Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
Early intervention in gambling addiction is crucial to preventing negative consequences for those affected. Understanding the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction is therefore critical. The symptoms of gambling addiction can be behavioral, emotional, or physical. Here is a broad look at the most common signs and symptoms of gambling addiction.
- Losing interest in hobbies, social activities, and relationships that were once important
- Displaying signs of desperation, such as pawning valuables, seeking payday loans, or participating in risky financial schemes
- Unable to stop gambling
- Lying to conceal gambling activities
- Experiencing relationship or work problems due to gambling
- Trying to get back lost money by gambling more (chasing losses)
- Increasing the amount of money wagered to feel the same level of excitement
- Needing to gamble to escape problems or relieve negative emotions
- Feeling restless or irritable when trying to cut down on gambling
- Anxiety, irritability, and depression when not gambling
- Feeling guilty or ashamed about gambling behavior
- Using gambling as a way to cope with stress or negative emotions
- Numbness, unpleasant feelings and problems which cannot be easily resolved
- Extreme mood swings, from euphoria during wins to deep depression or anger during losses.
- Anxiety, irritability, and stress-related symptoms
- Headaches and stomach upsets
- Sleep disorders
Individuals who suffer from gambling addiction often experience a variety of psychological symptoms that can have a profound impact on their emotional and mental well-being. These symptoms can affect their mindset, emotions, and overall quality of life. Common psychological symptoms related to gambling addiction include anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Let’s expound together.
Compulsive Gambling-Related Thinking: People with a gambling addiction often have constant and intrusive thoughts about gambling. They may spend a lot of time planning their next session, thinking about strategies, and trying to find ways to recover their losses.
Loss of Self-Discipline: People who suffer from gambling addiction struggle with controlling their discipline and urge to gamble, making it difficult for them to stop even if they want to. This inability to resist the impulse to gamble is a key characteristic of addiction.
Depression: Chronic gambling addiction can lead to feelings of depression, as individuals may suffer from financial loss, social detachment, and remorse. These emotions can be long-lasting and difficult to overcome.
Guilt and Shame: Individuals who struggle with gambling addiction often experience strong emotions of guilt and shame. This can stem from the negative impact their behavior has on themselves and those close to them, as well as their inability to overcome their addiction.
Anxiety and Restlessness: Gambling addiction often leads to anxiety, causing individuals to become extremely restless and concerned about their finances, debts, and the potential consequences of their actions.
Self-Harm Thoughts: Addiction to gambling can have serious effects, such as self-harm or feelings of hopelessness. People may feel trapped and desperate as a result of the financial and mental hardship gambling brings. This might lead to feelings of hopelessness and, consequently, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
Gambling addiction can have a significant impact on a person’s physical health, in addition to its effects on their mental and emotional well-being. The stress and neglect of self-care caused by excessive gambling can lead to various physical symptoms. The physical manifestations of gambling addiction can be a result of addictive behavior and can take a toll on a person’s health. It is crucial to recognize these symptoms and seek help to address the underlying addiction.
Poor sleep patterns: Gambling addiction can cause sleep disturbances like insomnia, disrupted sleep patterns, and nightmares. Anxiety over financial losses or the urge to gamble can lead to a lack of sleep.
Body Weakness: Continuously gambling can result in physical exhaustion and weakness due to the stress and emotional strain it causes. This can leave individuals feeling drained of energy and fatigued.
Migraines: Gambling addiction can cause stress and anxiety that may lead to headaches and migraines. As time passes, these physical symptoms can become more severe and frequent.
Stomach Upset: Individuals struggling with gambling addiction may experience various digestive issues like stomachaches, nausea, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) due to the stress and anxiety associated with their addiction.
Weight Fluctuations: Changes in eating patterns are common. Some individuals may overeat as a way to cope with stress, leading to weight gain, while others may lose their appetite and experience weight loss.
Substance Abuse: In some cases, gambling addiction can co-occur with substance abuse. Individuals may turn to alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications as a way to cope with the emotional distress caused by their addiction.
Gambling addiction can lead to a wide range of complications and consequences that extend beyond the individual’s own well-being. These complications encompass various aspects of life, including relationships, finances, and overall quality of life. Here, we delve into potential complications and offer insights into the challenges individuals may face due to their gambling addiction:
- Finance: Gambling addiction can lead to financial problems, including debt, bankruptcy, and loss of savings.
Relationship problems: Gambling addiction can lead to relationship problems, including conflicts with family members, friends, and colleagues.
- Legal problems: Gambling addiction can lead to legal problems, including fraud, theft, and other criminal activities.
- Physical health problems: Gamblers may experience physical health problems, including sleep disorders, weight gain or loss, and heart problems, due to stress or their behavior following a successful wager.
- Social problems: It’s common for gamblers to develop social problems, including isolation, stigma, and discrimination
Gambling addiction is a serious affliction that can have far-reaching and devastating consequences for individuals. If left untreated, the short-term complications can deepen and spiral out of control, leading to financial ruin, broken relationships, mental health disorders, suicidal ideation and attempts, employment and career setbacks, legal ramifications, decline in physical and mental health, social isolation and loneliness, loss of trust, and a high risk of relapse.
Individuals with prolonged gambling addiction may accumulate massive debts, lose assets, and jeopardize their financial future, with recovery taking years or even decades. Marriages may end in divorce, families may become estranged, and friendships may be irreparably harmed, leading to permanent damage to relationships. The stress and emotional turmoil associated with gambling addiction can lead to chronic anxiety, depression, and even more severe mental health conditions, with the effects lasting long after the addiction has been addressed.
Long-term gambling addiction increases the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, with the cumulative impact of financial ruin, relationship breakdowns, and mental health challenges leaving individuals feeling trapped and desperate. Holding down a stable job becomes increasingly difficult for those with long-term gambling addiction, with frequent job changes, unemployment, and underemployment hindering career advancement and financial stability.
Individuals may also face ongoing legal issues, including criminal records, fines, and court orders, as a result of their addiction-related activities. Neglecting physical and mental health over the long term can lead to a decline in overall well-being, with individuals developing chronic health conditions and experiencing a reduced quality of life.
Prolonged addiction often results in profound social isolation and loneliness, with individuals struggling to reconnect with estranged family members and friends. Loved ones may struggle to trust individuals with a history of long-term gambling addiction, even after recovery, making rebuilding trust a lengthy and difficult process. Long-term addicts are at a higher risk of relapse, even after periods of recovery, making maintaining sobriety a constant and ongoing effort.
Even if individuals manage to address their immediate problems, the long-term effects of gambling addiction may continue to disrupt their stability, making it challenging to plan for the future. The consequences of gambling addiction can also extend to future generations, with children of addicts experiencing emotional trauma and financial instability that affects their own lives.
Mental Health Issues
Individuals suffering from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and mood disorders are more likely to develop gambling addictions. Addiction to gambling can also lead to mental health issues such as sadness, anxiety, and mood disorders.
Young adults (18-24 years) and seniors (60+ years) are at a higher risk of developing gambling addiction. Peer pressure may make young persons more vulnerable to gambling addiction, but loneliness and boredom may make elders more prone to it.
Gambling addiction has historically been more prevalent among men due to their inclination towards riskier forms of gambling, such as sports betting and poker. However, women are not immune to this addiction and may prefer gambling activities such as slot machines or bingo. The impact of societal expectations and gender roles on gambling behavior cannot be ignored, as men may feel pressured to display risk-taking behaviors while women may engage in gambling for socialization.
Family or Friend Influence
Individuals with a family history of gambling problems are at a higher risk of developing addiction due to genetic and environmental factors. Excessive gambling behavior among friends or acquaintances can also put individuals at risk, as peer pressure may lead to addiction. Additionally, a lack of awareness among family members who normalize or downplay gambling behavior can contribute to addiction by failing to recognize the signs.
Specific Personality Traits
Individuals who possess certain personality traits are more susceptible to developing gambling addictions. Impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and risk-taking are some of these traits. These traits can also lead to other forms of addictive behaviors, such as compulsive shopping and substance abuse. Impulsive individuals may find it difficult to resist the urge to gamble, while a competitive personality may drive individuals to engage in high-risk gambling activities.
There are many free self-assessment tools offered by different organizations online. They include:
- Brief Biosocial Gambling Screen (BBGS)
- DSM-5 Gambling Disorder Criteria
- NORC Diagnostic Screen for Gambling Problems-Self Administered (NODS-SA)
The tools might have some slight variations, but they are all aimed at helping gamers determine whether they might be at risk of addiction or are already sailing in it. Here is a sample quiz you might use to assess yourself:
Gambling Behavior Self-Assessment Tool
Instructions: Answer the following questions honestly by selecting the option that best describes your gambling behavior over the past year.
1. How would you describe your frequency of gambling in a year
A. Rarely (once a year or less)
B. Occasionally (a few times a year)
C. Frequently (monthly)
D. Regularly (weekly or more)
2. When you assess your gambling behavior, would you say you usually spend more than you can afford to lose?
3. How often do you feel the need to hide your gambling activities from your family members, friends, and loved ones?
4. When you try to cut back or quit gambling, do you get agitated or restless?
5. Have you ever taken out loans, sold items, or participated in unlawful activity to support your gambling habit or settle debt related to gambling?
Total your points based on your answers:
A = 0 points
B = 1 point
C = 2 points
D = 3 points
E = 4 points
If you scored:
- 0-3 points, you may have a low risk of gambling issues.
- 4-9 points, your gambling risk may be moderate.
- 10-19 points is high risk and you may need to seek professional help and support for gambling addiction.
It is crucial to remember that this self-assessment does not replace a professional evaluation and is not a diagnosis. If anyone, including the user or someone they know, replies “yes” to any of the questions, it is recommended that they get more help or knowledge regarding gambling behavior.
Helpful Organisations and Groups
Here are some reputable organizations and support groups dedicated to responsible gambling:
National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG): NCPG is a non-profit that offers resources, support, and a national helpline (1-800-522-4700) for those impacted by problem gambling. Visit their website for more information.
BeGambleAware: BeGambleAware is a non-profit organization that provides information, resources, and support for individuals and families affected by problem gambling. Reach them via the helpline (0808 8020 133) or by visiting their website.
Gamblers Anonymous: Gamblers Anonymous helps men and women recover from gambling by sharing their strength, experience, and hope. The organization provides problem gambling support groups and meetings. Feel free to visit its website.
Always gamble responsibly and use available responsible gambling tools.