Gambling addiction

Gambling Addiction

March is “Problem Gambling Awareness Month”.  The 2017 PGAM theme is “Have the Conversation” – this is to  increase public awareness of  gambling addiction and the availability of prevention, treatment & recovery services.

Gambling addiction is a serious public health issue demanding a comprehensive solution involving not only federal programs but also efforts on the part of states, counties, cities, communities, families, civic groups, the gambling industry, the non-profit sector, professions such as medicine, law, and finance, and other organizations.

Gambling addiction too often is not seen as a public policy issue but rather as a personal or individual problem. New research on gambling addiction has increased awareness about this disorder and the impact it has on our society. Inner cities, suburbs and rural communities – all corners are touched by gambling in these decades. People whom are employed gamble and elders who saved hard earn money are spending in gambling. Gambling problem also occurring amongst youngsters and often rates exceeding that of adults.

What impact gambling has on overall health?

Gambling and smoking: Gamblers have high rates of tobacco use and there is a linear relationship between gambling severity and both smoking frequency and nicotine dependency. Gamblers who smoked daily gambled more days and spent more money than non-daily smokers. They craved gambling more and had lower perceived control over gambling.

Did you know?  Smoking is powerful reinforcement for the trance-inducing rituals associated with gambling.

Gambling and domestic violence:  Domestic violence takes many forms: physical violence, sexual abuse, psychological and emotional abuse, social abuse, financial abuse, harassment and stalking. Survey of 144 spouses of compulsive gamblers found 50% were physically and verbally abused by spouse and 12% had attempted suicide. For many women gambling venues are refuge from violence and gambling becomes a method of escape.

Did you know?  Child neglect is a form of domestic violence. In Indiana 72 children were found abandoned in casino premises in 14 month period (in 2000 alone).

Signs of gambling in youth: Gambling has severe effect on youth’s mental behaviors.

  • Unexplained absences from school
  • Dropping grades
  • Increased family conflict
  • The family suspects alcohol or other drug abuse
  • Asking/taking/stealing money from family friends and strangers
  • Large amounts of money in teen’s possession
  • Gambling language and gambling an important conversational topic
  • Showing off money, clothing, and other possessions
  • Spending an unusual amount of time on the computer (out of parents sight), closing down programs when adults walk into the room, reading newspapers (sports page and stats), magazines, an/or periodicals having to do with sports or online poker sites.
  • Selling personal belongings (theirs and families)
  • Bragging about winnings, Lying, cheating, or stealing in school
  • Exhaustion from lack of sleep
  • Overly invested in performance

Adults gambling facts:  Seniors gamble for social interaction, emotional escape, excitement of living on edge, independence, self esteem and monetary winning episodes (Arizona Compulsive Gambling Council).  Older adults are considered at increased risk due to factors unique to that population, such as loneliness, isolation, physical or mental illness; additionally , in one study of older adults, the most likely  reported motivations to gamble were relaxation, boredom, passing time and getting away for the day (McNeilly & Burke, 2000).

Did you know? Many older adults may not understand addiction, making them less likely to identify a gambling problem; additionally, older adults appear less willing to seek assistance for a gambling problem than younger adults

Family issues: Trust is often the first casualty in the family of the problem gambler. Change in the behavior of the family member is often attributed to many other possible problems before gambling is identified as the problem.

  • Isolation between the gambler and their family generally occurs as their behavior changes.
  • Family Dynamic is dependent on each family member meeting the needs of the others. Problem gambling can destroy the ability of the gambler to do this.
  • Employment can be affected in various ways. The gambler will often neglect responsibilities at work and/or develop an attendance problem as they begin to have less control over their need to gamble
  • Financial security for the family is often lost as the gambler seeks more and more resources with which to gamble.
  • Reputations are difficult to protect as the gambling problem affects more and more aspects of the gambler’s life.
  • Stress is a certain occurrence for all of the family members of the gambler.
  • Neglect of dependents occurs as the gambler losses more and more control of their behavior.
  • Distrust occurs between other family members as the extent of the problem and the extent of financial loss and the ramifications of this become known.
  • Domestic violence may result in a family affected by a member with an addiction problem.
  • Co-occurring disorders such as depression, substance abuse, and other compulsive behaviors often occur as a result of or along with the gambling problem.
  • Children of problem gamblers have a higher probability of developing a gambling problem than those with parents who do not gamble.

Self-help for gambling problems: The biggest step to overcoming a gambling addiction is realizing that you have a problem.

  • Seek help for underlying mood disorders. Depression, stress, substance abuse, or anxiety can both trigger gambling problems and be made worse by compulsive gambling. Even when gambling is no longer a part of your life, these problems will still remain, so it’s important to address them.
  • Learn to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways. When do you gamble -when you are lonely, bored, stressful, arguments? Note down.
  • Strengthen your support network. It’s tough to battle any addiction without support, so reach out to friends and family.
  • Join a support group. Gamblers Anonymous, for example, is a twelve-step recovery program patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous.

How to stop gambling for good?

  • Surround yourself with people to whom you’re accountable
  • Avoid tempting environments and websites
  • Give up control of your finances (at least at first)
  • Find healthier activities to replace gambling
  • Making healthier choices

One way to stop gambling is to remove the elements necessary for gambling to occur in your life and replace them with healthier choices. The four elements needed for gambling to continue are:

  • A decision to gamble: Stop the urge of going for gambling. Refuse gambling.
  • Need money for gambling: Gambling cannot occur without money. Get rid of your credit cards, let someone else be in charge of your money and close online gambling accounts.
  • Giving time for gambling: Don’t give time for gambling!Schedule enjoyable recreational time for yourself that has nothing to do with gambling.
  • Gambling a game: Say No, Tell gambling establishments you frequent that you have a gambling problem and ask them to restrict you from entering. Remove gambling apps from your smart phone and computers.


  • Image credit: Photo by Kay on Unsplash (Free for commercial use)

Author: Sumana Rao | Posted on: March 7, 2017

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