Is your gambling becoming a problem?

Gambling addiction is a common problem that can be defined as an impulse control disorder. It is a behavioural addiction, where, unlike drug addiction, you are addicted to the behaviour itself. You have little or no control over your urge to gamble, even though you understand the negative impact of gambling on your life and other people's lives. 


The science behind gambling addiction involves a complex interplay of various factors, including biological, psychological, and social factors.

Biologically, gambling addiction has been linked to changes in the brain's reward system, specifically the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Gambling activities can stimulate the release of dopamine, leading to a pleasurable feeling that can be addictive. Over time, individuals may develop a tolerance to the pleasurable effects of gambling, leading them to seek higher levels of stimulation to achieve the same level of satisfaction. This cycle can lead to compulsive and uncontrollable gambling behaviour.

Psychologically, individuals with a gambling addiction may have underlying mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, unmet needs or trauma that contribute to their addiction. They may also have personality traits such as impulsivity, sensation-seeking, or a need for excitement that make them more susceptible to gambling addiction.

Social factors, such as the availability of gambling opportunities, peer pressure, and cultural attitudes towards gambling, can also contribute to gambling addiction. For example, easy access to online gambling sites and the normalisation of gambling in some cultures can increase the likelihood of developing a gambling addiction.

What are the signs of gambling addiction?

Gambling addiction is a serious problem that can affect your health, relationships, and finances. It's important to recognise the signs of gambling addiction so that you can get help if needed.

Here are some common signs:

  • You have trouble controlling your urge to gamble. You think about gambling a lot and you feel powerless to stop your urges.
  • You regularly gamble more than you can afford or plan on spending, which can lead to financial difficulties for you and your family.
  • You experience problems at work such as difficulty concentrating or you may be regularly absent from work because of gambling-related issues such as hangovers from alcohol abuse or giving in to your urge to gamble. You may also be “app gambling” at work.
  • You could be neglecting family responsibilities such as chores around the house or parental duties as you are preoccupied with the thought of gambling.
  • Popular gambler phrases include:
    • "Just one more spin of the wheel, I can’t lose this time……surely."
    • "That horse was a stick on, what was that jockey doing?"
    • Shouting at the slot machine to make sure the reels fall in the gambler's favour.
    • "Let’s do a team bet…’s the lucky last."

How to manage your gambling addiction

If you have a gambling addiction, the first step is recognising that your gambling is an issue. It's important to be honest with yourself and your family, accepting from your friends and family but also seeking professional help

You should also try to avoid the triggers that lead you to gamble, such as being in certain places or around people who like to gamble. Finally, if possible, try cutting down on the amount of time spent gambling by setting limits on how much money can be spent each day or week.

Gambling addiction is a serious problem that can escalate over time very quickly and lead to financial ruin and other negative consequences. If you think that you might have developed an addiction to gambling, it is important that you seek help from a professional as soon as possible.

The first step is identifying the signs of gambling addiction and determining whether or not your gambling is becoming a problem. If so, then it's time for treatment!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Epsom, Surrey, KT18
Written by David Campbell, Counsellor MBACP Registered Individual and Couples Therapy
Epsom, Surrey, KT18

David Campbell is a BACP registered therapist and offers specialised counselling in Epsom, Surrey and online giving you a safe, trusting and confidential place in which to be seen, heard, and work through the issues you are facing. My practice is adapted to your needs allowing you to move forward with greater clarity and confidence in the future.

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