When gambling turns into a full blown addiction, it is not only the life of the gambler that eventually descends into chaos, but also the lives of those close to the addict. Behind every addiction, whether it be alcohol, sex, narcotics, food or gambling, exists an enormous amount of a pain, which must be dealt with in order for the addict to find and maintain recovery.
Symptoms of Gambling Addiction – How to Identify a Gambling Addict or Problem Gambler
There are many different signs, symptoms and characteristics associated with problem gambling and gambling addiction. In Overcoming Gambling, Mawer highlights key telltale signs to help partners and friends recognize problem gambling, to include the following:
- appears distant and almost unaware of your presence
- seems to lack concentration or interest in conversation
- surprising mood swings on returning home
- never seems to have enough money, even for basics
- money suddenly appears with unexpected gifts, nights out, holidays
- frequent excuses to run errands, get out of the home
- loss of interest in sex and/or trouble sleeping
- often online, appears irritated if interrupted
- small pens in his pockets
- hides bank statements/credit card statements
- unexplained debits or credits
How Gambling Addiction Affects Physical Health
Unlike in food addiction, where obesity is the likely outcome, or in the case of alcoholism damaging the liver, gambling addiction is not typically thought of as affecting physical health. However, this is simply not the case, with every addiction putting the body under some form of stress. An addiction to gambling may result in the addict being affected in the following ways:
- physical exhaustion
- poor sleep
- weight gain
- high blood pressure
- excessive alcohol intake
How Problem Gambling Affects Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being
As with all other forms of addiction, an addiction to gambling is often linked to other mental health issues. For example, many treatment centres offering help for gambling addicts, recognise that underneath addiction are often mental health problems such as depression. The stress and feelings of failure associated with losing vast sums of money can lead the addict to contemplate suicide. In addition, the significant amount of time spent away from the home feeding the gambling addiction, results in the addict becoming extremely isolated.
One of the major risk factors for depression is social isolation, making likely that the gambling addict will suffer from mood swings and struggle to maintain relationships. According to research studies undertaken at Massachusetts General Hospital, gambling appears to cause a similar brain response to morphine, so it is easy to see why losses negatively affect the addict’s emotional well-being.
As highlighted above, gambling addiction causes both physical and emotional problems for the addict, which may benefit from professional addiction treatment. It is important to be able to spot the signs of problem gambling as the longer the problem persists, the stronger the addiction is likely to become.