Responsible Gaming

With the advent of technology, gambling has become an easily accessible means of entertainment. Nowadays, you can wager on a cricket game, play a hand of poker, try your luck on the reels, and so much more – right from your mobile device.

From sports betting to casino games, the world of gambling seduces with bonuses and rewards. It’s an enjoyable way to pass the time and even win some money.

Gambling can quickly turn from harmless fun into a problem with dire consequences. Gambling addiction affects your relationships, interferes with your work, and causes financial strain.

Responsible gambling is paramount to maintaining a healthy balance of enjoyment. If you or a loved one is struggling, then you should know that you’re not alone. Learn about gambling addiction signs, factors, myths in our in-depth guide below. You’ll also find useful resources and tips.

What is Gambling Addiction (Ludomania)?

Gambling becomes an addiction when you start chasing losses and betting more than you can afford. This often results in the person neglecting personal, family, and work responsibilities.

Ludomania, also known as gambling addiction, is an addictive disorder. It shares similarities with other impulse-control disorders (ICDs). There are various degrees of Ludomania, with the three primary types listed below.

🔸 Problem Gambler

Often called the ‘beginning phase’ of the addiction, a problem gambler is someone who starts to lose control of their betting habits. It’s not always apparent at first, but they find it harder to limit the amount of time and money spent as time passes.

Changes in behaviour are also common and include lying about gambling activity and repeatedly chasing after a loss. Problem gamblers make irrational decisions with riskier or higher bets. In most cases, it also affects their daily life.

🔸 Compulsive Gambler

A compulsive or pathological gambler has lost the ability to manage their betting habits. Like other addictions where cravings and obsession take over, it can lead to severe consequences in all aspects of life.

A compulsive gambler typically makes bets that they can’t afford and may take out loans to fund their habit. Another sign of a compulsive gambler is raising the stakes regardless of potential failure.

🔸 Binge Gambler

Someone in this category exhibits compulsive gambling, but only at certain times. While it’s not an everyday occurrence, when triggered, it could last days. During this period, a binge gambler spirals out of control with little regard for the consequences.

These sporadic bursts of impulse aren’t always easy to identify so this type of addiction might initially go unnoticed. The severity of the problem reveals itself during the binge.

Signs of an Addicted Person

While each type of gambling addiction has unique characteristics, there are a few common signs among them. However, these aren’t mutually exclusive, and not everyone exhibits the same symptoms.

The diagnosis criteria for gambling addiction include at least four of the following signs over twelve months:

Signs of Addiction in a Person
Escalation: Gambling escalates when only larger amounts of money can satisfy the addict’s urge.
Mood Changes: Mood changes cause restlessness and irritability when trying to stop or minimise gambling.
Unsuccessful Attempts to Stop Gambling: Many failed attempts to stop, reduce, or control betting habits can point to an addiction problem.
Preoccupation: A gambling addict typically has frequent thoughts about gambling. These thoughts can be of reliving past experiences or finding new ways to fund the habit.
Emotional or Mental Strain Triggers Gambling: Gambling when under emotional or mental strain can trigger gambling addiction. Mental strain includes conditions like depression, guilt, anxiety, or helplessness.
Chasing Losses: Returning after losing money from betting activities to try winning it back is a clear indication of gambling addiction.
Dishonesty: Compulsive gamblers begin telling lies to hide activity, losses, or the extent of damages caused by gambling.
Harming Personal or Professional Relationships: Losing meaningful relationships or career opportunities due to gambling is a warning sign of gambling addiction.
Reliance on Others: A gambling addict may find themselves relying on other people for money to lessen the financial burdens caused by gambling.

Disclaimer

Keep in mind that it takes more than recognising a few symptoms to diagnose and treat gambling addiction accurately. Only qualified professionals can do so.

Self-diagnosis is not advised. If you’ve discovered any sign of possible addiction, you must seek professional assistance. A psychiatrist or therapist will determine if there are any underlying factors and rule them out. We recommend a medical evaluation to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

What Causes Ludomania?

Ludomania has no definitive cause. However, there are various contributing and risk factors. Biological, social, and psychological elements usually play a role. On the other hand, pre-existing conditions might increase the likelihood of gambling addiction.

Remember, each individual is different. What triggers or influences one person isn’t the same as the next. Let’s take a look at some of the most prevalent attributes.

🔸 Biological Factors

Pathological gambling shares genetic predispositions with other addictions. An inherent deficiency of chemicals, like norepinephrine, can affect regions of the brain in charge of impulsivity and reward-seeking. Norepinephrine works during stressful situations.

Growing evidence also points to similarities in the neurochemical response of a gambling win and drug abuse. When humans engage in activities for survival, the brain secretes a pleasure hormone called Dopamine in response.

Studies indicate that some people are born with less Dopamine in their chemical reaction or reward system, making them vulnerable to both gambling and drug addiction.

🔸 Psychological Factors

Excluding biological vulnerability, stress factors like social situations, or existing mental health conditions can also contribute to a person developing gambling addiction. People diagnosed as schizophrenic, as well as those with an antisocial personality disorder, have a higher risk of developing compulsive gambling.

Existing psychological disorders can cause addictive gambling behaviour, or it can appear as a symptom. In the case of bipolar mood disorder, during a manic episode, it’s typical to spend recklessly and excessively. In such a state of mania, compulsive gambling behaviour is often initiated or introduced.

🔸 Social Factors

Research has shown that compulsive gamblers are more likely to be dealing with stressful situations in their lives. Stressors like a recent divorce or financial setback can make it much harder to resist temptation. In the face of such a scenario, there is also an elevated risk of manifesting gambling addiction.

Gambling is culturally accepted in many countries. Family influence also contributes significantly to a person’s initial exposure to gambling. A close friend or relative who gambles could identify as a role model. Parents that enjoy poker could lead their child to believe that gambling reduces stress if it’s the only time the child sees them happy.

🔸 Comorbidity

Compulsive gambling is strongly associated with other mental health problems. According to a study conducted in 2010, gambling addiction has links to anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Compulsive gamblers had higher levels of comorbid conditions like nicotine addiction, substance abuse, and mood disorders.

If other conditions accompany gambling addiction, it can cause or trigger another disorder. Patients with compulsive gambling should always be assessed for other comorbid conditions. This will rule out different root causes, like ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) or antisocial personality.

Negative Effects of Gambling

Problematic gambling can affect many areas of one’s life. Commonly, gambling addiction is only noticed when an unexpected financial event happens, such as receiving a summons. Below, we’ll discuss four commonly attributed adverse effects of gambling:

Financial implications

Finances can spiral out of control when addicts begin to lose track of money spent or lost. Old debts can accumulate while making new commitments as desperation grows. When this happens, sufferers of ludomania often attempt to rectify their situation, either by gambling more or looking into different methods of securing a cash flow like micro-loans. These quick cash solutions typically carry high-interest rates, and can only make the situation worse.

Effect on Health

Mental health plays a significant role in developing a compulsive gambling problem, but there is also a link between low levels of self-esteem and disorders more specifically related to stress. Compulsive gamblers have been shown to have a higher likelihood of developing other mental health problems like anxiety, depression, or a substance abuse addiction. Studies have also found that sufferers can have trouble sleeping and develop suicidal thoughts because of a compulsive gambling habit.

Family and Relationships

Having a gambling problem likely means that the person will be spending little to no time with family. As their thoughts are preoccupied with gambling and the next big win, feelings of neglect and resentment can develop between a spouse or a partner. Compulsive gamblers usually lie to conceal their habit, which breaks down trust and creates doubt, conflict, and guilt. In the case of a parent suffering from ludomania, it can have a pronounced effect on their child’s development.

Suicides

Research shows that compulsive gamblers are more likely to think suicidal thoughts than other addicts with a gambling problem. Alcohol and drug addictions are easier to notice, as loved ones usually are alerted to the problem when situations culminate in a medical emergency. In compulsive gambling, it’s much harder to detect the problem, meaning the addiction can persist and intensify unnoticed, ultimately ending in a suicide attempt or worse.

Is Gambling Addiction a Common Problem?

Since gambling became recognised as an acceptable recreational activity, it’s not surprising that nowadays many people consider it a harmless pastime. With the legalisation of gambling expanding globally, it’s been recognised as a contributor to the number of people seeking treatment for compulsive or pathological gambling.

  • According to a study conducted in five continents, gambling addiction has been recognised as an emerging health issue. The continents used were Asia, Europe, Oceania, and North America.
  • Up to 5.8% of respondents were at risk of developing gambling addiction before the study.
  • Between 0.7 and 6.5% were found to match the criteria for developing the condition in their lifetime.

According to a survey in 2016:

  • 56% of people in England had gambled in 2016.
  • 42% of people who hadn’t played the lottery had gambled in 2016.
  • 0.7% of people in England met the criteria for problem gambling.
  • 1.2% of gamblers in England met the criteria for problem gambling.
  • 6% of gamblers in England were at low to moderate risk of developing a problem gambling habit.

How to Get Over Gambling Addiction

Struggling with gambling addiction is difficult to recover from and can be a long process. It’s important to ask for help if you suspect you have a problem, or if a loved one exhibits signs. Like other addictions, help is available. Here are a few ways to overcome gambling addiction:

🔸 Behavioural, Cognitive and Family Therapy

Behavioural and cognitive therapy is a recommended method of treatment for compulsive gambling. Behavioural therapy exposes patients to the activity marked as addictive and teaches them ways to reduce or eliminate the urges. Positive thoughts and affirmations replace negative thinking patterns that are identified in therapy. Similarly, family therapy can also be used to work on the addiction, allowing loved ones to be more involved in the process.

🔸 Rehabilitation Programmes

If a compulsive gambler’s addiction has become so severe that they need constant monitoring, then an inpatient or residential treatment might be necessary. These programmes can be step-by-step, as in the case of Alcoholics Anonymous, where a recovered addict acts as a sponsor. Inpatient programmes offer a safe and continuously monitored treatment regime, which can include group or individual therapy. Outpatient programmes are tailored for individuals who have strong support systems at home.

🔸 Prescribed Medication

Medication is sometimes used to treat gambling addiction. Medication prescribed for impulse control disorders, such as selective serotonin uptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, has shown little success in treating gambling addictions. On the other hand, medications used for the treatment of substance abuse addictions have proved to be beneficial in the treatment of compulsive gambling. Naltrexone, used for treating alcohol and opiate addiction, has also shown promising results in the treatment of gambling disorders.

How to Help Someone Cope With an Addiction

If you have a loved one suffering from an addiction problem, you might be looking for ways to help them. Support from family and close friends can make a world of difference. Even though it’s often challenging for addicts to make the first step towards recovery, having loved ones who care and want to help can make the process much easier. We recommend some things you should and should not do, and we’ve detailed them below:

How to Help Someone Cope With an Addiction
Expect difficult times and prepare for them Thinking that addiction is easy to overcome
Detach yourself from the addict’s responsibilities Continue managing tasks and solving problems for the addict
Show the addict that they can still be trusted Shouting, yelling, or patronising the addict
Be honest and approachable Communicating angrily and focusing on negative aspects

🔸 Expect Difficult Times

Expect that there will be difficulties that need to be overcome. A person suffering from addiction might not be willing to admit that they have a problem, or they might not be open to receiving treatment. They may believe that gambling helps them avoid dealing with another condition. Getting past these barriers will take time and patience.

🔸 Detachment From the Addict’s Responsibilities

It’s essential for family members of addicts to let go of things that they cannot change about the situation. By detaching from the tasks and responsibilities of the addict lovingly, it forces them to feel the pain of addiction. It also encourages addicts to take control of their affairs through consequence.

🔸 Work on Building Trust

It can be relatively easy for an addict to break a loved one’s trust. However, it’s much more difficult for a family member to continue trusting an addict after being disappointed. Giving the addict the opportunity to be trusted and trusting in them in return are indirect but effective ways to show them why they should change. If love and trust are both present in the family support unit, the person should feel more inspired to overcome addiction.

🔸 Communicate Honestly

Communication is an essential cornerstone of any relationship. When someone you love suffers from an addiction, it’s imperative to express how you feel in a non-threatening way. It can be frustrating for families of addicts, who often feel an urge to intervene. Communicating angrily can drive the addicted person away, so it’s always important to appear honest and approachable.

🔸 How to Prevent Suicides in Problem Gamblers

  • Don’t take suicide threats lightly.
  • Remain calm and listen attentively.
  • Allow the person to talk about their feelings.
  • Be accepting and non-judgemental.
  • Ask if the person feels suicidal.
  • Clear the home or frequented areas of sharp objects that could be used for self-harm.
  • Support the addicted person in getting a professional opinion or treatment if they are willing.
  • Tell other loved ones if you think the person is considering a suicide attempt.

Gambling Therapy India is committed to helping people who are suicidal and can be reached via email support form or live chat at http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/addresses.

Alternatives to Gambling

People start gambling for fun as a recreational activity, and usually for varying reasons. If you suspect that gambling is becoming a problem for you or someone you know, it can be helpful to replace the habit with an alternative. Finding an activity aside from gambling will allow the person to dedicate time and attention to something else.

5 Reasons Why People Gamble

  • They enjoy taking risks and the excitement attached to gambling. Anticipating the win creates a build-up of adrenaline and a natural surge of excitement. Many people look for and try to replicate this feeling in life.
  • People may need an escape from everyday life or a difficult situation, and gambling can provide a change in their environment. A casino can offer a retreat from the norm in a different environment, with other people and different ways to stimulate the senses.
  • Gambling has been associated with a higher class of living. In the media, it’s often portrayed as stylish or trendy, or glamorous. This makes people interested and increases the desire to gamble to keep up appearances or seem fashionable.
  • Many young people are introduced to gambling early in life by family, such as learning a card game at home with parents or playing video games as a child. Many people practise gambling with varying frequency, allowing easy introduction in social settings.
  • They believe that gambling is a way to create an income. The belief that one lucky streak is all that’s needed is part of the pathological nature of compulsive gambling. Gambling is a high-risk and low yielding venture, but many believe the opposite to be true.

5 Activities to Substitute for Gambling

  • Taking up a new sport as part of a team can be a psychologically motivating factor as one is accountable to a group. Additionally, taking up a sport can benefit the person by adding structure to their everyday routine. Exercise also has advantages for overall wellbeing and health.
  • Spend time on physical activities like working in the garden, exercising, meditation, or yoga. It’s recommended to choose activities that appeal to you and don’t involve gambling.
  • Attempt to associate yourself with people who aren’t gamblers and have different hobbies.
  • Volunteer at hospitals or animal shelters. This can also provide a feeling of fulfilment as one helps animals and people in need.
  • Travelling is another exciting way to replace a gambling habit as it can offer different perspectives. This pastime can open your mind to different experiences, and this is helpful for recovery.

Myths & Facts About Ludomania

Gambling addiction is a condition that affects the behaviour of the person who has it. Because it’s pathological, the addiction compels them to gamble and become obsessed with that.

People with a compulsive gambling problem are inclined to isolate themselves in social settings, and this has created misinformation about the condition. It’s important to know what is a myth and what is a fact. Below, you’ll find some of the common myths versus facts surrounding ludomania:

Myth: Problem gamblers gamble every day, at every opportunity, and use any available method.

Fact: This is not true, as a problem gambler may gamble at any frequency. Gambling addicts typically favour a particular type of gambling activity. Compulsive gambling can be more frequent, or it can be sporadic. As the disease is progressive, the frequency will increase over time.

Myth: If the gambler can afford to gamble, then it isn’t a problem.

Fact: Compulsive gambling can lead to other problems, in addition to financial consequences. It can affect a person’s ability to comply with their moral code and cause relationships to end. Compulsive gambling can be a symptom or coping mechanism for another problem.

Myth: A compulsive gambling habit is easy to recognise.

Fact: Unlike alcohol and drugs, the spiral into addiction is not easily noticed in cases of ludomania. Many people with gambling addiction don’t notice that they have a problem. Compulsive gamblers tend to isolate themselves and try to conceal their habit.

Myth: All gamblers will commit criminal acts.

Fact: If gambling addiction is left unchecked, it often results in criminal behaviour. Crimes are usually for financial gain, and most don’t involve violence. However, gambling often occurs with substance abuse and crime. Pathological gamblers may commit acts of fraud or theft to fund their habit. They are likely justifying the crime as borrowing.

Myth: A person can’t get addicted to gambling.

Fact: Gambling’s purpose is to be addictive and induce compulsion, using principles of psychology. A variable-ratio reinforcement schedule (VSSR) is used to program casino machines to pay at specific times.

Helpful Resources for Gamblers

BeGambleAware

BeGambleAware offers confidential and free assistance to anyone who thinks they may have a gambling problem. The organisation has telephone as well as live chat options to get in touch with an adviser, and you can reach them on email at begambleaware.org.

Gamcare

Founded in 1997, Gamcare is a leading provider of information on gambling addiction. They also offer support telephonically, via live chat, group chat, and forums for anyone living in the United Kingdom.

HopetrustIndia.com

Part of the Alpha Healing Center, HopetrustIndia.com has a variety of resources that can assist gambling addicts, such as Self-Help Gambling Tools. On their website, you’ll find introductory videos and helpful applications for gambling addicts.

Gambling Therapy

GamblingTherapy.org is a global organisation that offers free support to anyone who thinks they might have a gambling problem. Online peer support groups invite sufferers to learn from recovered addicts.