How to Recognize and Deal with Compulsive Gambling

The signs of compulsive gambling are easy to spot. You may have heard of ‘binge’ or ‘craze’ playing, where the player will suddenly go from being able to control themselves to losing all sense of self-restraint. It is a common problem, affecting both men and women alike, but more often seen in the latter. If you or someone you know is showing signs of compulsive gambling, then it is time to take action.

The Problem

There is a common misconception that compulsive gambling is a problem that is solely related to addiction. The two are certainly linked, as compulsive gamblers are more likely to suffer from addiction and substance abuse. This is mainly because the way the brain works when it comes to addiction. The more you put yourself in situations where you feel you need to gamble, the more you will develop a ‘need’ to keep doing it. Gambling can rapidly become a compulsion that you cannot control. This is why it is so important to recognize the signs of compulsive gambling and deal with it. If you are looking for a problem to call your own, then consider looking no further than compulsive gambling. It is very common for people to believe that their compulsive behavior is ‘normal’ and that they will eventually outgrow it. This could not be farther from the truth. While most people will never deal with compulsive gambling on their own, there are ways you can help. If you see somebody you know is struggling with this issue, then it is time to step in and save them; they could use your help. 

The Main Symptoms

The best way to identify compulsive gambling is by observing its main symptoms. These are the ones that you will find mentioned over and over again in relation to the condition:

  • A strong desire or urge to gamble
  • A feeling of stress or anxiety when attempting to control the urge to gamble
  • Going back over previous losses rather than learning from past mistakes
  • A feeling that the losses are meaningless, or that the game is fixed
  • Loss of temper when attempting to resist the urge to gamble
  • Problems at work or school as a result of the excessive focus on gaming
  • Continued participation in activities associated with gambling (e.g., slot machines, blackjack, etc.)
  • Loss of money (or belongings) due to gambling
  • A feeling of guilt or remorse after losing money gambling


There are a number of different causes that can lead to compulsive gambling. As mentioned, it can start with a simple desire to bet. However, sometimes there are other hidden factors that contribute to the development of compulsive gambling. Some of the more common causes include:

  • Repressed anger or resentment toward members of the family
  • The inability to express emotions, especially feelings of sadness and remorse
  • A history of trauma, including sexual abuse
  • A poor education or lack of information about mental health and the disease of addiction
  • A history of poor impulse control, especially when it comes to spending money, as a result of which you suffer from a compulsive spending disorder
  • A chemical imbalance in the brain, specifically with regards to dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in the regulation of behavior

Risk Factors

You may also be wondering about the risk factors associated with compulsive gambling. These are the personal characteristics or situations that place you at a greater risk of developing the condition. The fact that you are reading this now means that you are probably already familiar with some of the risk factors. However, it is always good to be reminded of them.

  • Men are more likely to develop compulsive gambling than women. The reason for this is still unknown, but it could be due to the fact that men are more likely to be exposed to situations that involve gambling.
  • Genetics plays a huge role in determining whether or not you will develop compulsive gambling. If you are the gambling type, then you most likely come from a family of gamblers. This makes you six times more likely to develop the condition than someone without a gambling gene.
  • Being raised in a home with an alcoholic father increases your chances of developing compulsive gambling. This is because alcohol can interfere with the way that your brain functions, especially when it comes to decision-making. If you are being raised by an alcoholic parent, then you will most likely grow up believing that drinking is an acceptable response to stressful situations. This could potentially lead you down the wrong path, which is why it is so important to remove yourself from these situations as soon as possible.
  • Living in a country where gaming is legalized increases your chances of developing compulsive gambling. Many people believe that the more that a country allows gambling, the more likely it is that individuals will develop an addiction to it. What they don’t realize is that many games of chance were designed to escape into a virtual world, where the odds are always in your favor and the house always wins. This is why it is important to keep games of chance out of sight and reach of children, especially those who are still struggling with thoughts and behaviors associated with a poor education.


If you or someone you know is showing signs of compulsive gambling, then it is time to take action and help them. The best course of treatment is prevention, so take the time to learn as much as you can about the disease. There are three keys to effective treatment: therapy, medication, and change. Through therapy and counseling, the patient will be able to identify the underlying causes of the condition and learn new behaviors that will help them live a more comfortable life. Medication may be needed to treat the symptoms and side effects of the disease, as well as the underlying causes. Change means the patient will have to face the fact that they have a disease and need to make permanent lifestyle changes. Sometimes one key piece of treatment is enough for some people, while others may require a combination of therapy, medication, and/or change. It is always a good idea to work with a reputable psychiatrist or psychotherapist who has experience in treating compulsive gamblers. With their help, you and your loved one can overcome this condition and live a happy and healthy life together.