Gambling addiction is a disorder characterised by a preoccupation with gambling to an extent that dominates a person’s life at the expense of social activities, work, family values and general obligations. As such, it’s a state in which a person is dominated by an urge to play, even if the person herself can see that the behaviour is problematic.
The pursuit of the intoxicating emotion overshadows the negative consequences of gambling behaviour, and it can ultimately have serious consequences on the person’s well-being, potentially leading to debt, financial crime as well as negative consequences in the person’s social relations and well-being.
How does gambling addiction develop?
In most cases, gambling addiction develops over several years, and the changes often occur gradually. However, development can also happen much faster for some people. Typically, gambling addiction develops in three stages:
- Stage 1: The gambler develops a greater interest in games and begins spending more money. The person also invests more time into research to optimise the odds of winning. The behaviour is characterised by carefully selecting bets within certain games, however, without overshadowing or having a significant negative impact on the person’s social relations as well as work or study. Oftentimes, gambling addiction starts out with a big win, and a need to chase that feeling again.
- Stage 2: Next stage is when the person spends even more energy, both physically and mentally, on collecting information, analysing and evaluating the game to increase his betting odds. In this phase, there are changes in the person’s behaviour, but the person can largely hide his problem from the environment. Consumption is increasing, but the economic problems are still manageable. The gambler might also convince himself that gambling is a sustainable revenue stream. There’s a failure to recognize the problem at hand, with a loss of control.
- Stage 3: The gambling addiction develops and takes a central role in the person’s life, while relationships with family and friends are downgraded. Also, work or education is heavily under-prioritised. The debt increases and the person may risk isolating themselves. This could lead to a negative loop, where an attempt to escape from one’s problems with more negative gambling behavior takes centre stage.
When a person develops serious gambling addiction, it thus has major consequences for both the person himself and the person’s friends and family who are being down-prioritised. Often it will lead to social isolation, which can ultimately increase the physical and psychological consequences for the individual.
The cause of gambling addiction
There can be many different reasons why a person might develop a gambling addiction. A gambling disorder is often associated with a feeling of shame. It can happen to anyone and is not necessarily a lack of personal character or willpower. Some factors, however, can put an individual at increased risk of developing a gambling addiction, and there could also be some external factors beyond a person’s control. Some of the reasons are listed below:
- Hereditary factors – genetics and family relationships
- Social factors – influenced by friends, family and other social groups
- Individual factors – an individual’s mental state, biochemistry and personality
- External influences – media, advertising, role models, etc.
All of these factors come into play and can jointly affect individuals in different ways.
Some people are influenced by their friends and family, while others are largely led to gambling addiction due to their personality endorsing risks or exposure to negative behaviours from others. As such, there is no single way to intervene across all people, and as such, it is a difficult challenge to get rid of gambling addiction.
Who becomes addicted to gambling?
If you feel you have a gambling problem, or if you think you are a gambling addict, you are far from the only one.
As with many other physical and mental disorders, it can be difficult to know when you are a gambling addict and when you have a problem.
Gambling addiction is often called hidden abuse, and this is because most signs of the abuse can be confused with other problems. The reaction to gambling addiction development also varies greatly from person to person, and therefore it is difficult to diagnose the problem. However, there are some characteristics that one can be aware of.
One can experience physical symptoms such as palpitations, stress, headaches, weakened immune system, sweating, abdominal and muscle pain and inner turmoil. Mentally, one can experience difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, restlessness, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Behavioural characteristics include social isolation, compliance problems, irritable and critical behaviour and mental absence. Apart from physical symptoms, one must also be aware of negative feelings as related to gambling, and negative consequences thereof.
If you are experiencing difficulties with gambling yourself or you see that one of your friends is having problems, please do not hesitate to seek support and counselling from professional advisers who can assist you in gambling-related issues. Gambling Therapy is a global service providing free practical advice and emotional support to anyone affected by gambling
Always practice responsible gambling. You must be 18+ to play.