What is a Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction is an impulsive control disorder. It can start from a past time but can later turn into an uncontrollable craving wherein the person forgets the negative effects associated with it. This is also called pathological gambling, compulsive gambling, or gambling disorder. Oftentimes, this addiction comes with substance abuse mostly alcohol and other behavioral disorders such as depression, anxiety, and stress.

Gambling Statistics in the United States

  • In 2016, almost 10 million people are experiencing compulsive gambling disorder
  • Estimated 15 percent of the general population gambles once a week
  • Teenagers are 2 to 3 times more prone than adults to develop a gambling disorder
    o Age 17 years and younger – 40 percent of gamblers started at this age level
  • Approximately 6 percent of college students have a compulsive gambling disorder
  • Estimated 6.4 percent of total gambling addiction happens in Nevada

What Causes Gambling Addiction?

There is no single cause for acquiring this behavioral disorder. Several factors such as environment, biological, substance abuse, and psychological factors contribute to the progression of this addiction.

Here are some of the factors contributing to the development of this disorder.

  • Financial Need: The need and desperation to solve financial instability through this easy money-making method pushes a person to gamble. Gambling is not literally an easy means to earn money as it requires a lot of analysis and mind-reading. However, it’s the easiest way to earn huge cash in a short span of time.
  • The Thrill And Social Interaction: Gambling uses skills such as analysis, psychology, and intuition. Most gamblers are into this activity because of the adrenaline rush of having an advantage over others and winning the game. Similar to substance abuse, it gives them that addictive reward feeling of being smarter than the other players. Likewise, the social interaction among gamblers and the sense of belonging enable one to develop this behavior.
  • Influence: It has always been proven that nurture is greater than nature. The exposure of a person to gamblers and gambling activities poses a higher chance of acquiring this addiction. This starts with curiosity and asking for information which later leads to action. As the person engages in the activity, the individual unknowingly gets accustomed to the reward feeling and thrill associated with gambling.
  • Substance Abuse: There are several cases that support the link between substance abuse and gambling addiction. The majority of the people with compulsive gambling disorder also have issues with alcohol abuse. The euphoric feeling from substance abuse is further magnified by the adrenaline derived from gambling. Likewise, most people with substance abuse disorder have the motivation to earn more cash in order to buy addictive substances.
  • Depression: This is related to the thrill a person experiences from gambling. People suffering from depression particularly due to the financial crisis are pushed to do this activity in order to temporarily forget about it. Likewise, one sees gambling as a quick way to solve monetary problems.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction?

Here are the common signs and symptoms to observe in a person suffering from compulsive gambling disorder.

  • Being secretive about one’s gambling activities and behavior.
  • Most of the time, the person thinks and talks about gambling.
  • Inability to control gambling habits. Spending more money and time on it.
  • The person bets more money in order to win back the losses.
  • Restlessness and irritability when someone stops their gambling activities
  • Gambling even without enough money to bet

What are the Negative Effects of Gambling Addiction?

Like substance abuse, this behavioral disorder disrupts the various aspects of a person’s life.

Physical Effects

A person with this addiction tends to undermine one’s health due to the development of depression and anxiety from frequent losses. The person gets too focused on getting back financial losses which leads to sleeplessness.

Common physical negative impacts of this disorder:

  • Dark circle under the eyes
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Pale skin
  • Skin-related diseases from lack of sleep such as acne
  • Hypertension
  • Heart problems
  • Ulcer

Social Effects

This addiction also impairs the gambler’s social communication skills, particularly with families and friends. Here are some lists of the common social impacts of gambling addiction.

  • Gambler’s relationship towards family and friends become farther as one tends to use them only for bailouts
  • Dysfunctional family relationship considering people with this addiction resorts to verbal and physical abuse to other family members
  • Around 23 percent of spouses and 17 percent of children experience physical and verbal abuse from family members with this disorder
  • An estimated 24 percent of divorce cases are accounted for partners with gambling addiction

Economic Effects

The economic impacts of gambling affect two major subjects: the individual or gambler and the country. For the country or government, gambling gives more positive impact as more revenue from taxes is collected. Aside from that, other benefits delivered to the government include progressive tourism, appraisal of real estate values, and job creation for casino and gambling establishments.

However, despite those benefits, gambling addiction hurts the gambler the most. Below are some of the negative economic impacts of this disorder.

  • The gambler falls into great debt and bankruptcy
  • Inability to control expenses
  • Loss of job and financial instability

Behavioral Effects

Pathological gambling has several consequences for the behavior of an individual. The loss of direction and discipline due to this disorder is the main reason for the following behavioral consequences:

  • Elevated anxiety and depression levels
  • Intense guilt and shame
  • Higher chance of deceiving others
  • Pathological lying
  • 1 to 3 percent of the total gambling population develops bipolar disorder and schizophrenia
  • Impulsive decision-making trait
  • Higher risk for substance abuse such as alcohol drinking, smoking and use of illicit substances
  • 20 percent of people with a gambling addiction resort to suicidal behavior

What are some treatments for Gambling Addiction?

There are several ways to prevent and treat gambling addiction but the first step one must do is to recognize the existence of the disorder. In order to prevent and treat this problem, here are some methods one can adopt and follow.

Positive Recreational Activities for Boredom and Stress

Instead of resorting to gambling, one has several healthier options to do in order to cope with negative emotions and boredom. These activities can be going to the gym, cycling, jogging, hanging out with friends, or doing yoga.

Maintain open communications with Families and Friends

Oftentimes, people in pain or emotional distress resort to substance abuse and gambling whenever there’s no one to talk and give advice. It’s better if one seeks a family member and a friend to talk to whenever things go south. Being able to talk to someone about problems and stress helps a person unload the burden and solicit insightful advice.

Joining Support Groups

If one is far from family and doesn't have friends yet, better consult professional help and ask if there’s a self-help support group near the community. Getting involved in this kind of group helps one get meaningful advice and insights from people who share the same problem.


Always secure prescription drugs for this problem from licensed medical personnel and never do self-medication as it always ends badly. Ensure as well that the prescription drugs are bought from a pharmacy or any reliable outlet.