What Are the Signs of Gambling Addiction?

Gambling is risking something of value (usually money) on a game of chance that can result in winning or losing. It can include lottery tickets, scratchcards, casino games and betting with friends. It can be a source of enjoyment, socialisation, skill development or even income but when it becomes a problem it can cause serious harm and distress to individuals and families.

Many people enjoy gambling as a form of entertainment, socialising or escape from day to day problems and stress. However, for some people gambling can become addictive. It’s important to understand the signs of gambling addiction and what to do if you’re worried.

The risk and uncertainty of gambling is one of the main factors that causes it to be addictive. Whether you’re placing a bet on the outcome of a coin toss, spin of the roulette wheel or roll of the dice, the chances of losing are always greater than those of winning. The fact that people are more sensitive to losses than gains of equal value also plays a role in the addictiveness of gambling. It means that a small loss triggers a much stronger emotional response than a similar small win, causing people to keep investing more and more money in the hope of recouping previous losses and increasing their chances of winning.

Research has shown that repeated gambling can have a detrimental effect on the brain. It overstimulates the reward system and alters the way that brain chemicals send messages, leading to a reduction in pleasure. It’s also been found that people can become accustom to the feeling of pleasure and need more to experience the same level of happiness. This can lead to a cycle of increased gambling and decreased satisfaction.

It’s not just about the gambling itself though, there are a number of other factors that can cause problems with it, including the social pressure to gamble, the availability of gambling and the ways it is marketed to people. Some people are able to walk away from gambling after playing a few rounds of poker or putting a few coins in a machine, but others can’t. It’s also possible that underlying mental health issues may be to blame.

If you’re concerned about a loved one’s gambling behaviour, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are a number of resources available including treatment programs and support groups. You can also take control of their finances to prevent them from spending more than they can afford, and consider family therapy to address the wider issues that have been created by the problem gambling. You can also look into debt counselling with StepChange to find free, confidential advice and help.