Signs of Gambling Addiction

Oct 7, 2023

Gambling can be an enjoyable recreational activity for many, but for some, it spirals into a destructive addiction that wreaks havoc on their lives. Recognizing the signs of gambling addiction is crucial to provide help and support to those in need. 

From persistently gambling despite severe consequences to experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not betting, these indicators can serve as warning signals. Additionally, gambling addiction disrupts daily life, triggers defensiveness, causes feelings of guilt, and results in erratic mood swings.

With online gambling becoming more prevalent, it may be harder to recognize when a person is in the throes of addiction. 

Understanding these signs is essential not only for individuals who may be struggling with gambling addiction but also for their friends and family who can play a crucial role in offering assistance and guidance. By shedding light on these warning signs, there can be early intervention to help those affected regain control of their lives.

Gambling Addiction Signs

Gambling addiction is a serious mental health disorder that can have devastating consequences. It can be difficult to spot and identify the signs of a gambling addiction, but there are certain behaviors and warning signs that may indicate a problem.

The most common sign of gambling addiction is excessive preoccupation with wagering activities. Someone suffering from this disorder will often think about gambling all the time. Other signs include:

Obsession – Unable to Stop Gambling

When it comes to gambling addiction, one of the most prevalent signs is an obsession with the activity. If someone obsesses over gambling and finds themselves unable to stop participating in such activities, it could be a sign that they are dealing with a gambling addiction.

People who have a gambling problem may find themselves spending hours at the casino or online betting even after they have run out of money. One study found that individuals who live within 10 miles of a casino have a 90% increased chance of becoming a problem gambler.

Hiding or Lying about Gambling

Hiding or lying about gambling can be one of the most obvious signs of a gambling addiction. People who are addicted to gambling may try to hide their habit from family, friends, and loved ones. They may lie about where they’ve been or how much money they’ve spent while gambling. They may also try to make excuses for why they can’t pay bills on

Gambling Despite Consequences

One of the most telling signs of gambling addiction is the continued pursuit of gambling despite facing significant negative consequences. This can include mounting debts, strained relationships, job loss, and legal issues. Studies show that divorce rates for problem gamblers were around 40% and were around 53% for pathological gamblers.  

A person with a gambling addiction may rationalize their behavior, believing that the next big win will solve all their problems. This obsession with gambling often leads to a vicious cycle of financial and emotional turmoil, making it crucial to recognize this sign early on to seek help and support.

Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms When Not Gambling

Withdrawal symptoms are not limited to substances like drugs or alcohol; they can also occur in gambling addiction. When a person addicted to gambling tries to cut down or quit, they may experience restlessness, irritability, anxiety, and strong cravings. These symptoms can be so distressing that they drive the individual back to gambling to relieve them. Recognizing these withdrawal symptoms is vital for identifying a gambling problem and seeking appropriate treatment.

Dysfunction in Their Daily Lives

A hallmark of gambling addiction is the disruption it causes in an individual's daily life. This can manifest as neglecting responsibilities at work or home, skipping important commitments, and neglecting personal hygiene or health. The preoccupation with gambling often takes precedence over all other aspects of life, leading to a downward spiral of dysfunction and chaos.

One survey of the spouses of compulsive gamblers showed 50% were verbally or physically abused by their spouses.

Defensive About Gambling

People with a gambling addiction may become defensive or secretive about their gambling activities. They might get evasive when asked about their gambling habits or become irritable when the topic is brought up. This defensiveness stems from shame, guilt, and the fear of judgment. Friends and family members should be cautious about this behavior and approach their loved ones with empathy and understanding to encourage open communication.

Stealing or Unlawful Behavior

In severe cases of gambling addiction, individuals may resort to stealing or engaging in unlawful activities to finance their gambling habits. They might embezzle money from their workplace, borrow excessively from friends and family, or engage in illegal activities to obtain funds. These actions not only perpetuate their addiction but also increase the risk of legal consequences.

Guilt or Remorse After Gambling

After a gambling binge, individuals with a gambling addiction often experience intense feelings of guilt and remorse. They may recognize the harm they are causing themselves and their loved ones but find it challenging to break free from the cycle. These feelings can lead to a vicious cycle where they gamble to escape their guilt, perpetuating the addiction further.

Mood Swings

Mood swings are a common sign of gambling addiction. As individuals experience the highs and lows associated with gambling wins and losses, their emotional state becomes unstable. They may exhibit irritability, depression, anxiety, and even euphoria, depending on their gambling outcomes. These mood swings can strain relationships and contribute to a cycle of emotional turmoil, making it important to address the underlying gambling problem to achieve emotional stability.

What to Do if You or a Loved One has a Gambling Problem

Recognizing the signs of gambling addiction is the first step towards addressing this destructive issue. If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of these signs, it's important to seek help promptly. There are various avenues for assistance, including professional counseling, support groups, and helplines dedicated to gambling addiction. Family and friends can also provide vital support by encouraging open conversations and offering understanding without judgment.

While this is no cure for gambling addiction, recovery from gambling addiction is possible, but it requires commitment and a willingness to change. By seeking help and support, individuals can break free from the grip of addiction, rebuild their lives, and regain control over their financial and emotional well-being. Don't hesitate to reach out – there are compassionate resources available to guide you or your loved one towards a healthier, happier future, free from the burden of gambling addiction.


Compulsive gambling - Symptoms & causes - Mayo Clinic

Study Ties Risk of Problem Gambling with Proximity to Casinos and Other Gambling Opportunities - University at Buffalo

The concerned significant others of people with gambling problems in a national representative sample in Sweden – a 1 year follow-up study - PMC

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