A compulsive gambler is in the grips of a progressive disease. They often are starting off with small bets but as they continue to gambling and push the line to all or nothing, they begin to have many negative side effects. Personally they range from anxiety, anger, secrecy, depression and more. The gambler develops an unrealistic life, where they don’t see the impact of their behaviour and medicate their feelings by gambling and / or other addictions such as drugs and drinking.
When I see clients with gambling addiction, it is usually when the world they have built around them is collapsing. They have exhausted all their options and second chances, debt and collectors weighing them down, and friends and family have been alienated. The reason for a gambling addict being able to reach such a low point is that they will become very good at hiding their problem. There are signs that can help you identify yourself or others who may have a struggle with controlling their gambling habits.
Here are signs to watch out for if you suspect gambling addiction:
Talking about wins/playing often: It is a way to show that they are ahead and doing better with gambling in their lives but no one comes out ahead of the bet makers in the long run.
Mood swings: The insecurity of money and lying will bring out many mental health issues from depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, anger, and more. If you notice a massive change in behaviour then this is usually coming out of a negative influence.
Money issues: From bills and debt piling up to asking friends and family to help them out because of someone else or an external situation out of their control that they need money fast to fix.
Reduced positive social interactions: Not spending time with the family or going only out with the fun friends to a pub, bookie, or casino.
Hiding computer/phone app useage: gambling online and with a smart phone is easier than ever. A gambling addict will try to hide their computer use with deleting history/cookies and by locking their phone or quickly minimising an app when they are caught gambling.
Getting caught in lies: The only way to keep the gambling addiction going is through lies because most people who see another person they care for destroying their lives would try to step in to help. As the gambling addict wants to continue playing they must lie often to keep everything looking ok from the outside.
Very defensive when asked about their gambling: If you ask a regular person if they played the lotto they would easily say ‘yes’ if they had. Asking a gambling addict the same type of question brings out a darker response as they wonder if they had been caught, what your motivation is, and if you mean to stop them.
Life spiralling down: Addiction to gambling will take over as the number one priority. An addict will try to make it seem like it is not their priority for a very long time but as they burn out friends, family, jobs, relationships, finances, house, health, it becomes obvious that there is a serious problem forcing this destructive behaviour.
The good news though is that gambling addiction counselling is very effective and putting your life back together is achievable. A lot of progress can be made quickly and turned into long term recovery.