Having fun while placing a wager or two should never be an issue. Visiting a casino from time to time or casually spinning slots online is meant to bring only good times and, if you're lucky, some extra cash.
However, the line between casual and compulsive gambling can be extremely fine for some people. So fine that it's often hard to recognise when the fun stops and trouble begins.
Today, we're laying out some lesser-known gambling addiction facts to help you better grasp the hidden signs of gambling harms that, god forbid, may be inflicted on you or your loved ones.
Without further ado, let's explore this topic in-depth.
It's Hard to Recognise
Let's start with the most rudimental aspect of problem gambling: recognising gambling addiction. Unlike drugs or alcohol, for example, problem gambling can be rather hard to recognise, which is why it has been dubbed a "hidden addiction".
Often, compulsive gambling can be mistaken by both gamblers and their loved ones as someone simply having a good time, but being aware of symptoms of problem gambling can reveal the truth behind a person spending increasing amounts of time playing casino games.
Here are some of the most common behaviours associated with gambling addiction:
- Increasing tolerance to losing and placing ever-larger bets
- Being obsessed with gambling
- Hiding behind gambling to avoid real problems or feelings
- Being secretive about gambling behaviours
- Giving gambling priority over friends and family
- Having feelings of guilt or shame after gambling
- Failing to quit or cut back
Infrequent Gamblers Can Still Become Addicted
One of the interesting facts about gambling is that the (in)frequency at which one gambles is no guarantee that their behaviour won't become compulsive. Even if you don't gamble every day at first, you may be at risk of developing an addiction.
Compulsive gambling doesn't just happen in a day; it's a process that entails different behaviours and symptoms along the way. So, instead of brushing concerns off by saying that you couldn't possibly have a problem as you don't gamble every day, it's better to ask yourself questions like: Have I ever gambled to win back money I have lost? or Do I feel the urge to spend more money gambling to feel the same excitement?
Is your gambling becoming a problem? If you wondered about this just for a second, we suggest taking a quiz that can position you on a scale of being at risk of developing problem gambling.
Gambling Addiction Is More Common Among Men than Women
Research shows that men are twice as likely to gamble than women. Naturally, the higher prevalence of gambling among men leads to a higher prevalence of gambling addiction in males.
Although this is one of the gambling addiction facts that have no conclusive answer, researchers who have studied gender differences in gambling addiction suggest that this is because men generally take more risk and are more prone to social anxiety than women. At the same time, men have less ability to cope with impulsive behaviours.
The ability to cope with impulsive behaviours, however, is only one side of impulsivity.
Sensation-seeking and risk-taking are two aspects of impulsivity that researchers suggest are significant predictors of addictive behaviours. While sensation-seeking mainly involves engagement in physiologically stimulating novel activities, a study has shown that it has a positive correlation with engagement in gambling, especially among younger men.
On the other hand, risk-taking doesn't have to involve novel activities and experiences; it can be repetitive, but it must involve ever-higher stakes to achieve the same level of arousal or excitement.
Many Gamblers Have Other Addictions
They say misfortunes never come singly, which brings us to another in the series of lesser-known gambling addiction facts: the frequent co-occurrence of gambling and substance abuse.
It seems that problem gambling is often coupled with other addictions. According to statistics, as many as 30% of people who seek treatment for substance abuse also meet certain criteria for gambling addiction. Although the reasons behind this phenomenon are inconclusive, it is likely because both of these addictions share similar risk factors.
Compulsive gamblers' brains react to gambling the way brains respond to drug use, giving a feeling of psychological high. The high from gambling is, therefore, likely to reinforce engagement in gambling in the future. Likewise, compulsive seekers of psychological highs from drugs might also seek a high in forms other than drugs, such as gambling.
3-5% of Gamblers Develop Addiction
Among the gambling addiction facts, the rate of problem gamblers among the gambling population is another worthy of attention.
According to estimates, 3-5% of all gamblers struggle with problem gambling. Although the figure may seem not too high, it is alarming when put into perspective. For example, with a population of 330 million, the said rate translates to more than 8.5 million problem gamblers in the US, which is 2.6% of the total population.
So, suppose you've ever wondered why is gambling illegal in some countries. Well, this may be the answer: the costs of problem gambling are tremendous, taking a severe toll on the mental health of a nation, not to mention the costs for the economy as a whole. In the US, for instance, the economic costs of compulsive gambling amount to around $6 billion per year. Go figure.
It Is Most Common in Younger and Middle-Aged People
Studies show that compulsive gambling is most common in the younger demographic and middle-aged people, 25-45 years of age to be precise. Although not conclusive, it is likely because many people who gamble between the ages of 18-24 fail to seek help, resulting in compulsive gambling in later years.
Some of the reasons why the 18-24 demographic is at a high risk of developing gambling addiction are that at this age, logic and emotion aren't formed as the brain isn't fully developed, making the demographic particularly vulnerable to gambling harms.
This isn't to say that these age groups are the only ones at risk. Online gambling trends show that betting on the web is becoming more and more ubiquitous worldwide, posing concerns even for the youngest age group, the one below 18 years of age.
It Does Not Mean That You Are Weak
Finally, the most important of gambling addiction facts is that even if you're struggling to quit gambling, you should never think you are weak.
Gambling is considered a mental health disorder and as such, it requires professional help and guidance to overcome. There are no statistics on problem gamblers who have successfully stopped gambling alone, but we bet the rate would be negligible.
Gambling is supposed to be a fun activity; however, multi-faceted as it is, it can quickly become an issue. That is why in recent years, the gambling industry has increased efforts to raise awareness of responsible gambling, offering various ways for players to keep gambling entertaining.
Gambling addiction can be treated in various ways, from therapy groups to individual sessions to medication. Whichever the course of treatment, the most important thing is to seek help if you feel you are at risk or experience any of the symptoms of gambling addiction.