Responsible Gambling

As gambling becomes globally popular by the day, a growing number of people must deal with the terrible consequences. Gambling can quickly go from being a fun and harmless hobby to an unhealthy obsession with serious repercussions before you know it. Whether you bet on video slots, poker, roulette, or live sports, gambling addiction can be detrimental to your mental, financial, and social status.

Whether they’re broke or flush, happy or sad, feeling high or low, compulsive gamblers tend to ignore the side effects and keep at it against all odds. Gambling addiction can often lead to more severe mood disorders like unmanaged ADHD, depression, stress, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Read on to find more about signs of gambling addiction types, ludomania causes and negative effects, and more.

What is Gambling Addiction?

According to medical professionals, gambling addiction or ludomania is a disorder of impulse control in which a person wagers at the expense of their personal, financial, and social lives. There are three major types of gambling addiction. Let’s talk about each in a bit more detail.

▶️Problem Gambling

Any out-of-control gambling behaviour that disrupts your routine is classified as problem gambling. It can be something as simple as spending more money and time on wagering, chasing losses, gambling despite serious backlashes from friends, family, or close ones, and more.

Problem gamblers aren’t able to control their behaviour. They might not be involved in illegal gambling practices but are incapable of leading a normal life. Problem gambling is the first phase of more serious gambling addiction. Recognising the symptoms in this stage can prevent things from getting out of hand.

▶️Compulsive Gambling

Compulsive gambling or gambling disorder is the overpowering urge to continue wagering despite the toll on your private, financial, or social lives. Compulsive gamblers tend to risk everything of real value in their lives in the hopes of achieving something greater in return. Needless to say, the false notion leads to several negative consequences.

And compulsive gambling is a serious condition that destroys lives. Compulsive gamblers tend to continue chasing losses leading to accumulated debts, depleting savings and might resort to theft to support their addiction. Compulsive gamblers are easily irritated and restless when they’re not gambling.

▶️Binge Gambling

Binge gamblers don’t have a fixed gambling pattern. They wager periodically and lose self-control during each session. Binge gamblers can abstain for long periods only to relapse without prior indications or warnings. They can self-exclude once the urge is over, but there are no guarantees of how long they’ll stay clean.

Binge gambling can have personal, psychological, professional, physical, and social repercussions on individuals. Common treatment procedures include therapy, medication, and self-help groups. It is an advanced stage of gambling addiction and requires patience and perseverance to overcome.

Signs of Gambling Addiction

Recognising the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction can be a struggle since there are no physical clues, like in the case of drug and alcohol addicts. Moreover, habitual gamblers tend to lie and hide their addiction, which makes it increasingly difficult to identify the signs and symptoms in gambling addicts early on. Here are the top ten signs and symptoms of gambling addiction.

Signs of Gambling Addiction
Lie About Your Gambling Habits: Lying about your habits is a clear sign of addiction, and pathological gambling is no different. Addicts will go to any lengths to fuel their obsession and compulsive habits. If you can identify with the pattern, you might be unaware of your addiction.
Gamble Beyond Your Means: Pathological gambling is classified as the inability to control the urge to gamble. Addicts will continue wagering and chasing losses even after losing significant amounts. But despite all that, gambling addicts continue to plunge deeper into the pit of despair.
Borrow and Steal to Fuel Your Addiction: Borrowing money is a common habit for addicts. And they will continue to exhaust every channel like borrowing from friends and family, taking out credit loans, or even a second mortgage. In extreme cases, gambling addicts can steal to fuel their addiction.
Gambling Till you Drop: Gambling addicts will continue to drive up debts until their backs are lined against the wall. People have burnt through their paycheques, life savings, and even their kid’s college funds just to fuel their addiction. Going broke from irresponsible gambling is a serious concern globally.
Constant Urge to Recover Losses: Gambling addicts are often faced with a cognitive disorder called chasing. As the losses begin to mount, gambling addicts are overrun by a false impression that all they need is one more bet to break even. This delusion drives addicts to extreme lengths as they continue to gamble.
Obsessed with Gambling: Pathological gambling consists of impulse disorder and compulsive obsession with betting. The possibility of winning causes anxiety, and that can only be relieved by feeding the obsession. Over time, these obsessive thoughts become invasive and unstoppable.
You’re No Longer Entertained: Gambling is primarily meant for entertainment. So, the minute entertainment ceases to be the only goal; you have a problem on your hands. Most addicts start gambling due to personal reasons – to escape from stress, anxiety, etc. And it never ends well.
Gambling Takes Precedence: There is nothing wrong with gambling in your spare time. But it should not become your daily goal. Preferring gambling over other activities like work, hobbies, or spending time with family or friends is a major red flag and must be nipped at the bud.
Can’t Stop Gambling: Sticking to a bankroll is the primary rule of gambling. The problem begins when players exceed the budget and start spending their savings. Gambling addicts have been known to borrow, steal, and sell possessions to fund their habits.
Your Family and Friends are Constantly Worried Despite being an expert in hiding your gambling habits, your family and friends will eventually get a whiff of your addiction. This might lead to nagging and other serious repercussions. This is a gambler’s cue to accept that they’re addicted and start on the road to getting sober.

Disclaimer

Identifying the symptoms of gambling addiction is one thing and accepting that you’re addicted is quite another. If you identify with one or more of these symptoms, we recommend visiting a therapist or psychiatrist for professional consultation. Self-diagnosis and medication are discouraged since they might have serious side effects.

There are several reputed self-help groups and addiction helplines that offer professional support. We recommend signing up as a sponsor to improve the odds of getting clean sooner.

What Causes Ludomania?

Several reasons can lead to gambling addiction, including biological, social, and circumstantial factors. In most cases, ludomania is caused by a combination of factors that cause a person to lose control and gamble beyond their means. Let’s briefly analyse the major contributing factors.

▶️Biological Factors

Biological factors often lead to chronic brain diseases where the addicts lose control over their senses. Gambling addicts show similar neurological symptoms as the victims of substance abuse. Deficiencies in serotonin and norepinephrine, chemicals linked with stress and happiness, respectively, are sometimes responsible for this obsession.

Since human brains are programmed to coerce us to repeat enjoyable activities like eating, drinking, and socialising, etc., psychologists call this motivated behaviour. Gambling unleashes a similar sensation, which, if left unchecked, can lead to severe addiction. Therefore, if there is a history of gambling addiction in the family, it’s better to stay away from the casino.

▶️Psychological Factors

Gambling addiction is also caused by psychological factors. Indirect reasons like an individual’s approach to gambling may play a role in whether they develop an addiction. Experts believe that Gambler's Fallacy is a rational explanation for compulsive behaviour. For the uninitiated, Gambler’s Fallacy is a false notion that a series of independent events will somehow affect the odds of future events.

For instance, if a fair coin lands on heads five times consecutively, the odds of the next flip landing on tails is still 50%. Gambler’s Fallacy dictates that the coin is more likely to land on tails in the next five turns to make up for the previous results. You must realise how ridiculous that sounds! Addicts, however, refuse to give up on hope, leading them to a deeper hole of losses and despair.

▶️Social Factors

Social factors are the most common cause of gambling addiction since they constitute outside elements that affect a person’s psychological state and behaviour. This problem is usually triggered by stress at home or the workplace. For example, certain people believe that gambling can solve their financial problems. In reality, gambling makes things worse, and we can’t stress this enough.

Gambling should be treated solely as a means of recreation. It can’t be a primary source of revenue unless you’re a professional poker player winning international tournaments. Other social causes include sudden death in the family, complicated relationships, a difficult environment at work, etc. Any or all of these factors can trigger gambling addiction at any time.

▶️Comorbidity

Gambling addicts offer to suffer from psychiatric comorbidity. People with a history of substance use disorders, mood disorders, and psychiatric disorders often develop a gambling addiction. Researchers identified several psychological disorders as risk factors for gambling addicts. Depressive disorders, personality disorders, and anxiety disorders are the top contenders.

According to the Swelogs Case–Control Study research, the association between gambling addiction and psychiatric comorbidity is stronger in women than men. On average, men develop problem gambling symptoms 3 years earlier than women. And all comorbid conditions evolve well before the onset of gambling addiction among women.

Negative Effects of Gambling

There are several negative effects of ludomania, ranging from short-term problems to severe struggles. Let’s take a look at the most common side effects.

On Financial Health

One of the primary side-effects of gambling addiction is a severe financial crisis. A habitual gambler tends to quickly rack up debts, which can wipe out entire life savings and even induce poverty.

Worse still, gambling addicts tend to sell or trade their worldly possessions to fuel their habit. In extreme cases, they can even resort to theft and other extreme measures.

On Mental Health

Gambling addicts tend to suffer from acute mental duress due to a combination of factors. The resulting action of the disorder can have severe, lasting effects on relationships and careers.

Several other factors connected to gambling addiction can develop once an individual’s mental peace is in jeopardy. In extreme cases, compulsive gambling can lead to suicidal tendencies.

On Private and Social Life

A gambling addict isn’t the only one that suffers from the negative effects of addiction. Their near and dear ones, too, must deal with the consequences.

According to several studies, families in which at least one person suffers from gambling addiction are at a higher risk of nurturing child abuse and other forms of domestic violence. Children that grow up amidst such a negative vibe are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and behavioural problems or end up as addicts.

Is Gambling Addiction a Common Problem?

Gambling is very addictive and can easily get out of hand. Since the act of gambling is legal in most places around the world, it’s easy for people to get addicted. Let’s look at a few statistics to understand the extent of the problem.

  • On average, gamblers in New Zealand lose over $5.5 million every day. That amounts to over $2 billion annually. More than half the sum is lost playing pokies.
  • Close to 54,000 New Zealanders gamble at shady venues, while an additional 110,000 run the risk of being duped or developing addiction in the future.
  • 49% of pokie machine regulars will develop some form of gambling addiction at least once.
  • Online gamblers are twice as likely to be at risk of running into some form of gambling-related harm than those that have never wagered online.
  • Over 13% of New Zealanders aged 15 and above took part in online gambling in 2018.
  • 20% of legally aged individuals participate in gambling activities every year.

How to Get Over Gambling Addiction?

Overcoming an addiction isn’t easy, and ludomania is no different. Every gambler is unique, and so there is no fixed strategy that works for all. That’s why we recommend seeking professional help. Several treatment options work depending on the stage of the addiction. The top contenders are

▶️Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

CBT aims at changing gambling behaviours and thoughts like false beliefs and rationalisations. It teaches individuals how to fight urges, solve financial struggles, fix relationships, and get back to work. CBT provides the tools required for fighting addiction and can last a lifetime.

▶️General Counselling

Family therapy, marriage, and career counselling can help people work through various issues created by problem gambling and lay the foundation for repairing relationships and jumpstarting their careers.

▶️Treatment for Underlying Conditions

Underlying conditions like problem gambling, substance abuse, OCD, depression, anxiety, or ADHD can be cured with treatment, counselling, medication, and lifestyle changes. Problem gambling can often occur due to bipolar disorder. Hence, you need professional guidance to diagnose the problem before finding a solution.

How Do You Help Someone Cope with an Addiction?

Copping with gambling addiction is difficult, and the road to recovery is laden with obstacles. So, if a near or dear one is suffering, here are some advice that you can give.

▶️Acknowledge the Problem

The first step on the road to recovery is accepting that there is a problem. Most gamblers fail to see their addiction as a problem, which makes it very difficult to move on to the next step.

While this might seem straightforward, people in advanced stages of problem gambling can have an extremely difficult time beating the enemy. So, unless you’re extremely persistent, regaining control can be quite a challenge.

▶️Identify the Recovery Stages

There are three stages of recovery – critical, rebuild, and growth. In the first stage, you start thinking about what you’ve been doing so far. You realise that your actions have consequences, and you take responsibility for the situation. You stop gambling and start thinking straight.

The next step is rebuilding your life. The process requires making changes to several areas of your life, including personal growth, rebuilding finances, and improving relationships. The third stage is growth. This is where you grab further opportunities to become a better version of yourself.

▶️Learn to Deal with the Addiction

Your friends and family might not always be around for mental support. But that’s hardly an excuse for relapsing. There are several things that you can do to fight the urge.

For starters, limit your access to gambling. This includes signing up for self-inclusion programs, limiting bet sizes and deposits. Rekindle old hobbies or find new ones but be careful not to fall for a new addiction. At the end of the day, gambling isn’t a way of making money. So, the more you wager, the more you lose.

▶️Find a Support Group

Several chat services, helplines, and support groups are available if you want someone to listen to you.

These are extremely helpful as they offer immediate help anytime you feel weak or just want someone to talk to. Psychotherapy, counselling, and professional help can improve the quality of your life. Sign up for an individual therapy session to solve issues, overcome obstacles, create goals, and gain new perspectives. Talking to a therapist can help you:

  • Control gambling urges
  • Identify the negative effects of gambling
  • Accept that you have a gambling addiction
  • Win your battle against problem gambling

▶️How to Reduce the Suicide Rate Among Gambling Addicts?

Gambling addicts are 15-times more likely to commit suicide than the average human. Thus, prompting government bodies to take swift action. If you believe that an individual is capable of committing suicide, keep them under surveillance 24x7. Contact a psychiatrist and get them admitted to a hospital without wasting time.

If an acutely suicidal person refuses to cooperate, restrict their access to lethal means like medication or weapons. Call the Problem Gambling Foundation if things get out of hand.

  • Freephone on 0800 664 262
  • Free text to 5819

If the risk of suicide isn’t imminent, talk to an immediate family member who is responsible for the individual. Several options can reduce suicidal tendencies. Here are the top options that you can consider.

  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or CBT has a proven track record of helping gambling addicts.
  • You can also opt for manual-assisted CBT.
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy and group sessions are also useful for diagnosing borderline personality disorder.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy has been extremely helpful for individuals suffering from intractable suicidal thoughts and treatment-resistant depression.

Once you’ve analysed the immediate risks, focus on the solution.

Alternatives of Gambling

Finding an alternate way of spending time is crucial for overcoming gambling addiction. Most addicts relapse since they fail to find a productive way of spending their free time. Here are a few traits of gambling and substitute activities that you can try.

Alternatives of Gambling
Reason for Gambling Substitute Activities
Gambling is exciting and provides a sudden adrenaline rush. Adventure sports offer a similar kick. Recovering addicts can develop a knack for hiking, climbing, or swimming instead.
Gambling is great for socialising. People can overcome shyness and isolation. Enrolling in a public speaking class, participating in counselling sessions, or joining a social group serves a similar purpose.
Gambling is a great way to keep your mind off unpleasant thoughts. Sign up for therapy, hang out with friends, or find people who’re willing to listen. This will keep your mind off gambling.
Gambling can be relaxing after a hard day’s work. Working out for as little as 15 minutes every day can boost your hormones and help relieve stress. You can also try meditating and a list of breathing exercises to the same effect.
Gambling can pay out beyond your wildest dreams if you hit the jackpot. The problem with gambling is that the odds are always stacked against you. So, instead of relying on luck, find an alternate profession or part-time employment.

There are countless alternatives to gambling if you’re willing to try something new. Here are four substitutes that are excellent for killing time.

Bring Out the Cards

There are several types of card games apart from poker. You can try your hands on rummy, crazy eights, and more. Uno is an excellent substitute if you have a bunch of friends to play with. If not, bring out the smartphone and try playing on an app.

Play Video Games

Video games are just as interesting as gambling but don’t come with financial risks. Get together with friends and play online or find a single-player game that you like. If you have kids, join them. Video games offer an interesting way to spend time with family.

Watch Your Favourite Sport or Series

If you’re not a fan of video games, watch your favourite sport on the telly. Rooting for your favourite side helps alleviate boredom. But you must fight the urge to place a wager. If that seems overpowering, get a Netflix subscription and watch the latest movies and series online.

Ride a Motorcycle

There is no better therapy than burning through a whole tank of gas. While motorcycles are considered risky, it’s not that difficult to stay safe if you follow the basic courtesies of the road.

Myths and Facts About Ludomania

As evident, ludomania can have severe detrimental effects on one’s personal, social, and mental health. Here are the most common myths and facts about gambling.

Myth: Gambling is a money-making opportunity

Fact: More often than not, gambling is an easy way to lose money. Just look at all the examples of gambling addiction on the internet and compare that with the number of lucky winners. The stark disparity in the ratio just proves our point.

Myth: People can predict the outcome of a toss.

Fact: Every coin flip is an independent event. The result doesn’t depend on the previous outcome. Hence, the chance of landing heads is 50% each time and it’s impossible to correctly predict the outcome.

Myth: There are tools to predict winning lottery numbers.

Fact: Your odds of winning are the same irrespective of the numbers you choose. Since the numbers are mixed and rolled in a drum, the selection purely relies on luck.

Myth: Teens don’t fall prey to gambling addiction.

Fact: While it’s true that teens usually gamble with friends as they aren’t allowed inside regulated casinos, several surveys show that 2% of students display signs of gambling addiction.

Myth: You have to gamble every day to be a problem gambler.

Fact: You don’t have to gamble every day to display signs of problem gambling. There are several examples of infrequent gamblers displaying problem gambling behaviour.

Myth: Problem gambling isn’t a problem if the gambler can afford it.

Fact: The extent of gambling problems isn’t limited to financial stress. Excessive expenses can brew problems in relationships, lead to legal hassles, affect mental health, and cause problems in professional life. In severe cases, excessive gambling can cause depression, anxiety, and lead to suicidal thoughts.

Myth: Partners often drive problem gamblers to continue splurging.

Fact: Problem gamblers try to rationalize their inability to quit gambling. And blaming others is the oldest trick in the book. Taking responsibility for one’s actions is often the most difficult thing in the world. And instead of blaming others, gamblers must learn to accept their addiction to overcome the problem.

Myth: Problem gamblers are irresponsible.

Fact: Many problem gamblers hold respectable positions in society. Even people with a long and rich history of being responsible can fall prey to gambling addiction. Hence, even though problem gamblers might initially come across as irresponsible, that might not be the case every time.

Myth: Problem gamblers have a difficult time at home only due to financial reasons.

Fact: While it’s true that money is a major contributing factor in every household, it’s not the number one reason for destroying relationships. Most ex-partners of problematic gamblers say that the lack of trust is what caused their relationship to break down.

Myth: The symptoms of problem gambling can be easily identified.

Fact: Problem gambling is nicknamed “hidden addiction” for a reason. And that reason is that it’s easy to hide and very difficult to spot, unlike drug and alcohol abusers. A majority of problem gamblers either fail to realize that they have a gambling problem or live with self-denial.

Helping Resources for Gamblers

As we mentioned earlier, it’s extremely difficult to fight gambling addiction alone. Luckily, you’re not alone in this war on problem gambling. There are several special services and support groups around the world that are dedicated to helping gambling addicts.

These specialized organizations have the means and the tools to provide immediate help. Hence, addicts are advised to reach out through the helplines anytime they feel overpowered. If you need recommendations, these are our top picks.

Gamblers Anonymous

Gamblers Anonymous is an internationally-acclaimed group of problem gamblers who’ve converged to collectively fight addiction. If you need advice or are simply looking for someone to patiently hear you out, get in touch through the hotline for immediate assistance. Several meetings are held around the world every week. Visit the website and enrol for a local meeting.

Gambling Helpline

Gambling Helpline is a free 24-hour service for people suffering from gambling addiction. If you need help or know someone in need of assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out on the hotline. You don’t have to fight alone. People are willing to help.

Problem Gambling Foundation

The PGF Foundation is a non-profit offering free counselling for problem gamblers and recovering addicts. The team works closely together with gamblers and their families and strives to bring a difference in people’s lives.