Gambling can become a problematic behavior causing many difficulties. This is when it takes the shape of a compulsive habit – it is then called “problem gambling”. It is typically a progressive addiction that implies negative psychological, physical and social repercussions.

Gaming is another popular form of gambling, in fact, it is called so in places where gambling is legal.

Problem gambling is not only a psychological compulsion but is hazardous to physical health as well. Common symptoms of this addiction are depression, migraine, distress, intestinal disorders and other anxiety related concerns. Severe cases have also reported suicide. Stats depict an increase in the rate of problem gambling globally; over the last few years. It has become a significant public health concern in many countries.

What are the signs and symptoms of problem gambling?

Some signs and symptoms of gambling include: craving for gaming, depression, feelings of remorse after gambling, feel the need to bet more money more frequently. Loss of control is signified by continued gambling despite escalating losses. It may even be accompanied by the belief of monetary-recovery.

Increase in financial debt directly related to gambling. Loss of sleep is another prominent feature. The repetitive unsuccessful attempts of stopping gambling represent a true addict. Obsession with game also rises. Stress related problems become prominent – migraines, intestinal disorders etc.

Lack of gambling may make the person restless or irritable as well. Gambling is not a financial problem, but an emotional problem that has financial consequences.

What can trigger problem gambling?

Anyone who gambles can develop problems if they are not aware of the risks and do not practice it responsibly. Early, and consistent, signs of the problem are when finances, occupation and relationships start to suffer.

Gamblers, usually take time to acknowledge the seriousness of the condition. These people are usually considered responsible and dependable. Precipitating factors lead to a change in behavior – retirement, traumatic circumstances, and/or job related stress. Also, people with one addiction are more at risk of developing another.

Alcohol and/or are common features of most gamblers – they have a predisposition for addiction. However, some gamblers have just one point of concern, gambling. Familial history of alcohol and/ or gambling is reported more often than not.

Therefore, family-life is an important determinant. In addition, a person’s genetic tendency to develop addiction and the ability to cope with normal life stress also play roles. The gambling addiction The effect from gambling for a problem gambler is comparable to that of a tranquilizer, a drug, or a drink. Despite no ingestion of substance, the sensation experienced is similar.

The behavior alters the person’s mood and state of mind. The gambler is hooked – behavior is recurrent. The person even builds a tolerance for it. An increase in gambling-activity is necessary. However, the frequency of a person’s gambling does not determine whether or not they have a problem.

Some problem gamblers may only go on periodic gambling binges. The rate of recurrence to the addictive activity, the emotional and financial consequences will be obvious. Problem gambling causes disruptions in any major area in the gambler’s life (psychological, personal, physical, social, professional).

Money-loss may not be the only determinant. Gambling becomes a problem when it causes a negative impact on any significant area of the individual’s life. Research indicates that a significant number of problem-gamblers first tasted it before their 18th birthday. Parental attitudes, behavior, morals and social upbringing are important factors in shaping the potential effects of gambling in children and adolescents.

Any type of gambling (racing, bingo, card games, dice games, lottery, slots and sports betting) can become problematic; just as an alcoholic can get drunk on any type of alcohol. Recognizing gambling-related problems and getting help If a person suspects they might have a gambling problem, there are a variety of self tests available on the internet.

However, those will not give a diagnosis and do not replace a face-to-face evaluation with a trained clinical professional. Treatment should be based on a complete evaluation of the problem, and respond to each individual´s specific needs. Treatment and assistance includes all areas of the individual’s life (family, educational, financial, legal and professional).  

By Ammara Hashmi