Gambling is certainly fun for many, but that fun starts being something quite different once you begin gambling too much and too often. That’s when it becomes compulsive, and compulsive gambling is described as a form of behavioral addiction. And as you already know, every addiction becomes destructive for both the addicted person and those who care for him or her.
Gambling is very common in the world, especially in the US, where 86% of adults gamble at least once during their lifetime. Naturally, that doesn’t mean that all of them will get addicted. What’s more, very few do, with the current estimates for North America being between 2% and 5% of all gamblers.
This makes gambling addiction rare, but it’s still a real problem for those suffering from it. This form of addiction is based on a psychological postulate called Variable Ratio Reinforcement Schedule — a recognized compulsive system that can affect any person.
With that in mind, it’s very important not to go too far with your gambling habits, just like it is with any other habit or behavior that can turn destructive to your well-being. That’s why we wanted to give you a list of signs that point towards you getting closer to full-blown gambling addiction. It’s better to change your habits before it becomes too late. Many find that the draw of gambling is just too strong to resist which is why self-exclusion programs have become required by law in many countries.
You’re Lying About Your Gambling
One of the main symptoms of all addictions is lying, and the same goes for gambling. The lying usually starts small, but before you know it, it can become very destructive in the sense that the compulsive gambler will do whatever they can to prove to others, and oftentimes themselves, that they don’t have a problem with gambling or that they have lost money in some other manner.
When pathological gamblers start to lie to themselves without even realizing it, it becomes almost impossible to put a stop to the addiction. Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance. People who have this psychological discomfort behave in a manner that’s not normal for them, and this different behavior becomes so prevalent that they have to rationalize it for themselves. As there is no way to justify it, they start lying to themselves, turning that lie into truth in their minds.
It’s important to state that this does not mean such a person is fundamentally bad and a liar; it only means that they have a real psychological issue and that they need help with it. That’s why it’s vital to start noticing this issue sooner rather than later when you can’t even realize you’re suffering from it. So, if you have already begun to lie about your gambling habits, it’s time to stop.
You’re Gambling Until All the Money’s Gone or When You Can’t Afford It
Most people gamble casually. Some gamble more, but if and when they start losing too much money and can’t afford to spend more, people not addicted to gambling simply stop doing it. However, those who keep on gambling until they have no money left, or even past that point, become pathological gamblers. This means that they can’t stop even if they want to.
Thankfully, it takes a very long time to reach this stage, which is why it’s vital to stop in time. As soon as you notice yourself spending more on gambling than you can afford to, it’s time to break the cycle. If you don’t, as time passes, other parts of your life will start to suffer.
Your relationships with other people will deteriorate, especially with your spouse. Your job performance will suffer, and you might eventually lose your job. You’ll start sleeping less and neglect to care for your health. Most importantly, you might even reach the point where you’ll start with illegal activities to earn more money for your gambling habits. So, stop as soon as you notice you’re spending more than you can afford.
You Start Borrowing Money for Gambling
Borrowing money is normal, at least when you really need it. But once you start borrowing money to pay for your gambling habits, that’s when it starts becoming a real problem. This behavior can even become destructive as some people tend to burn through the money they have and start borrowing it from others just to gamble more.
It’s thus vital to stop as soon as you start borrowing any money from others, even if it seems harmless at that particular moment. Remember that this can easily turn into something far more serious if you decide to do it again, and again.
You’re Gambling More to Recover Your Losses
Many gamblers who start gambling more than usual and start to gamble to recover their losses easily start believing that the only way to recover what they have lost is to gamble even more compulsively. Sometimes, this can work, but in other cases, it won’t. Plus, as time passes, you’ll start doing it more often, and it will become a feature of your developing addiction that’s called chasing.
An addicted gambler starts believing that every next bet is the big one, which simply isn’t true. So, to avoid this type of behavior, it’s vital to stop as soon as you start recovering your losses by gambling more.
Your Emotions Are Negatively Affected by Gambling
Gambling is supposed to be fun. What’s more, it’s supposed to be recreational. But when it starts affecting your emotions in a negative manner, that’s when it starts becoming something else.
With compulsive gamblers, the habit masks negative emotions they have, and they start using gambling to escape problems and stressful situations. In time, the gambling activity causes your brain to release the “feel-good” chemicals that the brain usually uses as part of its reward system. In translation, this means that the gambler starts feeling great any time they gamble because the activity itself becomes rewarding in their mind.
It’s thus vital to avoid reaching this stage and to stop gambling once it becomes a way to “fix” the issues you have in your life.
Your Gambling Habit Is Becoming an Obsession
The line between gambling being a fun recreational activity and an obsession is thinner than you think. Yes, it takes time for a habit to become an obsession, but once it does, it can be much harder to stop. As pathological gambling is, in essence, an obsession-compulsion disorder, gambling becomes something that’s much harder to stop.
It’s thus crucial to gamble only as long as it feels like a pass-time activity, not an obsession. That means that you need to stop when you start thinking about past gambling sessions and when you find it harder to think about anything that’s not gambling.
People Who Care About You Say You Have a Problem
All of us have people who care about us, be it friends or family members, or both. When we start having a problem, even if it’s not about gambling, they will eventually notice, and one by one, they’ll tell us that we have a problem.
The same goes for gambling, so when your friends and family members start telling you that you have a problem, then that’s the time you need to stop.
If a person’s gambling habits become an addiction, it’s hard, and in extreme cases almost impossible, to realize that they have a problem. However, others around them can be far more objective, which is why it’s important to trust what they’re saying. That’s why you need to stop gambling as soon as a few of your friends and family members tell you that you have a gambling problem.