Recognizing the Warning Signs of Gambling Addiction


Gambling involves wagering something of value on an event that is random and has a chance of winning a prize. In some cases, strategy is involved. However, in most gambling activities, the likelihood of losing exceeds the chances of winning. People may gamble to make money or for entertainment, but for some, problem gambling can become addictive and affect their lives in harmful ways. It can damage relationships, cause debt and even lead to homelessness. It can also interfere with work, study and socializing. It is important to recognize the warning signs of gambling addiction and seek treatment when needed.

Some individuals are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity, making it harder for them to weigh the risk against potential rewards when deciding to gamble. Studies of brain regions involved in decision-making show that those with these genetic predispositions may have a greater difficulty in controlling their impulses and making good decisions.

For many people, gambling is a social activity that provides enjoyment and relaxation with friends. It can also provide a form of escapism from a stressful life. The pleasure received from gambling can stimulate the brain, causing a feeling of euphoria. People can learn how to control their urges to gamble by avoiding situations that trigger them or by practicing healthier methods of relieving boredom and stress, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, taking up a new hobby or practicing relaxation techniques.

Some people start gambling because they are lonely or bored and find it a way to socialize with friends. Others do it to escape from their problems, such as financial difficulties or emotional distress. They may feel a sense of relief in the short term, but this can be offset by increased stress and debt in the long run. It is important to recognize that there are healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and pass the time, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling family and friends, joining a club or class, reading, volunteering or practicing relaxation techniques.

People with a history of gambling may experience negative consequences including loss of control, impaired judgment and distorted reasoning. In addition, they tend to avoid facing reality and may be unable to identify their gambling problem. The lack of a shared nomenclature for pathological gambling has contributed to the debate over its status as a mental disorder. Nevertheless, since the publication of the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1980, the understanding that pathological gambling shares some characteristics with substance abuse has improved. Nonetheless, some experts still prefer to use the term “abuse” or “dependence,” rather than addiction. However, this is not a universal view. Some research scientists, psychiatrists, other treatment care clinicians and public policy makers are now using the term “addiction” to describe gambling behavior. This is an exciting development that is based on empirical observations and theoretical considerations. However, further research is required to confirm this finding.