Gambling Addiction Explained: Symptoms, Triggers, Treatment

Gambling addiction is the repeated and uncontrollable urge to gamble. This could cause various problems for the individual and people around them. The World Health Organisation states that 350 million people worldwide display addiction symptoms every year.

While there are 1,000 Gamblers Anonymous chapters in the USA, only six therapy centres are listed on the National Council on Problem Gambling site. There are also hundreds of Gamblers Anonymous chapters in the UK.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, symptoms can range from gambling when distressed to lying to your family to hide your activities. While everyone is different, common triggers include stress from work, depression, and loneliness.

Thankfully, treatments are available, such as various types of therapy and professional counselling. Remember that there is no FDA-approved medication to treat addiction.


9 Crucial Signs to Diagnose Gambling Addiction

Online betting Nine signs of addiction are listed below. If you notice that you or someone else has behaved in any of these ways in the past 12 months, they might have a problem.
  1. Restless when not gambling
  2. Thinking about gambling constantly
  3. Frequent failed attempts to stop gambling
  4. Gambling when in distress
  5. Gambling to try and earn back your losses
  6. Lying to friends or family about your activities
  7. Asking others for money to continue gambling
  8. Damaging relationships due to gambling
  9. Gambling as the only way to become excited

What are the Symptoms of Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction causes a variety of symptoms, with most being emotional. Here are the most common symptoms to watch out for.

  • Gambling to overcome social isolation
  • Impulsive urges to gamble
  • Betting more and more money
  • Lying to people around you to hide your habits
  • Gambling to receive an adrenaline rush

To recognise addiction, you should look at these symptoms to see if any apply to you or someone close to you.

Gambling Addiction – Causes and Effects

Here are the most common causes of addiction:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Close proximity to casinos
  • Unemployment
  • Substance abuse

Many of these causes are common in both poverty-stricken people and those suffering from mental disorders. If you have depression or any related issues, you might be at risk of developing an addiction.


Is retirement responsible for causing gambling addiction?

Yes, retirement can cause gambling addiction. Retirement brings unique problems like increased boredom and loneliness. These act as the root of many disorders. Conditions like depression can cause people to seek out relief through excessive gambling. Retired people might try to alleviate these through gambling.

Gambling can be an easy escape for many retired people. It provides an instant and thrilling experience that is hard to find elsewhere. This could lead to frequent gambling, which increases the chances of developing addiction symptoms.


Can stress increase the chance of gambling addiction?

Yes, stress can increase the chance of addiction. Stress is one of the most common mental conditions and can lead to other issues like depression and anxiety. These are all common causes of addiction.

Many different factors can cause stress, such as work pressure, poverty, substance abuse, and loneliness. Gambling is a common way to alleviate stress as it offers an easy distraction. This can quickly lead to compulsive gambling as it doesn’t provide a permanent solution to the problem.

How to Treat Successfully Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction can be healed by completely removing gambling from your life. Any gambling activity can result in a relapse, no matter how small. Here are the main methods of rehabilitation and treatment.

Motivations: These can be a powerful tool to help you get over an addiction. By setting yourself goals, you now have something to work towards that’ll force you to leave gambling behind.

Self-help: Self-help involves keeping yourself motivated and away from temptations that could lead to a relapse. Many resources like self-help websites and books are available that you can use to develop a self-help program.

Therapy: Therapy is one of the most common forms of treatment. It involves contacting a therapist or support group to talk about gambling addiction. This option includes popular treatment methods like Gamblers Anonymous. Aside from helplines and therapy websites, you can also take part in in-person therapy.

Medications: There is no medication specifically for gambling disorders. Thankfully, they can still help with underlying mental issues and compulsive behaviours. Studies have shown that mood stabilisers like lithium and antidepressants like citalopram can be helpful. These can treat root causes.

Family-help: Family members can give you access to a support network and help you work through your gambling addiction. However, this depends on whether you have a supportive family and relies on telling them about your gambling disorder.

Self-respect: This treatment is similar to motivation, although it relates more to your self-image. Instead of setting goals for your future, you should work towards becoming a better person. Of course, this means controlling your urges to gamble compulsively.


All these treatment methods involve either seeking help from others or reevaluating your life choices. Most include seeking out a support network, and those that don’t are usually harder to implement into your life.


Which are the treatment steps of Gambling Addiction?

There are seven treatment steps of gambling addiction that help you rationalise and work towards ending your addiction.

  • Understand the issue: The most crucial step is to admit that you have a problem through self-diagnosis or asking someone for their opinion. This forces you to notice the negative impacts of compulsive gambling.
  • Avoid triggers: Once you’ve admitted your disorder, you can figure out what habits are the cause. You can then actively avoid temptations like driving past casinos or carrying around spare cash.
  • Join a support group: Support groups put you in touch with people with similar problems and experiences. Both in-person and online support groups are available, so anyone can find people to talk to.
  • Consider the consequences: Realising the negative effects of your addiction is an important motivation to avoid relapsing. Make sure not to dwell on the negatives, as this can cause even more stress.
  • Distract yourself: Aside from triggers, you’ll probably also deal with cravings. Overcoming these is difficult, although you can do it by figuring out how to distract yourself until the craving passes.
  • Find alternatives: You also need to find alternatives to gambling in the long term. Examples include exercising, volunteering, and travelling.
  • Get professional therapy: If you need further help, contact a professional therapist. They can teach you how to avoid gambling and regain financial security.

Does therapy help to solve Gambling Addiction?

Yes, therapy is useful for solving gambling addiction. It helps you recognise and understand the causes of your problem. It also gives you people to talk to about your emotional state and what might be causing you to gamble. The National Center for Biotechnology Information divides therapy into five types.

Family therapy involves identifying problems within an addict’s family. These include domestic abuse or substance abuse. This can help find the root cause of the problem.

According to the NCBI, ‘the most effective psychosocial treatments appear to be a combination of treatment approaches, including GA along with individual and cognitive-behavioural therapy.

Group therapy, such as Gambler’s Anonymous, is widely available with over 1,000 chapters in the USA alone. It provides you with steps to follow to take control of your addiction and puts you in touch with others in a similar position.

Behavioural therapies come in various types. They all try to break down the harmful habits and routines of addicts. This is usually done by creating associations between gambling and negative things.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy helps you determine and evaluate your perception of gambling. These include lies you tell yourself to justify unhealthy habits. This therapy type is more in-depth and usually involves implementing restrictions. This helps avoid your particular triggers, such as driving past a nearby casino or carrying spare cash.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy requires an experienced therapist. It aims to help people resolve their interpersonal conflicts. This reduction in internal issues like anxiety or self-loathing is thought to reduce compulsive gambling.

Gambling addiction types

Poker gambling

All gambling addictions fall under behavioural addiction, so treatment methods and symptoms are mostly the same between compulsive gamblers. However, there are six types of gamblers. Each has unique traits that can lower or increase their risk of addiction.

  1. Professional gamblers treat gambling as an occupation and aim to make a profit. This makes them less likely to become addicted as they are more careful when placing their bets.
  2. Antisocial personality gamblers usually lack remorse and empathy for others. This leads to them participating in illegal gambling such as bet fixing.
  3. Casual social gamblers treat gambling as a recreational activity and are unlikely to develop an addiction. Gambling is only one form of entertainment to them, meaning they don’t bet regularly.
  4. Serious social gamblers use gambling as their primary form of entertainment. While they are usually good at controlling themselves, they still have a chance of developing compulsive habits.
  5. Compulsive-pathological gamblers are extremely vulnerable to addiction. This is because they have been diagnosed with a pathological disorder. These can even lead to other addictions like substance abuse.
  6. Relief and escape gamblers usually suffer from mental issues like depression and anxiety. This causes them to gamble for relief and escapism, which can quickly lead to addiction.

All gambler types share addiction symptoms, with the most common being mental issues like depression. Standard treatment options like therapy are the best option no matter the severity of your addiction.


How prevalent is gambling?

The problem with addiction is that many people around the world are at risk of it since gambling is a widespread habit in almost every country. According to, roughly 26% of people worldwide gamble.

The National Council on Problem Gambling states that around 85% of Americans have gambled in their lives as of 2012. In a 2016/2017 study, Statista found that France had the most gamblers in Europe with over 30,000 gamblers. The UK was in second place with around 20,000 gamblers.

According to, Australia has 6.8 million regular gamblers or 39% of the population. This means Australia has the biggest concentration of problem gamblers. Asia is also home to many gamblers, with many considering Macau to be the world’s casino capital with 41 casinos.

Africa falls at the bottom of the list since over 80% of the continent’s gambling activities take place just in South Africa, according to Mountain Westwire.

Can Gambling Movies Make You an Addict?

Gambling Dices

No, gambling movies don’t cause gambling addiction. However, it’s best to avoid gambling movies when trying to recover from addiction, as they can make you think about gambling.

This could lead to a relapse if you are in the early stages of recovery and are still struggling with self-control. Film Daily points out that gambling movies like 21 and Casino Royale misleadingly portray gambling as an exciting and glamorous activity.

Should a Gambling Addictive Confess to His/Her Family?

Yes, a gambling addict should eventually explain their addiction to their family. You need to think about the right time to tell them, as you should be ready to start working towards a solution.

It also depends on the relationship with your family and if you think they’ll be willing to help you. Once you’ve decided to tell them, it’s usually easier to start by telling one person you trust before revealing it to your entire family.

Are There Gambling Games That Are More Addictive Than Others?

Yes, some gambling games are more addictive than others, with fast-paced games being the most addictive. According to HealthyPlace, slots are the most dangerous. They provide near-instant satisfaction to the player with each spin. This causes addiction to set in faster than if you were playing slower games like poker or roulette.

Javia Alex
Javia Alex is an expert-level Copywriter/Editor with a wealth of experience in the iGaming scene. A self-described player advocate, Javia’s player-first mindset, “tell it like it is”, has earned her an oft-cited voice across gambling circles. She frequently works late nights and long hours, fact-checking reviews and pages for accuracy.