Gambling addiction—also known as pathological gambling, compulsive gambling or gambling disorder—is an impulse-control disorder. If you’re a compulsive gambler, you can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when it has negative consequences for you or your friends. You’ll gamble whether you’re up or down, broke or flush, and you’ll keep gambling regardless of the consequences—even when you know that the odds are against you or you can’t afford to lose. Of course, you can also have a gambling problem without being totally out of control.
Problem gambling is any gambling behavior that disrupts your life. If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences in your life, you have a gambling problem.
A gambling addiction or problem is often associated with other behavior or mood disorders. Many problem gamblers also suffer with substance abuse issues, unmanaged ADHD, stress, depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Problem gambling is an urge to gamble continuously despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop.
Pathological gambling is a common disorder that is associated with both social and family costs. Gambling can lead to a range of problems, but the addiction can happen to anyone. No one can predict who will develop an addiction to gambling. Gambling behavior becomes a problem when it cannot be controlled and when it interferes with finances, relationships, and the workplace. The individual may not realize they have a problem for some time. Any type of gambling — whether racing, bingo, card games, dice games, lottery, slots, and sports betting — can become problematic.
However, some types of gambling have particular characteristics that may intensify the problem and the consequences. Gambling problems can happen to anyone from any walk of life. Your gambling goes from a fun, harmless diversion to an unhealthy obsession with serious consequences. Whether you bet on sports, scratch cards, roulette, poker, or slots—in a casino, at the track, or online—a gambling problem can strain your relationships, interfere with work, and lead to financial disaster.
You may even do things you never thought you would, like running up huge debts or even stealing money to gamble. Problems caused by excessive gambling are not just financial. Too much time spent on gambling can also lead to relationship and legal problems, job loss, mental health problems including depression and anxiety, and even suicide.
Pathological gambling shows several similarities with substance abuse, ; pathological gamblers are also likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs. Gambling is widespread. Increased accessibility, for example, through online gambling, calls for greater awareness and appropriate legislation. The World Health Organization has also called gambling a disease.
In its 72nd World Health Assembly held on Saturday, May 25 2019, decided that ‘gaming disorder’ is an official illness. The 194-member meet added excessive gaming to a classified list of diseases as it revised its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problem (ICD-11).
Anyone who provides gambling services has a responsibility to develop policies and programs to address underage and gambling addictions, but in Ghana its free for all. Research to date shows that pathological gamblers and drug addicts share many of the same genetic predispositions for impulsivity and reward seeking. Just as substance addicts require increasingly strong hits to get high, compulsive gamblers pursue ever riskier ventures.
Likewise, both drug addicts and problem gamblers endure symptoms of withdrawal when separated from the chemical or thrill they desire.
Several psychological mechanisms are thought to be implicated in the development and maintenance of problem gambling. First, some individuals use problem gambling as an escape from the problems in their lives (an example of negative reinforcement). Second, personality factors play a role, such as narcissism, risk-seeking, sensation-seeking, and impulsivity.
Third, problem gamblers suffer from a number of cognitive biases, including the illusion of control, unrealistic optimism, overconfidence. Forth, problem gamblers represent a chronic state of a behavioral spin process, a gambling spin, as described by the criminal spin theory.
Signs of a gambling problem include:
- Using income or savings to gamble while letting bills go unpaid
- Repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling
- Chasing losses
- Losing sleep over thoughts of gambling
- Arguing with friends or family about gambling behavior
- Feeling depressed or suicidal because of gambling losses