All About Gambling Addiction: Should You Be Worried?


Why is gambling addictive?

From a scientific point of view, gambling issues can dramatically affect the way our brain sends chemical messages. Placing a bet stimulates the brain’s reward system much like drugs or alcohol. Problem gamblers experience dopamine releases of up to 10 times the normal amount as their bodies develop tolerance to natural dopamine levels. The gambling addict’s brain becomes conditioned to want more and more stimulation each time before triggering a rewarding pleasurable feeling. Experts believe that most compulsive gamblers have psychological or genetic predispositions that make them prone to addiction.

How can you tell if someone has a gambling problem?

Are you worried that someone close to you has a gambling problem, but you don’t know what to look for? While gambling behaviour is often very well hidden, learning about gambling addiction symptoms can help you decide whether you should take action to help a friend or family member. Be on the lookout for changes in the gambler’s finances, mood swings, and the way they spend their time.

In addition to money missing from bank accounts, financial warning signs include taking out loans, failing to pay bills, keeping food cupboards bare, and selling valuables and other household items.

Behavioural signs include low performance at work, being withdrawn from social events, seeming upset for no reason, feeling depressed or frustrated, and trying to control or manipulate others. 

In addition to spending more and more time gambling, a problem gambler may also be secretive about frequent absences, take a lot of sick days or time off, and run late even for important commitments. 

Is gambling a mental illness?

When discussing the effects of gambling in the context of mental health, it’s important to understand the difference between sensible players and problem gamblers. People gamble for a variety of reasons – such as the adrenaline high, the competitive element, the potential financial reward, or an escape from stress and other worries. All of us have different genetic and psychological predispositions for developing addictions. While playing casino games or betting moderately is not a problem for most people, excessive gambling can eventually turn into a disorder and can be harmful to mental health.

How can I stop a gambling addiction?

More than 2% of the world’s population either have gambling problems or have experienced hardships associated with this type of addiction. If you are looking for advice on how to avoid gambling, we suggest you start with learning about the disorder to understand it better. Given that a single approach won’t work for everyone, experts suggest a combined approach to help you or someone you care about avoid or recover from an addiction. In addition to learning about the problem, you could also join a support group, avoid temptation, think about the consequences, find alternatives to gambling, and seek professional help.

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