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How to Identify the Early Stages of Gambling Disorder

Krzysztof is a former gambling addict who hopes to give advice to those who may be suffering from gambling addiction and other disorders.

Are You a Gambling Addict?

Common sense states that someone whose never gambled is not going to end up with a gambling addiction.

But for those that have, then try to imagine that first gambling experience as a seed. Does it stay dormant or does it eventually germinate and grow into something lethal?

Many of us already planted that seed when we took a stab at gambling, but what does it mean to gamble?

The term gambling means risking money or collateral for a higher reward.

The risks could be very fair or extremely one-sided depending on the money at stake and the games played.

Even as a kid if you decide to risk one of your toys for a better one through a game of chance or skill, then you are technically engaging in gambling. It might not seem like much, but it could play a significant role when you get older.

But how about this scenario...

Imagine you've never gambled before, but when you reached the age of 21 your friends persuaded you to gamble for the first time at a casino.

Odds are that after playing a few games you'll end up perfectly fine, but it might be better to lose the first time than win.

How the First Win Can Lead to Addiction

There's nothing pleasurable about losing money or something valuable, and luckily first time gamblers quickly realize this and stop.

But what if the first time you gamble, you end up winning instead...Would it change how you felt about gambling?

The answer is a resounding YES!

If you're at a casino and start hearing those bells ring, then they'll be this rush of adrenaline that's rarely experienced. The bigger the prize, the greater the sensation.

That first reward, if substantial, is akin to watering that seed I discussed in the opening paragraph, which may cause it to germinate.

So what happens after you win for the very first time. Do you stop playing, claim your winnings, or do you decide to take another stab at it?

When Should You Stop?

If you've ever watched a game show, then you'll know what I'm talking about.

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In game shows, you play for a certain amount of time until the risk grows greater and greater. That risk correlates with a rapid rise in prizes and money you could win.

How much free money are you willing to risk before walking away?

Shows like "Deal or no Deal" and "Press Your Luck" have been poster child's for games where people refuse to stop, which leaves them getting burnt.

For example, a contestant on Deal or no Deal had to choose from two suitcases with one having a million dollars and the other a dollar.

The offer was nearly split down the middle, and they had the option to either take the offer or attempt to pick the winning case. This contestant foolishly decided to go for it and ended up losing everything (well except the dollar).

Would you quit while you're ahead and use common sense?

A gambling addict wouldn't stop, but even a stable person might take a risk and go for it. Just because the contestant went for the million and lost doesn't mean they had a gambling addiction.

In the contestant's case, his actions were likely controlled by emotion and adrenaline. I mean he could have won a huge amount of money that was more than double the offer.

The audience, who were hollering and screaming, weren't helping either. They weren't risking anything so it was fun for them.

In this example compulsion was at fault, not addiction, however; it can be a stepping stone towards a gambling addiction.

How Much Does Losing Bother You?

One of the precursors towards a gambling addiction is your emotional response after a loss.

Often the greater the emotional response, the less likely you are to develop an addiction.

When losing sickens and depresses you, then the urge to keep playing subsides (not always). However gamblers tend to absolve their losses by giving into more gambling, which likely results in an even greater losses.

In fact that's one of the biggest signs to look for in a gambling addict. It's what the caution messages at casinos or lottery tickets stress when they tell you to call a number if you suspect "so and so" might have a gambling problem/addiction.

The thing is that people who are addicted will not let something like losing bother them too much, which is incredibly dangerous. Those with emerging gambling behaviors will not care if they keep losing because those few wins make up for how badly they may feel after losing.

As with any addiction, that feeling you get when you win impacts your brain, which is on par with other addictions such as caffeine or drugs/alcohol.

It gets to a point where what you win doesn't matter as much as the feeling of winning itself.

Gambling Addiction Signs and Symptoms

There are several signs that indicate you might have a gambling problem.

They may not always be obvious or immediately correlate to gambling, but you should be on the lookout if a combination of these symptoms emerge:

  • Excess lying, secrecy, and irritability
  • Steep decline in bank account/funds
  • Consistent thoughts of gambling
  • Daily purchases of lottery tickets or online gambling
  • Dependency on others financially
  • Declination of past hobbies and interests
  • Drop in social activity/loss of relationships

The disappearance of money and lowering funds are strong signs that there's something going on even if it's not directly related to gambling.

At the very least It can help identify the problems someone might be dealing with.

Gambling Treatment and Support

If you suspect you or someone you know is experiencing early signs of a gambling addiction, then you need to seek treatment immediately because there's no telling how far a person will go.

People have been know to lose their jobs, homes, or end up homeless due to this addiction.

As with most compulsive and psychological disorders like body dysmorphic disorder, the best method of treatment is either cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or prescribed medication (or both).

At the beginning of this article I've mentioned how planting a seed in tantamount to how things will evolve in the future. Unlike the seed of a plant, this is one seed you don't want to water, feed, and let grow.

The best way to prevent this is either by never planting that seed in the first place or setting specified limits if you do gamble.

If you gamble, then do it sporadically and have others present. Surrounding yourself with friends, family, and acquaintances while going to a casino can sharply decrease how much money you spend.

Having a strong support system is critical to preventing a problem and intervening when it begins to get out of control.

Try your hardest to never get past Stage 1 with any addiction, and please seek help when you feel yourself or someone you know is beginning to slip.

Don't end up broke, poor, and homeless because of a compulsive behavior you've always had the power to stop.

Your Thoughts!


Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on August 22, 2015:

Thank you very much. I agree the slots are very addicting especially if you win a few times and hear those sounds and lights go off. Casinos are fun as long as you have your limits. I don't really pay attention to the hubber score and you shouldn't either. The most important thing is to keep writing because that's all that matters. I've read works from excellent writers on here and I wish I was half as good but thank you for the feedback and good luck with your great writing endeavors.

David B Katague from Northern California and the Philippines on August 21, 2015:

Hi Chriswillman90. I enjoyed this hub very much. Since my wife and I go to the Casinos once every month for our monthly entertainment, I could really identify how one can be easily be addicted to gambling specifically the SLOTS in our case. Wow, I am jealous of your Hubber Score, but you really deserve it! You are an excellent writer!

Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on June 17, 2015:

Yes they are very similar, and some things like sex addiction tend to get made fun of are portrayed as comedic on TV and in movies despite their serious nature. Gambling is also viewed as one of those addictions where the victim is viewed to be at fault because they shouldn't have gambled in the first place.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 17, 2015:

gambling is similar to addiction to food or sex which a person had due to prolong action that did not stopped. Early detection and help from love ones are very crucial. Great hub

Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on April 23, 2015:

I could understand the cultural aspects of something like that, and it's often people either don't understand or are just ignorant about it. I know why they'd be against it because any cruelty to animals shouldn't be accepted, but every culture is different and that is often ignored. Thank you for reading.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on April 22, 2015:

This is the first time I read an article about the beginning stages of gambling addiction. While I don't know of anyone who gambles, my father (now deceased) used to like cockfighting, which is also a form of gambling and cruelty to animals, but as a boy who grew up in the province, it was also a cultural thing.

Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on April 11, 2015:

Good point about the additive of alcohol along with the gambling. They actually so go hand in hand in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. This represents a dual problem where one addiction could trigger another and then your problems increase ten fold.

That's an interesting strategy you've laid out so extensively and I have to agree. It all has to be about what you're willing to lose while still being sensible. A small percentage as you've stated is probably the best way to go about this. Whenever anyone gambles their mentality should be that I will probably lose some money.

You have to already believe you'll lose because let's be honest, most people who gamble will lose rather than win. Enjoyed reading your take on everything and thank you so much for the response. I too hope people wise up and realize they have a problem. Hope you have a great day.

Free Gamers on April 10, 2015:

The guy in the video declining $416,000 is tragic. Maybe without the pressure of the studio/atmosphere, coupled with the feeling of being in the limelight for a few minutes, he might have made a different choice.

He might have even listened to the little voice in the crowd telling him to deal.

I think the worst thing a person can do is to consume alcohol before or while gambling. You make very poor decisions under the influence of alcohol and even go as far as not being bothered as to how much money you're throwing at it. Not until the next morning you won't anyway. I know this because I've done it myself in the past.

The only thing you'll get from gambling under the influence of alcohol, is self hatred and despair.

Now, think about one of the biggest places in the world to gamble: Las Vegas. Look how beautiful the place is when it's lit up through the night. The huge casinos and lavish hotels.

Now take a guess who built the place?

Losers, that's who. The whole place is built by people who lost everything to it.

A place that looks as extravagant as that has a disgusting, seedy, underbelly. It will welcome you with open arms like a loving mother, and then slowly and carefully strip you of all your hard earned cash, and probably influence you to sell your mothers jewellery to chase your losses.

Do this as an experiment - Before you even begin to gamble, imagine all of your money you have on you in one hand and (being as thoughtful and as sensible as you can) slowly transfer over to the other hand the amount of cash from that pile you could give away, lose, forget about, or even burn that you wouldn't miss at all. If you can't do that then you shouldn't be gambling at all. Take up golf or something instead. If you transfer all of it over then you should seriously think about professional help before you end up alone and on the streets.

Whatever you do transfer over to your other hand is your MAXIMUM LIMIT. I would put this at around (being sensible) 3-5% of your total. If you had $500 that would be about $25. If you lose that money to gambling then make sure you replace it x10 before you have another go.

If you win, then you were lucky. There is no skill when it comes to gambling, It's all about luck and never ever forget that. Once you start thinking you have a 'system' or strategy that works, you're doomed to fail and the lesson will be a hard one if you keep thinking it.

Nice article here, Krzysztof. I hope people who do have a problem with gambling, take note of what has been laid out for them here and wise up.

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