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People who experience an addiction to gambling may be unable to control the impulse to gamble, even when they know their actions are hurting themselves and others. Individuals with this addiction may feel a compulsive urge to gamble in spite of their desire to quit.

Like drinking alcohol, gambling in moderation does not lead to addiction for most people. It becomes an issue when someone feels compelled to gamble despite any consequences. The condition can be difficult to manage due to the accessibility of gambling, particularly online gambling.

Research shows gambling and drugs impact the reward centers of the brain in similar ways. This may be why many people with a gambling addiction report a “high” during a game.

What are the warning signs?

Like most addictions, gambling addiction tends to thrive in secrecy. Loved ones of people experiencing gambling addiction might not be aware there is a problem until it has spiraled out of control.

If someone shows at least four of these signs over the course of a year, he or she may have a gambling problem:

  • Persistent thoughts about gambling, whether it be reliving past wins or planning the next gambling session
  • Using gambling to escape from problems or distress
  • A need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to get the same thrill
  • Lying about the extent of gambling activities
  • Using gambling to recover money from previous losses (called “chasing one’s losses”)
  • Repeated attempts to control one’s gambling or stop altogether
  • Restlessness when trying to cut back on gambling
  • Ignoring family, work, and other responsibilities to gamble
  • Borrowing money from others to relieve debts caused by gambling

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