Compulsive gambling is recognised as a behavioural addiction, which is displayed through uncontrollable behaviours and physical choices. Whilst signs of behavioural addictions are physical, psychological associations, symptoms and problems are also common, especially through a gambling addiction.

Gambling addiction is diagnosed where risky gambling activity takes its toll, even when consequences arise. For most, compulsive gambling begins through money worries, mental health problems, excessive stress, and the need for an escape.

Gambling, just like addictive drugs is a tangible stimulus, difficult to bypass down to the norms surrounding both traditional and online activity. Gambling is recognised as a pastime, yet a highly dangerous experience for those who feel the ongoing need to gamble.

Again, similarly to addictive drugs, the emotional benefits that gambling exposure offers, in the moment, highly disrupt the internal reward pathway, making it tough to quit on. Due to its interaction with the mind, significant rehabilitation is required to work through a gambling addiction.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction is very important, as there’s a fine line between the norm of gambling and compulsive behaviours. Here’s our guide on ‘Gambling addiction: the signs and symptoms’, covering the signs, risks and ways to stop such behaviours. Our mental health and addiction treatment services here at Ocean Recovery are the most effective way to stop excessive gambling.


Causes of gambling addiction

For the average person, gambling activity will be controllable. The thrill of gambling is sought-after, yet through the losses, many individuals understand the time to stop. For someone who’s addicted to gambling and those feelings, knowing when to stop will be impossible.

Such behaviours are commonly caused by pre-existing mental health problems, resulting in illogical and irrational outlooks. Gambling addiction is also found to develop through money worries, associating gambling with the ongoing chance to raise immediate funds. Causes of behavioural addictions also surround excessive stress, taught behaviour, influential environments, substance abuse and the need for an escape from everyday life, no different for those with gambling problems.

To onlookers, gaining control over gambling activity will be seen as a simple task, of stopping all exposure. Yet this is challenging once a physical and psychological addiction develops, paired with the extreme accessibility of gambling content. The phases of gambling addiction work from the highs to withdrawal and the lows, churning an unbreakable cycle.

On average, 340,000 people in the UK alone are found to experience signs and symptoms of gambling addiction, collectively losing up to 14.4bn in 2019. Due to such accessibility, heightened mental health concerns and the thrill-seeking of gambling, it’s clear to see how dangerous it can become.

Being aware of ‘gambling addiction: the signs and symptoms’ is highly recommended, to either deter or spot gambling-induced behavioural changes.


Signs and Symptoms

Behavioural addictions can affect every individual differently. Yet through compulsive gambling, there are a range of signs and symptoms which are common, especially displayed through behavioural and psychological changes. They include:

  • A lack of control over gambling activity
  • Feeling the urge to consistently gamble
  • Gambling even when consequences are rife
  • Gambling personal assets such as a property or large sums of money
  • Feeling the need to gamble to make instant money
  • Experiencing urges to feel the thrill of gambling
  • Using gambling activity as a distraction
  • Hiding away gambling activity and losses
  • Overlooking the possibility of a gambling addiction
  • Behavioural changes through rejigged responsibilities and interests
  • Withdrawal from everyday routines to gamble
  • Using numerous gambling platforms at once
  • Experiencing mental health symptoms, such as depression and panic through gambling
  • Jeopardising relationships, careers, and finances through gambling activity

If gambling activity is overtaking your life, is causing money problems, is causing physical and mental health issues, and is becoming a strong focus, gambling addiction will commonly be diagnosed. Professional support will be encouraged to work through the phases of gambling addiction.


Gambling addiction risks

An untreated gambling addiction can reasonably result in financial and legal risks. Yet the greatest concerns focus on mental health and risks of substance abuse.

Behavioural addictions are highly invasive to the brain, changing normal functionality and structure. This can be extremely dangerous when considering the control over emotional responses and messaging throughout the central nervous system. In tandem, the emotional rewards that gambling activity offer can result in an unrealistic, false sense of security, unknowingly heightening risks of mental health issues. Combined with the financial and legal risks, it’s clear to see how compulsive gambling can damage mental health from the inside out.

Compulsive behaviours are also heavily linked to substance abuse, where many gamblers will see respite in drug and alcohol consumption. This adds even greater risk to an already risky group of symptoms, found to churn the cycle even further.

Awareness of ‘gambling addiction: the signs and symptoms’ is important, to potentially stop activity and such risks, both found to damage quality of life.


How to stop gambling addiction

Stopping all gambling exposure will be a recommendation to break the addiction cycle. A withdrawal process will be necessary to adapt routines and habits.

The most effective way to stop gambling addiction is through rehab, where both addiction and mental health treatments can be completed. Therapy will be one of the most beneficial services to complete, which is offered in a range of structures, including cognitive behavioural therapy, group therapy and family therapy. Exposure therapy and motivational therapy are also effective, especially through the withdrawal process.

Gambling addiction treatment will work to uncover the cause of activity, with the aim to decrease the need for ongoing exposure.

In the event of mental health issues, antidepressants may be prescribed, along with further therapy options to reduce the risk of co-occurring disorders. If drugs and alcohol are also abused, detoxification will be necessary, safely completed through rehab.

To maintain a gambling-free routine, self-help will also be important, by reducing urges, attending support groups, directing energy elsewhere and positively managing money.

At Ocean Recovery, we’re here to help you through the above treatment services, offering a bespoke rehabilitation programme for gambling addiction. For more information on this, along with understanding our guide on ‘gambling addiction: the signs and symptoms’, reach out.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: December 14, 2021

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.