Nowadays, players have access to gambling no matter where they are, how much they earn, and what devices they have. Games of chance can be found in land-based casinos, at gambling sites, and even mobile applications. It became extremely simple to gamble no matter wherever you are. Erased borders, affordability, and a big number of payment methods make gambling very common and increase the number of users who experience discomfort or even addiction when playing.
In the US alone, 2.6% of citizens have gambling issues. The rates are similar in other parts of the world which means that compulsive gambling should be treated with full seriousness and attention. That is why it becomes of vital necessity to understand the importance of responsible gambling and our guide will tell you about the following issues:
- WHAT gambling addiction is and the main phases it consists of.
- HOW to prevent the development of gambling addiction.
- WHERE to seek help.
Gambling Addiction Definition
Gambling addiction which is also referred to as gambling disorder or compulsive gambling is an urge to play casino games even when this activity has a negative impact on a player’s life. It is one of the most wide-spread control disorders in the modern world.
There is a common misconception that gambling addiction refers only to players who can’t control the habit. However, many people have a gambling problem but still can partially control the impulse to make a bet or two. They often don’t see the problem until it turns into an addiction. That is why it is crucial to be aware of the symptoms and detect them at an early stage.
4 Phases of Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction doesn’t develop overnight. It takes time and goes through several stages, each of which has its own distinguishing features. If you want to detect the problem as early as possible or to understand the behaviour of compulsive gamblers, the four gambling addiction phases below will be rather informative.
- The winning stage
- Rather often, an addiction starts to develop after a significant win. Players increase their bets hoping to win more. They dream about winning and are more optimistic about earning than regular players. However, many bettors skip this stage and start with the next one.
- The losing stage
- During the second phase, the expected winnings don’t come and players are becoming more gloom. They spend most of the time thinking about gambling and how they can return the losses. Their behaviour significantly changes. They borrow money, cover up their activities, and lie even to the closest ones. Rather often, relationships with family members, friends, and colleagues worsen.
- The desperation stage
- The desperation stage begins when a gambler is using all the possible means to pay debts, no matter whether they are legal or illegal. Players feel depressed and may even be suicidal but still believe that the big win will solve all the problems.
- The hopelessness stage
- The final stage leads to serious consequences like alcohol and drug addiction, divorce, losing a job, or arrest. Gamblers no longer care about the debts and don’t believe that they can win. Some of them commit suicide.
Main Signs & Symptoms of Problem Gambling
Compulsive gambling is a problem with many signs and symptoms, so rather often it becomes difficult to notice that you or a close person is experiencing any issues. However, most commonly pathological gambling manifests in several of the symptoms listed below:
- Thinking about gambling all the time: whether about past experiences and winnings or about where to find money to play.
- Multiple unsuccessful attempts to quit betting.
- Become aggressive or irritated when something or someone stands on their way to gambling.
- Playing to reduce stress, anxiety, and other negative states.
- Playing to escape problems whether at work or in personal life.
- Gambling to return the previous losses no matter how big they are.
- Borrowing or stealing money to play, committing a crime.
- Losing a job, education, or relationships because of gambling.
- Lying to loved ones to cover-up the habit or to justify the behaviour.
- Requiring more money to feel the same thrill they did before.
- Neglecting hobbies and relationships to gamble.
Remember, this list of symptoms itself is not enough to diagnose the disorder. The best way to deal with the problem effectively and on time is to turn for professional help. A gambling disorder diagnosis requires four of the above symptoms or more and can be established only by a specialist.
Gambling Addiction Causes
It is still unclear what exactly causes compulsive gambling but researchers and doctors agree that most likely this sort of addiction develops due to a combination of three factors: genetic, biological, and environmental. Below we will discuss some of the most common causes of gambling addiction but everything is individual and if you want to find the reason, it is better to contact a specialist.
- Mental health problems. Compulsive gamblers often have concomitant diseases. For example, anxiety, depression, or abuse issues. Rather often gambling addiction is linked to ADHD and bipolar disorders. Some studies show that gambling problems often occur in players with an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Gender. Gambling addiction is more common among men. But recently the situation started to change and even though women usually start gambling at an older age, they may get addicted faster. The difference in the number of male and female compulsive gamblers is shortening.
- Age. The occurrence of this problem is more common among youngsters and people of middle age. The risk of developing an addiction sky-rocks if people start gambling at a young age. But this doesn’t mean that other age groups are not affected by the problem.
- Certain traits of character. Impulsive and disorganized people who are not active socially, are prone to experience problems with gambling.
- Influence of the surrounding. It is not a secret that the surrounding has a big impact on us. That is why if your friends or relatives gamble or have other addictions, you risk developing the same problem.
- Medications. Dopamine agonists which are used for treating Restless Legs Syndrome, hyperprolactinemia, and a few other states, have proven to boost compulsive behaviours including risky gambling.
Even though problems with gambling usually occur as a combination of several factors above, there are states which are able to increase the possibility of developing an addiction. These risk factors include mood swings, schizophrenia, alcohol and drug addiction, and low serotonin levels. People who had big wins in the past, have money issues, or have gone through a job loss or divorce, are also at a higher risk of becoming compulsive gamblers.
Ways to Stop Gambling Addiction
Most players think that compulsive gambling is a problem that won’t affect them. However, they should always be alarmed and pay attention to the symptoms discussed in this article. If you already feel the signs of gambling addiction, you should take instant measures. For example:
- Admit to yourself that you have an addiction. It’s impossible to solve a problem if you don’t want to recognize it.
- Identify what your gambling triggers are. They may be stress, boredom, anger, etc.
- Join support groups and forums where people with similar problems share their thoughts and help each other.
- Plan your day beforehand to escape boredom and spend less time at home or on your phone. Thus, you won’t be tempted to play.
- Download apps that block gambling sites. For example, Gamban blocks all your devices and you can’t play at online casinos.
- Find things that help you reduce stress: sports, painting, singing, hanging out with friends, reading, and other interesting things. You can also remember long-forgotten hobbies.
- Turn for professional help. Remember, it is always better to contact professional organizations that have experience helping compulsive gamblers. A list of such organizations you will find below.
Protection Of Minors
The problem of gambling at a young age is on the agenda, as more and more people start playing at an early age. Unfortunately, youngsters and teenagers often don’t understand the related harm, are more prone to impulsive decisions, and may use the money of their parents or other adults. That is why every country has its own requirements concerning the legal gambling age.
In most countries, you should be at least 18 years old to play at an online casino. For example, in the UK, South Africa, and Australia. New Zealanders can enter a casino when they turn 20 years old and players from Ireland must be at least 21 years old. US players should also be 21 years but Idaho, Alaska, Wyoming, and Minnesota allow gambling since the age of 18.
To ensure that players are of the legal age, online casinos should check and verify their identities by requesting photos of a personal document. For example, ID, passport, or driving license.
Tips for Responsible Gambling
If you want to enjoy gambling without the fear of losing control or are willing to help people who may be potential compulsive gamblers, read the list of tips below:
- Remember that gambling should be a fun pastime and not a way to make money.
- Let go of your losses easily.
- Don’t increase wagers hoping to return the losses.
- Never gamble when you are feeling anxious, lonely, or depressed.
- Don’t gamble after consuming alcohol or other addictive substances.
- Set money limits. I.e. the sum you are ready to spend without any harm to the budget.
- Set time limits and take breaks. Even if you are on a winning spree, leave the table when the time is up.
- Understand how games work before choosing a particular one.
- Get familiar with all the terms and conditions to avoid hidden fees and requirements that motivate players to gamble and wager more than they intended.
- Don’t think that gambling strategies will ensure your winnings. In most cases, gambling is pure luck.
- Be ready to lose and remember that casinos always have an advantage.
- Use applications that block access to gambling websites.
- Find a balance between gambling and real-life activities.
- Never borrow money trying to return the money you have lost.
The last but not the least tip which deserves a separate paragraph is responsible gambling measures. The gambling market is tightly monitored and regulated, and reliable online casinos do their best to take care of the players. That is why they offer different instruments to protect the most vulnerable ones. These measures may include setting money and time limits, and self-excluding from the platform for a certain period of time. If you don’t find this information on the casino’s homepage, contact the support team and ask how the platform promotes responsible gambling.
Compulsive gambling is a serious condition that may lead to irreversible consequences. It is very insidious because the symptoms are not always clear and rather often players simply can’t notice them. That is why in our guide we have collected the most important and useful information to raise awareness about the problem and the ways to handle it.
If you notice that you or your loved ones require help with addiction, it is important to reach out to specialists and organizations mentioned above who will assist in detecting the problem and finding the most effective treatment plan.