The whirling reels, the flashing lights of slot games, and the freebies for joining an online sportsbook entice players to keep on gambling. And while some are perfectly content to walk away from the table as winners, others prefer to go big and not go home. They take their winnings and double down. But in a world where the house always has the edge, this strategy often results in depleted bank accounts and leads to other tragic consequences.
Guided by delusions of grandeur, it’s easy for players on a fixed income to convince themselves that their losses are reversible and that they have everything under control. That’s what a gambling problem looks like. Keep reading to learn how to spot early signs of gambling addiction in yourself or your loved ones.
1. Obsessing about Gambling
Unhealthy habits are often easy to recognize based on the amount of time you spend thinking about them. Prioritizing gambling over everything else, always thinking about your next bet and ways to improve your game, and losing interest in other aspects of your life are obvious symptoms of problem gambling. Namely, gambling obsession causes anxiety that can only be relieved by rumination about gambling or gambling itself. This makes it almost impossible to concentrate on anything else.
2. Lying about gambling problems
Most problem gamblers live in denial. In psychology, this process is called cognitive dissonance and refers to individuals living in a way that’s not compatible with their core beliefs. The discomfort they feel should lead to questions about their actions and life choices, awakening the desire to change. However, problem gamblers lie to themselves and others. They hide their trips to the casino while trying to rationalize their behaviors in an effort to ease the discomfort.
3. Chasing Losses
The inability to think rationally and resist the urge to gamble is one of the main symptoms of compulsive gambling. Believing that one more bet is the only thing that stands between them and a big win often leads gamblers to deplete their savings and sink into debt. Chasing losses is a desperate strategy that beckons gamblers to invest more money into their game in the hope of making up for what they lost. Meanwhile, they continue to seek that elusive thrill of victory.
4. Borrowing money for gambling
Gambling slowly takes away the funds for rent, vacations, and utility bills and leaves you with empty pockets. First, gamblers empty their retirement and savings accounts, and then they reach out to friends and family for financial help. Compulsive gamblers frequently tell elaborate stories about why they need to borrow money and always have excuses for why they can’t pay it back. Once they exhaust all the different avenues for borrowing money, some turn to criminal activities, engaging in robberies, or committing fraud.
5. Dysfunctional relationships
Problem gamblers are focused solely on their next bet and game. Further complicated by their financial troubles, this addiction also leads to dysfunctional relationships, neglecting friends and family, trouble at work, and disengaging from social activities. Problem gamblers often end up breaking up with their partner due to their deepening isolation and their quest for that unmatched thrill of winning and losing. It’s also common among those who suffer from gambling addiction to lose their jobs as the work piles up, and they find it increasingly difficult to concentrate on their tasks.
How to Help Gambling Addicts?
Acknowledging that there is a problem is the first step. Many problem gamblers are unsuccessful in their attempts to stop gambling due to severe withdrawal symptoms, including depression, irritability, anxiety, and decreased sleep and appetite. That’s when support from loved ones can be a game-changer.
Helping the problem gambler avoid triggers and resist their urges by distracting them and offering alternatives can be very effective. If that fails, seeking professional help is the best solution. There are gambling rehab centers, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, support groups and organizations, and even medications that treat this addiction. Most importantly, lifestyle changes and realizing that your problem affects your whole family can help cure the gambling addiction.