What Are the Warning Signs of a Gambling Disorder?

Gambling is a form of entertainment in which people wager money, often with the hope of winning something of value. It can be fun for most, but for some it becomes a dangerous addiction. People gamble for a variety of reasons, such as the thrill of winning money, socialising or escaping from boredom or stress. It is easy to forget that gambling is a risky activity and can lead to financial crisis, especially for those who don’t manage their finances well. If you are unsure whether your gambling is becoming a problem, you can get help and support from organisations that offer gambling support, counselling and treatment.

The brain chemically changes when you gamble, and there are a number of warning signs that you may have a gambling disorder. These include:

Often, people who have a gambling problem do not recognize their condition as a problem because they are unable to judge the true cost of their gambling. They can also hide their activities and lie about their spending habits to cover up their addiction. They might even become depressed or suicidal when their gambling takes over their lives.

In some communities, gambling is considered a common pastime, and this can make it harder to recognise a problem. In addition, people may have shared thoughts and values around gambling which can affect their views on what is acceptable behaviour and what constitutes a problem.

Many people start to gamble as a way of relieving unpleasant emotions, such as loneliness, anger or sadness. But, as with drugs, gambling can be addictive and it’s important to learn healthier ways of dealing with these feelings. You could try exercise, talking to friends who don’t gamble or meditating.

Some people can walk away from a game of poker or a spin on the slot machine after just a few rounds, but others are unable to control their urges and they continue to gamble until they lose everything they have. To stop this from happening, you can take steps to remove temptation by not keeping credit cards in your home, putting someone else in charge of your money, closing online betting accounts and only carrying a small amount of cash with you.

Several factors contribute to the development of a gambling addiction, including genetic predisposition, poor understanding of random events, impulsivity, use of escape coping and stressful life experiences. There is a strong link between gambling problems and suicide and depression, so you should seek help if you think you may have one of these issues. You can find more information about how to get help and support by visiting our Safeguarding courses and contacting the organisations listed. For more urgent and emergency support, you can call 999 or visit your nearest A&E department. You can also speak to a debt advisor at StepChange for free and confidential advice. You can also visit our Mental Health Courses to learn more about how mental illness and substance abuse can impact your life.