When done in moderation, gambling, for the most part, is a socially acceptable behaviour.
However, when the impulse to gamble can’t be controlled, to the point of hurting oneself or loved ones, problem gambling may turn into compulsive gambling or gambling addiction.
Someone with a gambling addiction may feel the need to visit casinos, bet on sports, gamble online or even buy lottery tickets. The type or frequency of gambling may vary, but an addict will typically be unable to control their behavior. They’ll continue gambling despite negative social, financial, or legal consequences.
Several factors can increase the risk of compulsive gambling. The gambling addict’s brain appears to respond to the act of gambling in the same way the alcoholic brain responds to a drink. This means that as the gambler feeds their habit, their addiction will grow.
While research has shown the majority of gambling addicts to be men, this type of addiction is not uncommon among women.
Below are some characteristic behaviours exhibited by compulsive gamblers:
- Stealing money
- Lying about the gambling habit
- Diminishing relationships and/or friendships
- Avoiding work or other commitments in order to gamble
- Neglecting bills or other payments in order to use the money to gamble
- Selling possessions in order to gamble
- Taking bigger and bigger risks
With the right treatment, gambling addiction is manageable. Unlike someone with a food addiction, a compulsive gambler does not need the object of their addiction to survive. They simply need to learn how to develop a healthy and balanced relationship with money. A program of recovery can assist with impulse control.