4 MIN READ | General

Peter Wallace

How to Recognise Gambling Addiction – The First Signs of Problem

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Peter Wallace, (2022, March 1). How to Recognise Gambling Addiction – The First Signs of Problem. Psychreg on General. https://www.psychreg.org/how-recognise-gambling-addiction-first-signs-problem/
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Gambling can be a fun pastime and one that can become a source of income for some players. However, it can also be rather addicting and even cause problems that go beyond financial issues. It’s important to learn about the signs of gambling addiction and to act if you notice it in yourself or others.

These signs are sometimes hidden in plain sight and sometimes it takes time to notice them even if you’re close with the person having such problems. 

Becoming preoccupied with gambling 

Most gambling addiction books state the first sign of the problem is the preoccupation with gambling. It’s a simple enough proposition but one that’s rather difficult to prove or notice. What’s one person’s preoccupation is the other interest or simply fascination.

It takes a while to notice this first and most common symptom. Chances are that once it’s noticeable enough, you’ll also be able to notice other more worrisome symptoms. However, if you manage to notice that someone is talking about gambling a bit too much you should step in and talk to them.

Gambling even when they are losing 

If a person keeps gambling even if there are consecutions to their livelihood and financial stability – chances are that they have a problem and that it needs to be addressed. Everyone who gambles loses sometimes and this isn’t always a sign that something is wrong. The problem becomes when they are doing it even when they know they are making a mistake. 

Gambling often puts a strain on personal relationships and if a person keeps gambling even though it’s hurting their friends and family, it’s a sign that they won’t stop regardless of the cost. 

Chasing losses 

One of the biggest mistakes that gamblers tend to make is to chase their losses.  There’s a superstition and a common mistake that once you lose a lot, you’re bound to start winning at some point. There’s no proof for such an approach since most of the gambling games are based on random number generators. 

That means that there’s no way to predict how the game will turn out and you shouldn’t try to chase your losses since it won’t help you. It’s often difficult for gambling to stop once they are in this type of downward spiral and that’s the time to reach out to them. 

Making efforts to stop

A good sign that a person has a problem comes from the fact that they themselves recognize it. That is usually noticeable in the fact that they are trying to stop gambling and keep getting back to it. Someone who does that is struggling and it’s the perfect time to try and help them. 

If they’ve quit playing before chances are that they can do it again and that they have the strength that it takes to battle with addiction. This also means that they need help.

Financial problems

Gambling all the time leads to financial problems. If you notice that someone is always in debt, always borrowing money, and struggling to deal financially, you should reach out. These are often difficult to notice until a person comes out and say that they have a problem. 

There are other reasons why this may be happening and that’s why it’s important to be on the lookout for other symptoms as well. When combined these paint a picture of a person dealing with a lot at once and it shows. However, it’s important not to wait until the problems pile on.

Become superstitious about gambling 

Gamblers often try to put their playing habits and result into a narrative. That’s why they become superstitious about their chances and their losses. This is a common issue but it’s often difficult to spot since everyone is trying to make sense of their problems in their way. 

If you notice that someone has started talking about feeling lucky, having a lucky table, or a lucky charm of any kind it may be a sign that something is going on. The same is true for those who try to explain why they are having a bad couple of turns or games.

Withdrawal symptoms

Trying to give up gambling can cause withdrawal symptoms similar to those that you get when you quit on any other addiction. These are rather harsh and can cause much pain and distress to those who go through them. They are often physical and can cause shaking, sweating, violent behavior, and many other problems. 

When you notice such symptoms in a person you care about, you should react right away. Sometimes this also means you’re going to need to call for the services of a doctor since those symptoms can be very serious and harmful.

All of the symptoms in unison

It’s rarely just one or a few of these symptoms that you need to deal with. If a person has a gambling addiction chances are that they are experiencing all of the symptoms combined and that’s where the issue becomes noticeable most of all. However, this also means that it’s rather advanced. 

It’s important to be on the lookout for these symptoms and especially for a combination of all of them. Chances are that one will follow another as the person gets more into the world of gambling and addiction to it. The more you wait the more difficult it will be to help.

What to do?

Once you notice the symptoms and make sure that the person is experiencing a gambling addiction, you should make sure that they are on the path of recovery. Numerous institutions deal with this problem and they can usually be found at the same places as the assistance for other addictions. 

Figuring out that there’s a problem and looking for help is an essential step but it is just the first step towards recovery. It still requires a lot of work and effort on the part of everyone involved and especially the addict.


Peter Wallace did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.


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