Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
There are many different ways to gamble in our society. While some people are able to enjoy playing games of chance, for some individuals the urge to gamble becomes a compulsive activity that completely takes over their life. A gambling addiction occurs when a person is unable to control his or her impulse to gamble, even when continuing to gamble is extremely destructive and damaging.
A gambling addiction can happen to anyone regardless of age, socio-economic status, or ethnicity. Symptoms of gambling addiction may include an inability to stop gambling, a preoccupation with gambling activities, and an uncharacteristic involvement in inappropriate or illegal activities in order to fund the gambling habit.
Individuals who suffer from an addiction to gambling find themselves unable to stop gambling despite the negative impact it is having on their life. Although these persons often believe that they are capable of letting go of their gambling compulsion at any time, they may instead be unable to resist the compelling habit, and require professional treatment in order to stop.
A person whose gambling habit is out of control may vehemently deny that they have a problem, and will quickly justify the amount of money that they're spending "to have a good time". This rationalization is especially difficult for the gambler's family and friends to understand. A problem gambler may engage in secret gambling activity in order to avoid negative remarks and disapproval from others. This in turn may lead to isolation from loved ones; another symptom of gambling addiction.
Early Signs of a Gambling Problem
The most obvious early sign of problem gambling may be financial distress. Left unchecked, a full-blown gambling addiction can lead to financial catastrophe and personal ruin. A person who is addicted to gambling may find themselves placing bets regardless of the odds or whether or not they are able to afford to lose the money. Someone who is addicted to gambling can end up "chasing losses" - trying to win back money that they've just gambled and lost.
Individuals who suffer from a gambling addiction may hold onto the mistaken belief that gambling offers them a means to relieve their stress, anxiety, and depression, and helps them to relax. Others may feel energized by the charged atmosphere and exciting environment that is found in casinos and at the track; a specific strategy used by betting establishments to entice players to stay longer and to part with more of their money.
Some gamblers will attempt to justify their compulsive behavior by suggesting that certain gambling establishments such as casinos and the track require skill rather than chance, and that it is always possible to "win the big one". Other individuals get hooked into "magical thinking", believing that they possess special numbers or have found a "hot" slot machine. Some people may minimize their gambling problem if they bet on sports or buy lottery tickets, believing these to be harmless pastimes.
When Symptoms of a Gambling Addiction Take Over a Person's Life
A person who is preoccupied with gambling will place that activity above all others regardless of the personal and financial cost. A person may lose his or her job because of too much time spent gambling. Strained and broken relationships are common results of a gambling addiction. In fact, the addicted individual may blame all his or her problems on the inevitable family turmoil and dysfunction that arises out of the gambling behavior instead of placing the focus on the gambling addiction in the first place.
Some gamblers avoid responsibility for their actions by holding onto the belief that other people or events have "driven" then to gamble. This type of denial is common among problem gamblers who do not wish to face up to the fact that they have a problem.
Some of the most unfortunate symptoms of gambling addiction come about when a person's compulsion causes them to do things that are extremely damaging or even illegal in order to support their habbit. A normally caring parent may disregard his or her responsibility to children left in his/her care. There have been cases of young children abandoned for hours outside casinos, or left at home with an older sibling without even the basic necessities such as food or warmth.
A person in the throes of a gambling addiction may think nothing of using family money budgeted for food or rent to fund their gambling habit. As the situation becomes increasingly desperate, the addicted individual may resort to criminal activity and fraud in an effort to stay afloat.
Gambling has at times been referred to as a "hidden" addiction, because at first there may be no apparent outward physical signs common to other types of addiction such as drug or alcohol abuse. However, a gambling addiction is a serious issue that can be devastating to a person and his or her family. In some instances, ever increasing financial pressure has raised the risk of suicide as an addicted individual attempts to cope with the overwhelming chaos that results from their gambling addiction.
Fortunately, professional treatment is available for problem gamblers to take back control of their lives, and to break their destructive gambling habit.