Recognising the Signs of Gambling Addiction

Gambling is the act of risking something of value on an event whose outcome is uncertain with the intent to win a prize, such as money or property. Gambling is often used for recreational purposes and can involve many types of games, including lottery, raffles, blackjack, roulette, and video poker. Some people may also use gambling as a way to relieve boredom or stress. However, if a person becomes addicted to gambling, it can have serious negative consequences.

The human brain is prone to a number of cognitive and motivational biases that can lead to problem gambling. These biases distort the perception of odds and can cause a gambler to lose control. One common bias is the illusory superiority effect, which occurs when an individual feels they are more likely to win than someone else because of their experience or observation. This feeling of superiority can be especially pronounced when the person has observed others winning.

Another bias is the sunk cost fallacy, which causes people to place greater emphasis on current losses than future gains. This can make it difficult for people to stop gambling, even when they are losing. It can also lead to chasing losses, which is when a gambler continues to spend money on the same game in an attempt to recover their previous losses. This is a dangerous behavior because it can lead to financial ruin.

It is important to recognize the signs of gambling addiction. Some of the most common symptoms include:

Experiencing a loss of control, which leads to an inability to control one’s actions; Continuing to gamble in spite of recurring losses; lying to family members or therapists to conceal the extent of the involvement with gambling; stealing or engaging in other illegal acts to finance gambling (including forgery, fraud, embezzlement, or theft); jeopardizing or losing a relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity due to gambling; and spending more time on gambling than on family, friends, work, or other worthwhile activities.

Pathological gambling is now recognised as a psychiatric disorder, and was recently added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is a compulsion similar to substance addiction, and is associated with dramatic alterations in brain chemical signals. Some people may be genetically predisposed to gambling problems and may have underlying mood disorders such as depression or anxiety, which can be made worse by compulsive gambling.

In order to help prevent gambling addiction, it is important to learn healthier ways to cope with unpleasant feelings. These healthy coping mechanisms could include exercising, relaxing, socialising with non-gambling friends, or using hobbies to relieve boredom. It is also important to avoid gambling when you are depressed, upset, or in pain. Finally, it is important to take steps to limit your access to money by closing online betting accounts, letting somebody else be in charge of your finances, and keeping only a small amount of cash on you. You can also seek support from a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12 step recovery model used by Alcoholics Anonymous.