What you should know about gambling addiction

Whether they do it for the thrill or in the hope of winning quick cash, almost 50% of the people in Britain gamble. This worrying piece of news, reported by the Gambling Commission, sheds light on a dangerous trend that affects individuals and their families and reveals new gambler behaviors that psychologists are trying to analyze in order to combat problem gambling. In the UK, an estimated 600,000 people are classified as problem gamblers and only 1% of them receive the appropriate treatment. On the one hand, this happens because problem gambling is harder to spot compared to other forms and addition and, on the other hand, because problem gamblers are sceptikal towards seeking help. Nevertheless, gambling addiction is a serious medical and social concern that needs addressing.

Gambling addiction overview

  • In the United Kingdom, a whopping £7 billion is gambled every year
  • Only 5% of problem gamblers admit to being addicted. At the same time, 67% of the British people interview believe that gambling is a normal activity and that they should do it whenever they please
  • The most popular gambling options chosen by the Brits are slot machines, sports betting, land-based casinos, and poker.
  • Although in the past men were more likely to gamble, nowadays the involvement is almost equal: 53% men and 44% women.
  • Online gambling is becoming increasingly popular. More than half of British gamblers gamble at home, using their smartphones or laptops, but only a small percentage of them have read the terms and conditions of online casinos and gambling websites. Moreover, sometimes such websites are not well-trusted and can steal your personal information, that is why UK government says to ban credit cards for online gambling to protect all the game lovers. Most of them became online gamblers because of social media posts or online ads. Experts say that online gambling can be more dangerous because most bookmakers have minimum bets or fund withdrawal limits.

The signs and symptoms of gambling disorder can be very subtle at first and only the people who are closest to the problem gambler may notice a change in behavior. The most notable signs to watch out for include:

  • A compulsive need to gamble, constantly thinking of how to win more or checking on online gambling sites very often.
  • Hiding the gambling problem from family members, making up excuses for the money lost in casinos
  • Experiencing anxiety, anger, and frustration when trying to stop gambling. Just like drugs and alcohol, gambling creates addiction by stimulating the brain’s reward system, so problem gamblers experience the same difficulties as those who are trying to quit drinking.
  • Chasing losses – gambling, even more, to cover for gambling losses
  • Engaging in illegal activities to get money for gambling
  • Risking the family’s financial wellbeing to get gambling money, sacrificing valuable possessions or even one’s job for gambling.

Medical issues associated with gambling addiction

Gambling addiction doesn’t only jeopardize an individual’s family, job and social life, but also their health. Problem gambling is a recognized disorder that, left untreated, can have serious medical repercussions such as poor general health, depression, and anxiety. In fact, as much as 60% of problem gamblers also struggle with depression and 13% have tried to commit suicide. Because people suffering from mental issues such as bipolar disorder, ADD/ADHD or OCD are at higher risk of becoming problem gamblers, this activity can cause a worsening of their symptoms.