the compulsion to gamble will not necessarily think about their bankroll balance and continue to place more and more bets. This can obviously become quite destructive for the gambler or bettor in terms of finances.
Feeling the Need to Hide Your Gambling
If you feel shame about the way you gamble or go the lengths to hide the fact that you are gambling, this could be a strong sign that you or someone else are struggling with gambling addiction or are a problem gambler. If all was right with what you or someone else were doing, you would not feel the need to conceal it. Shame is often an indicator that you are doing something wrong.
Your Family and Friends Express Worry About You
Some gamblers might not even be aware they have a problem. This is one of the basic traits of gambling addiction. It comes from a place of compulsion instead of a place of logic, common sense and self-awareness. So, when friends or family approach you or someone you know with concerns that you or they may have a problem with gambling or an addiction, this is probably is a really good sign that this is the case.
Myths of Gambling Addiction and Problem Gambling
There are plenty of misconceptions out there when it comes to problem gambling and addictions. It’s important to be able to discern between the facts on the issue and the myths. These myths can be perpetrated through stereotypes in the media or through anecdotal advice given by people who do not clearly understand problem gambling and addiction.
Check out the chart below as we identify lies surrounding this subject and setting the record straight with the cold, hard facts on the matter.
|You should help problem gamblers pay down a debt if they get into a bad spot.||This is like putting a band aid on the problem. Paying down a problem gambler’s debt will not help them alter their behavior or change their ways. In fact, it will make things much easier for them moving forward. This kind of action will enable the gambler in their bad behavior. Sometimes, the best way to deal with a friend or family member who is addicted to gambling is to let them face the consequences of their actions. In the end, this will be the greatest teacher.|
|People who have gambling problems or are addicted are clearly a certain type of individual: unintelligent, weak-kneed, irresponsible, and spineless.||Those who suffer from gambling addiction or are problem gamblers will often come across misconceptions like this. However, just about any type of person can become susceptible to a gambling addiction. There are people out there who were intelligent, strong-willed, responsible, and filled with conviction who have fallen into a cycle of addiction or problem gambling.|
|If a gambler can afford what they are doing, it cannot really be considered problem gambling or a gambling addiction.||Gambling addictions go far beyond just the financial. Addiction can also affect your relationships, your time, your mental health, and many other things. There are rippling effects that transcend how a gambling addiction effects your wallet and bankroll.|
|People with gambling addictions gamble every day.||Gambling addictions can be infrequent, too. There are some individuals who will go through a period of gambling, stop for a while, then return. It’s much more nuanced based on different individuals and their personalities.|
What Does Responsible Gambling Look Like?
Now you know what it looks like to have a gambling addiction or be a problem gambler. Let’s now shift from the dark side of things to the flip side of the coin, responsible gambling. What exactly does this look like? Is it even possible?
Know the Signs of Gambling Addiction or Problem Gambling
First and foremost, you must know the signs of gambling addiction and problem gambling and be fully aware of the concepts of compulsion and gambling based on emotion. When you know what it takes for gamblers to fall prey to addictions, it makes it much easier to keep yourself in check. It allows you to identify certain signs so you can nip them in the bud as they come along.
Having Realistic Expectations
This means having the understanding that things will not go your way sometimes. Once players understand this concept, they can better separate their gambling from emotion. Expectation is always at play in gambling and understanding what it is and how it works can severely reduce your risk of developing a gambling problem or addiction.
The key concept here is to not gamble more than what you have to work with. Have a sense of proportions when it comes to betting a percentage of your bankroll on each session. Typically, it is a good idea to bet only 5% to 10% of your bankroll on any given session. Otherwise, you could risk burning through your bankroll quickly if you do not pace yourself.
Create a Gambling Budget
Set aside an amount of money for each gambling session ahead of time. This is a set amount that you would be content with losing. This helps you to minimize your losses and caps you off so that you don’t lose self-control and blow through even more money. Using a gambling budget can keep your losses down and can also help you to move past losses more easily so that your focus on the next session is not broken by a previously unexpected loss.
Use Child Protection Software to Prevent Minor Access
Gambling responsibly does not just mean putting safeguards in place and protecting just yourself, but it also takes others into consideration. For example, if you’re a parent, this would mean that you would take precautions to make sure that any minors in your home would not access any sort of online gambling that you use.
In the case of online gambling sites or sportsbooks, this means that parents should use protection software to restrict minor access to these place online. All credit card and crypto information should be secured, and parents should not have their account set to automatically bypass the password for access.
Be sure to read the following articles for more information on this subject:
Dealing With Gambling Urges
Urges will come at us in all shapes and forms. One of the great ways to combat urges when it comes to gambling is to attack the urges in a number of shapes and forms of your own! There is not just one set way to do this but a variety of methods for overcoming temptations like these. It certainly keeps things exciting and interesting.
Just know that the more you say no to these urges to gamble irresponsibly, the easier it will be to say no again the second time and the third and the fourth and so on and so forth!
|Avoid Being Alone||Many gamblers feel shame about their habits and often feel the need to conceal it from friends and family. Although this is tragic, this can work to the gambler’s benefit if they desire denying their urges. If gamblers can find ways to avoid being alone, they stand a great chance of eliminating scenarios that put them in a situation to feed their addictions or bad habits.|
|Wait Out the Temptation||This is the simple habit of putting off your desire until it eventually goes away. Try putting off your desire to gamble for five minutes. Once that five minutes is up, go another five. Maybe go with 10 once that time is up. And continue the process until the urge weakens. Eventually, fingers crossed, you will be in the clear!|
|Picture What Will Happen If You Give In||Think of the consequences of your decision to give into your bad gambling habits or addictions. Think of the money you will lose, the shame you will feel, the growing resentment of a loved one, or that feeling of hopelessness you dread. Once you can visualize yourself on the other side, having given into the temptation, it makes it that much easier to say no.;|
|Keep Busy With Something Else||If you struggle with gambling addiction and other bad behaviors, try replacing this activity with something else. Use the time to pick up a new hobby, spend with family and friends, or join a club or recreational sports team. If you have no time for your addiction, you will not find yourself constantly caught in its midst.|
How to Stop Gambling for Good
If you really want to take things to the next level, quit toxic gambling cold turkey, and say goodbye to gambling addiction for good, we suggest you take a look at some of these heavier tactics. These involve more severe forms of depravation that are aimed to quickly squelch and shut down any forms of temptation.
|Remove These Elements to Cut Down on Temptation||Why Remove These Elements?|
|The Decision to Gamble||You have the power to shut down your gambling urges at the first step: the decision to gamble. Be discipline in dealing with this urge. Talk yourself through the consequences. Distract yourself with another activity. Force yourself to think about something else when you think about wanting to gamble.|
|The Money to Gamble With||Leave yourself with no financial avenues to engage in gambling. Think about it. You cannot gamble with no money. Close all of your betting accounts. Get rid of your credit cards. Have someone be in charge of your money as a way to keep accountable to your decision.|
|The Time to Use Gambling||Leave yourself no time to gamble. Fill up every spare moment of your time with activities that will take your mind off gambling and keep you far away from gambling. Take up another recreational activity in your spare time. Take time to schedule out each moment of your day so there is no free time for gambling.|
|A Game Where You Can Gamble||You cannot gamble if you cannot access any casino games or sportsbetting sites. Cut off any sort of temptation from your mobile device or computer. Remove gambling apps from your phone. Block gambling sites on your mobile device. If you frequent a brick and mortar casino or sportsbook, tell them to bar you access if you show up.|
Resources for Getting Help
If you are looking for extra tools and resources to help you along in your fight against gambling addiction or problem gambling, there are plenty to be had!
These are geared toward gamblers who have really severe addictions and may not be able to practice the steps to overcome problem gambling or addiction on their own. Rehab programs are able to provide 24/7, around-the-clock service for their clients.
Also known as CBT, these are programs that geared toward changing unhealthy thoughts and behaviors surrounding gambling addiction and problem gambling. It is all about teaching the gambler useful life skills surrounding relationships, finances, and other realms. Any erroneous or false beliefs held by the gambler are challenged and are replaced by tools for coping with the addiction.
Underlying Condition Treatment
Sometimes, gambling addiction or problem gambling are not the only problem. Many players have other issues like obsessive compulsive disorder, ADHD, struggles with substance abuse, clinical depression, or anxiety. This means getting doctors and therapists involved in the process who recommend lifestyle changes, medication, or various therapies.
Counseling for Credit, Marriage, or Career
There are resources available for those whose gambling addiction or problem gambling has led to problems in their career, finances, or relationships with friends and family. These organizations can help you identify the issues in your life and begin the process of repairing and bringing healing to these areas of your life.
Tips for Loved Ones of Problem Gamblers or Addicts
As long as we are discussing the dynamics of family and friends with those struggling with problem gambling or addiction, here are a few basic tips for family and friends on how to deal with these kinds of scenarios.
Setting Up Boundaries With Money Management
If someone in your immediately family has a gambling problem, you can play an active roll in keeping them accountable by taking charge of the finances. Make sure that the money stays secured and is not put in danger.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
It is easy to feel as if you are the only one dealing with a loved one with a gambling problem. Just keep in mind that there are plenty of others out there that have gone through similar experiences. Try to reach out to these individuals for the support and encouragement you may need to face your own circumstances.
Join a Peer Support Group
There are a ton of great peer support groups out there that can assist those who struggle with problem gambling and addictions. Gamblers Anonymous is a great program where gamblers can connect with a sponsor, someone who is a former addicted gambler, who can be a source of support and guidance for that individual. Encourage a loved one to join a peer support group if they are struggling with gambling addiction.
Deal With Your Feelings in a Healthier Way
If your loved one is addicted to gambling as a way to not deal with problems in their life or are using gambling as a way to combat boredom or loneliness, encourage them to spend their time doing something else. Encourage them to spend time with family and friends, or to take up a new hobby, or even exercise. Suggest activities or ideas that can keep them from being isolated or put in a situation where they will try to give into temptation.
Identify Mood Disorders and Get Help
Addicted or problem gamblers may be suffering from anxiety, stress, or depression in addition to their obsession with gambling. Some are even substance abusers. The nature of gamblers with addiction or serious problems can be quite nuanced. This is why it’s important to identify any sort of mood disorder that is affecting a loved one on top of a gambling addiction and point them to the resources or help that they need.
Partners of Those With Gambling Addictions
It is one thing to know some helpful tips and tricks to help along loved ones in their struggle against problem gambling and gambling addiction. It’s another thing to know some of the hard dos and don’ts associated with these scenarios and issues. Check out the table below for some of the best things you could do for your loved one and some of the worst decisions you could make. This may establish some firmer, more concrete steps to dealing with those who struggle.
|Talk to your kids about problem gambling. It’s important to be transparent with what’s going on.||Don’t expect an easy recovery for your partner. It is not always a smooth ride. Sometimes there are setbacks. Although it is not guaranteed, be prepared to do battle.|
|Encourage your partner to join a support group and spend time helping them look for one.||Don’t cover up your partner’s problem. Protecting their addiction from others only makes it easier for the gambler to continue on without changing anything.|
|Talk to your partner about their problem and suggest they get help.||Don’t bail out your partner. Let them learn the consequences of their addiction, and some of those can be financial hardship or strained relationships.|
|Take over the family finances. You can keep financial decisions out of your partner’s hands to ensure they do not ruin the family financially.||Don’t enable your partner’s gambling addiction. Whenever possible, allow your partner to experience the consequences of their actions. Experience can be the best teacher.|
|Show encouragement and support through the entire treatment process.||Don’t let your partner’s addiction or problem cancel out anything good about their person or character. Be tough but encouraging as well.|
|Discuss the consequences of their actions with your partner and how it affects them and the rest of the family.||Don’t bring shame upon your partner about their addiction to the point where they feel ostracized from family life and events. Show them that you love them throughout the journey to recovery.|
If you’re someone who is looking to put an end to your problem gambling or gambling addiction or a loved one of someone who suffers from these afflictions, we encourage you to look into these additional resources.
Phone Numbers and Hotlines
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- National Council on Problem Gambling Hotline: 1-800-522-4700
- Gamcare (UK): 0808 8020 133
- Gambling Help Online (AU): 1800 858 858
- Center for Addiction and Mental Health (Canada): 1-866-531-2600
- National Council on Problem Gambling: http://www.ncpgambling.org/
- Harvard Medical School: http://www.harvardhealthbooks.org/book/change-your-gambling-change-your-life/
- North American Training Institute: https://nati.org/
- North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries: http://www.naspl.org/responsiblegambling/
- Gamblers Anonymous International: gamblersanonymous.org
- Gamcare: gamcare.org.uk
- Responsible Gambling Council: responsiblegambling.org
- Befriender’s Worldwide: befrienders.org
We recommend you also check out these additional reading materials and resources for more information on problem gambling and gambling addiction as well as responsible gambling.