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Gambling addiction signs and symptoms

Whilst gambling can be an enjoyable activity in moderation, some people can find it hard to control their gambling behaviour. When gambling begins to take over a person’s life and negatively affects their ability to function on a daily basis, they may begin to notice that they are experiencing a range of negative symptoms that are indicative of a harmful gambling addiction.

Furthermore, gambling addiction, also known as ‘problem gambling’, ‘compulsive gambling’ or ‘pathological gambling’, can be exacerbated if an individual is also struggling with a substance addiction alongside their gambling addiction. For example, an individual who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, is likely to have poor impulse control, and as a result, is more likely to continue to engage in destructive gambling behaviours, despite the damage that this causes.

As well as there being a range of symptoms that are associated with gambling addiction, this condition can also cause a wide array of negative long-term problems, including financial difficulties and relationship breakdowns. If you are struggling with a gambling addiction, it is important to know that you are not alone and that expert, comprehensive treatment is available. Our addiction specialists at Manor Clinic are able to provide tried and tested treatment for your pathological gambling, as well as any other co-occurring addictions that you are experiencing, helping you to reduce your symptoms and achieve positive mental wellbeing.

What are the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction?

The individual signs and symptoms of gambling addiction can differ from person to person and also depend on the type of gambling activity that an individual is engaging in. However, the following are all signs that a harmful gambling addiction may be present.

Behavioural and social symptoms of gambling addiction:

  • Continuing to gamble even when you don’t have the money to do so. Gambling addicts may resort to gambling away their inheritance or life savings, or re-mortgaging their house in order to place more bets. Other financial matters are put-off or ignored
  • Gambling with increasing amounts of money and in a more risky manner, in order to experience the natural ‘high’ that you seek
  • Making repeated unsuccessful attempts to reduce your gambling behaviours
  • Continuing to gamble even after suffering negative consequences as a result of your behaviours
  • Continuing to gamble even after significant financial losses, in an attempt to regain your lost money
  • Gambling for longer than you had planned to – finding that once you've started to gamble, you lose control and feel compelled to keep betting until you've spent your last pound
  • Lying or being dishonest about your gambling behaviour
  • Experiencing problems at work as a result of your gambling
  • Selling your possessions, borrowing or even stealing money for the purpose of gambling
  • Preoccupation with gambling and gambling-related activities, meaning that you lose interest in other activities, hobbies and aspects of your life that were once important to you
  • Constantly thinking about and planning ways to regain losses and obtain more money for gambling
  • Denial that you have a problem with gambling, or believing as though you have your gambling under control
  • Experiencing relationship problems as a result of your gambling behaviour

Psychological symptoms of gambling addiction:

  • Anxiety
  • Constantly feeling nervous and ‘on edge’
  • Restlessness, especially when trying to cut down on gambling
  • Anger and irritability
  • Impatience
  • Intense mood swings
  • Defensiveness
  • Poor judgement
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Insomnia
  • Finding it difficult to track the passage of time when you are gambling
  • Using gambling to relieve stress
  • Exacerbation of any existing mental health problems

Gambling addiction can also lead to a range of physical complaints including:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lack of appetite, leading to weight loss

What are the long-term effects of gambling addiction?

Whilst pathological gambling may not seem to be as severe a problem as substance addictions or other mental health conditions, in reality, it can cause a variety of serious negative consequences if it is not addressed promptly and effectively. Some of these negative long-term consequences may include:

  • Relationship breakdowns
  • Social isolation
  • Poor physical health
  • Low self-esteem
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Severe financial difficulties
  • Homelessness
  • Legal problems, including arrest and imprisonment, as a result of forgery, embezzlement, or other criminal activity
  • Suicidal thoughts and impulses

This page was reviewed by Sarina Wheatman (FDAP) in November 2019 and is scheduled to be reviewed again in November 2021.

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