Shining a Light on Gambling: The Hidden Addiction

What does problem gambling look like?

“Problem gambling, also known as gambling addiction or gambling disorder, occurs when a person is unable to resist impulses to gamble and continues to gamble despite harmful consequences. Gambling disorder is classified as an addiction and its essential features include loss of control over gambling, preoccupation with gambling, increasing need to bet more money, and an inability to stop or cut back gambling. In severe cases, gambling disorder can result in financial ruin, legal problems, loss of career or family, and even suicide.” 

It is important to understand that gambling addiction impacts many aspects of the problem gambler’s life.  This includes the immense pressures that financial losses can bring about. Gambling can also result in time spent away from family and friends, a loss of interest in life activities, and an increased tolerance towards gambling (e.g., the need to bet more to gain the same excitement that was previously felt). The gambler will often feel compelled to lie and manipulate to conceal the extent of the gambling behaviors or losses. 

Looking at the impact of gambling on one’s mental health is critical because the negative impacts of gambling may challenge one’s ability to regulate emotions and mood, and limit one’s ability to disengage from a negative addictive cycle.  An increase in feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, and depression can push one into greater isolation wherein gambling becomes the only focus, and the cycle begins again.  

Getting treatment to break the cycle of addictive behavior is essential to regain a sense of wellbeing in one’s life.  It is important to remember that addiction thrives in isolation. It is connection and relationships that make positive life change possible.  Reach out and make change a part of your life.

[1] McCown G., William and Howatt A., William: Treating Gambling Problems: Copyright 2007, John Wiley & Sons., Inc., Pages 4-6 

[2] Training material for CalGets Gambling addiction provider program “Individualized Treatment for Problem Gamblers.”