Warning Signs That Someone is at Risk of Gambling Addiction

Gambling involves placing something of value on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value. The event may be a game of chance, such as a lottery ticket or a casino card, or an activity involving skill, such as horse racing or a poker game. People may gamble for a variety of reasons, including for social or financial gain. They might also be influenced by their emotions, such as excitement or boredom.

Some people who gamble have a mental illness that interferes with their ability to manage their money and other aspects of their lives. Until recently, the psychiatric community did not recognize pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder like kleptomania (stealing) or pyromania (fire-starting). In 2013, however, the APA moved compulsive gambling to the Addictions section of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This decision was widely hailed as a landmark, reflecting a new understanding of the biological basis of addiction.

Whether they are playing the lottery, betting on a sports team or spinning the reels in an online casino, everyone who gambles is at risk of developing an addiction. There are many warning signs that someone is at risk of gambling addiction. They include:

People who have a gambling problem may start to feel compelled to gamble despite negative consequences, such as financial loss or relationship difficulties. In addition, they may have irrational beliefs, such as the belief that a recent string of losses or a close call (such as two out of three cherries on a slot machine) signals an imminent win.

When a person is gambling, their brain produces dopamine, the neurotransmitter that makes them feel good. This chemical response is why some people are unable to stop gambling, even when they are losing money. The more they gamble, the more their losses mount, and eventually they begin to lose control.

In addition to causing serious problems in relationships and finances, gambling can cause health issues such as heart disease and depression. It can also make it more difficult to get a job or keep one. In severe cases, people with a gambling problem have been known to commit crimes, such as fraud or theft, to finance their habit.

To help prevent gambling from becoming a problem, try to limit your time spent gambling and only play with money you can afford to lose. Also, be sure to balance your recreational gambling with other activities and avoid chasing your losses. The more you try to recoup your losses, the more likely it is that you will lose even more. If you do have a problem, seek professional treatment.