What Is Addiction?

table with poker chips, die, and stack of playing cards

Key Takeaways

  • Gambling addictions are serious behavioral addictions that can have long-term effects on mental and even physical health.
  • The most common cause of a gambling addiction is a lack of money and/or overwhelming debt.
  • Common signs of addiction include: being secretive about gambling, losing relationships and jobs, and trying to recuperate money by gambling more.
  • Treatment options for a gambling addiction include medication and behavioral therapy.

Addiction is a psychological disorder that causes an individual to seek the rewards of an action that typically has more consequences than benefits. However, despite these consequences, the individual will continue to seek out specific behavior. Typically people tie addiction with physical substances like drugs or alcohol; however, there are many cases where behavioral addiction affects the lives of individuals in a negative way. Behavioral addiction is the addiction to an action or behavior that a person craves and becomes dependent on (instead of a physical substance). Substance addiction and behavioral addiction have many things in common in terms of signs of addiction and consequences. It is important to pinpoint these signs and seek help if you feel like you may become or be addicted to any behaviors or substances.

Gambling Addiction

One form of behavioral addiction that is common yet rarely identified is gambling addiction. It is hard for gamblers to accept that they may be showing signs of addiction since gambling may seem harmless compared to other addictions, like drugs or alcohol, that directly impact the health of an individual. However, gambling addiction shows many of the same consequences and can be detrimental to one’s life. Below are a few consequences that may occur as a result of gambling addiction:

  • Severe Debt
  • Loss of Relationships
  • Loss of Job
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood Disorders

What Are The Causes?

There are a variety of reasons why an individual might fall into gambling addiction. A common reason is that the person is short on money and looking for an “easy” way out of debt. This becomes cyclical, as gamblers usually end up in more debt and gamble more to get out of this endless cycle without proper help.

Another common scenario where a gambling addiction may start is when the person gambles to search for an emotional high. There is a rush of uncertainty or adrenaline in the act of placing bets that individuals repeatedly seek or enjoy despite the consequences. These situations can be seen in multiple instances since gambling addictions are not solely seen in a casino. Gambling addictions can arise from placing bets with friends, gambling money on the stock market, entering raffles, or any betting situation.

Signs of Gambling Addiction

Signs of gambling addiction can vary depending on the individual. If you notice yourself or a loved one showing any of these signs, it is important to seek consultation or help as soon as possible. Common signs of addiction include:

  • Clouded judgment when placing bets
  • Becoming secretive about gambling
  • You cannot afford to gamble anymore
  • Feeling restless when you attempt to cut out gambling
  • Trying to recuperate money by gambling more
  • Losing relationships, jobs, or opportunities as a result of gambling
  • Friends and family are expressing concern

Again, these symptoms vary on a case-to-case basis, but if you find yourself a victim of one or more of these signs it is important to reach out to a loved one or professional for help as soon as possible.

The Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

There are many different signs and symptoms of gambling addiction. A gambling addiction can also have a negative impact on your life in many different ways. If you think you may have a gambling problem, compare the emotional and physical impacts of gambling addiction below.


Because compulsive gambling is a behavioral addiction, it comes with an emotional impact. The emotional consequences of gambling addiction include stress, anxiety, depression, and other detrimental mental health behaviors. The distress that compulsive gambling plays on an individual can even result in a loss of relationships with loved ones as a result of mood disorders, irritability, and irrational actions taken.


The less commonly spoken about consequences of gambling addiction is the physical toll compulsive gambling can have on an individual. Physical consequences can result in weight loss, weakness, a loss in appetite, and more. These consequences are a result of the emotional disorders that come along with excessive gambling such as anxiety and depression. In some cases, these can become so severe that you’ll require counseling, medication, or both in order to alleviate the symptoms and get your health back on track.

Short and Long Term Effects of Gambling

Gambling addiction can be detrimental to the life of not only the gambler, but their friends and family as well. A long-term effect involves the loss of relationships with loved ones. In many cases, personal relationships are put at risk in an effort to continue gambling and habits associated with gambling. Typically, the emotional consequences of compulsive gambling result in other addictions forming as the individual may turn to alcohol or other substances to escape any ill feelings. This can result in long-term physical damage to the individual.

What Are The Treatment Options?

If you find yourself or a loved one relating to these causes, symptoms, or consequences, seek help immediately to avoid further addiction and consequences. Here are a few treatment options you may need to access:

  • Medication – Although medication will not end your gambling addiction directly, medication can be used to treat any chemical imbalances in your brain that are contributing to compulsive gambling. These medications typically treat anxiety or depression and are prescribed by a medical professional.
  • Behavioral Therapy – Therapy can be sought after in a variety of forms. You can find a therapist near you for a one-on-one consultation or find group therapy locations in your community if you prefer a group setting. Therapy can help solve your gambling addiction by keeping you accountable as well as easing your need to gamble.

If you do not have immediate access to professional help, it is important to reach out to a friend or family member that can help you take the first step to end your gambling addiction by stopping any betting actions. They may also be able to lend some emotional support and keep an eye on you until you can get access to effective resources.