Gambling Addiction

Gambling Addiction Signs and Symptoms: How to Recognize If You or a Loved One Has a Problem

There are many ways to recognize a gambling addiction in you or a loved one. At Granite Mountain Behavioral Health, we have the resources for you or a loved one to overcome gambling addiction. However, it starts with becoming aware of gambling addiction symptoms and seeking help if you have them.

We all have our share of bad habits or vices. However, an intervention is necessary when the vice starts to take over our lives. If your day-to-day life is being constantly affected by a bad habit, it’s time to stop and reflect. 

You or a loved one may be struggling with a gambling addiction. Keep reading to learn more about how to recognize gambling addiction symptoms and how we can help.

What is Gambling?

Gambling is not defined by a singular activity. There are many different forms of gambling. Thus, It is not always apparent when gambling addiction is present. This makes it important to be aware of what gambling addiction symptoms are.

The act of gambling is not only restricted to slot machines, cards, and casinos. Purchasing a lottery ticket, entering a raffle or making a bet with a friend are also forms of gambling.

Why Does Gambling Addiction Occur?

A gambling addiction can be a result of a variety of issues. Each person is different so there is no one tell-tale answer. However, gambling addictions are often associated with other behavior or mood disorders.

Gamblers may suffer from substance abuse issues, unmanaged ADHD, stress, depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. It’s important to address any underlying issues when addressing gambling addiction.

Gambling addiction can also occur when a person is struggling financially. They may find themselves trying to win a large sum of money to improve their financial situation. There is great risk involved in this with little to no return the majority of the time. 

This almost always leads to a cycle in which the gambler feels they must win back their losses. They convince themselves that they’re bound to win at some point. Unfortunately, winning a large sum of money can never be guaranteed. 

An emotional high is another reason a gambler can become addicted. This emotional high acts as an adrenaline rush. These are only a handful of reasons. Someone may also start gambling for fun which then leads to a dangerous addiction. 

No matter the reason, a gambling addiction can cause chaos in your or a loved one’s life. This chaos can be noticed through a variety of gambling addiction symptoms. It is crucial to address this issue before it becomes too late. There is so much potential to live a fulfilling and gamble-free life.

Symptoms of a Gambling Addiction

To recognize a gambling addiction, one must be aware of the symptoms. A gambling addiction may be caused by underlying stress as well. This stress can be linked to a painful time in your life such as work-related or relationship issues.

There are also key emotional reasons which can contribute to the development of toxic gambling addiction. Some of these symptoms can be:

  • Visiting casinos to overcome social isolation
  • To feel a rush of adrenaline and dopamine as a ‘happy’ brain chemical release
  • To hide numb and unpleasant feelings/being in denial of one’s emotions
  • Boredom and a desire to pass the time
  • A form of relaxation after a long day

These emotional symptoms of a gambling addiction may be hard to recognize. Signs that are easier to spot include:

  • Becoming obsessed with the results of gambling and ignoring other obligations 
  • Becoming unable to manage impulsive urges to gamble even when the odds are against you
  • Spending more money gambling to pay for lost bets or to experience a stronger adrenaline rush 
  • A negative impact upon relationships with those closest to you, such as losing a partner
  • Problems at the workplace such as an increased workload, missing work or being unable to focus
  • Hiding the amount of money and time spent gambling from those closest to you
  • Denial that there’s a gambling problem present  

Signs That You or a Loved One Has a Gambling Addiction

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, a gambling addict experiences the same effects in the brain as someone who has an alcohol or drug addiction. The effects of gambling can be just as devastating.

As a result of gambling, problems in one’s personal life start to form. This causes significant worry and possible financial consequences for their loved ones.

The Inability to Stop Gambling

This can be recognized by constantly talking about gambling. One may constantly be reliving past gambling experiences, particularly big wins.

You or a loved one may say you’ll quit. However, it never seems to happen. They may get into the habit of placing bets or playing games on their phones constantly.

Gambling websites and apps that withdraw money directly from a bank account are a particular concern for many people. The ability to constantly access a gambling site can make it near impossible to quit.

Dishonesty about Gambling

Hiding receipts or bank statements is also a symptom of gambling addiction. The secrecy is often a tell-tale sign that there’s an issue at hand. This may also go hand in hand with denial.

The person affected may not even want to admit to themselves that they have a gambling addiction. 

Gambling Despite Consequences

Legal and financial issues may be taking place in the gambler’s life. However, they are still unable to stop. Maybe they borrowed more money than they can afford. There may have even been a legal complication with the police.

No matter the consequence, gambling addiction continues.

Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms Even When They’re Not Gambling

Emotional withdrawal symptoms can occur when an individual with a gambling addiction stops gambling, even for 24 hours. Symptoms may include irritability, depression, anxiety, restlessness, decreased sleep & appetite, and a significant difference in sex drive or performance.

Throughout withdrawal, gamblers still think that they need to gamble to feel normal or happy again.

Chaos in Their Daily Lives

They are experiencing trouble at work, maintaining relationships, withdrawing from social activities, and/or serious financial problems.

Financial Concerns

Financial issues can develop in a variety of ways. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Overdue bills
  • Maxed out credit cards / Denial of credit
  • Not having enough money, despite an adequate income
  • Cannot provide for basic needs (food, clothing, shelter)
  • Constantly trying to borrow money
  • Develops a pattern of extremely high-risk investing or frequent trading
  • Money is pulled from home equity, savings, investment or retirement accounts
  • Household and personal items are pawned or sold for cash
  • Frequent, multiple payday loans or cash advances

Unlawful Behavior

Individuals with a gambling addiction usually need other people to fund their gambling habits. They may even commit fraud or steal money and items to sell for money. Their addiction becomes so intense they’ll essentially do anything to get money for gambling.

Committing illegal acts to get money to gamble or to recoup losses is a sign of an immediate need for intervention. Breaking the law has severe consequences. Ending up in jail for a round of blackjack is not worth it.

How We Can Help

At Granite Mountain, we believe in a strict and structured schedule that includes 30 hours of therapy every week. Little downtime fights thoughts and urges of gambling addiction.

Our dedicated 24-hour staff is there to meet any need you may have. Evening 12-step and accountability meetings are a requirement as well.  

Each patient will have set goals and a process development plan. A major aspect of our patient’s recovery journey is through our program, Recover Strong. We believe in helping our patients develop healthier lifestyle habits and alleviate stressful symptoms.

Another major part of our philosophy is exercise. We use physical activities to help our patients achieve neuroregeneration. Neuroregeneration is the regrowth or repair of cell tissue in the brain that was once lost through an addiction disorder. 

This allows endorphins to be released into the brain. In turn, this improves an individual’s capacity to cope with anxiety and also acts as an antidepressant.

These activities are done in a group setting. Patients then develop a sense of community with each other. This provides a supportive foundation during the recovery process. 

Call Us Today

At Granite Mountain Behavioral Health, we’re here to guide you through the entire process. Once you’ve recognized the presence of gambling addiction symptoms, seek help immediately

If you or a loved one is ready to start the road to recovery, you can contact us here. You can also call us at (877) 389-0412 and talk to one of our gambling addiction experts. Remember, we’re here for any questions, comments or concerns you may have. We’re waiting for your call!



Article Reviewed by Gregory Struve

Gregory StruveGreg received a Master’s in Counseling from the Adler Graduate School in 2006. He trained at one of the top trauma and anxiety treatment centers in the world until 2008 when he became a faculty member at Grand Canyon University. From 2011 to 2016 he directed a program that leads the field in terms of innovative treatment of anxiety and trauma. During that time he even made several appearances on A&E’s intervention.