What Does “Unhealthy Gambling” Look Like?

Updated on May 7, 2020

When gambling turns from a relaxing and harmless activity into an obsession that you cannot stay away from no matter how much you try, then gaming is no longer entertainment. The consequences of compulsive gaming can be severe and it’s therefore important to identify the early signs of unhealthy gaming behavior that proceeds gambling addiction. 

No matter if it’s on video games, scratch cards, casino games or betting at the horse racing tracks, unhealthy gambling behavior is prone to affect personal relationships, work, financials and overall health. 

Gambling addiction, classified by the ICD-10 Code F63.0 as Pathological gambling, is defined as; “an urge to gamble continuously despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop”. “Unhealthy gaming” refers to the behavior or lifestyle of the gambler before he meets the diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling. “Responsible gambling” is the terminology describing a policy used by licensed online gaming sites to block customers expressing, or showing signs, of gambling addiction. Early intervention and detection of unhealthy gaming require that we know what to look. This article describes some of the most common signs present at an early stage of compulsive gaming. Recognizing them can save people and families. 

What Is Considered Unhealthy Gambling?

Pathological gambling is considered a disorder related to improper gambling impulse control, no matter how serious the effects on yourself and the people you care about. A gambling addict will not stop whether they are on a losing or winning streak, penniless and estranged from their family because of their problem. However, it is also possible to be dealing with a gambling issue while you are still partially in control of your gambling.

Basically, problem-gambling refers to any type of activity that causes a disruption in your daily routine. For example, going over your budget because of your gambling habits, wasting all your free time gambling or frantically chasing all your losses are all signs of a problem.

Mood swings are also connected to unhealthy gambling. When watching the roulette wheel spin in front of your eyes and all you can feel is a powerful desire to keep playing in an attempt to try to earn back your losses, you have a problem.

When done in a healthy manner, gambling is supposed to relax you, help you unwind after a stressful day or week and keep you entertained.

When stress, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, and even substance abuse are associated with your gambling behavior, you are most certainly dealing with unhealthy gambling.

The same goes for when you are feeling miserable whenever you are not sitting in front of a pokies machine, hitting the spin button without a pause.

Lots of problem gamblers also suffer from depression and even bipolar disorder. All of these require professional help and the first step to getting it is to admit you actually have a problem.

All of the underlying causes of your problem gambling will also need to be properly addressed.

You Don’t Have To Gamble Daily To Have A Problem

Unhealthy gambling cannot be defined on a gambling frequency basis. Someone who wagers on a casino game or sports event every few days might have no problem stopping at any point or skipping a gambling session without experiencing withdrawal symptoms similar to drug addictions.

On the other hand, someone who plays once every few weeks and wagers money they cannot afford to lose, borrows money, lies and deceives the people around him is a problem-gambler.

In other words, gambling only turns into something unhealthy when it starts to generate problems in your daily life, at work or at home.

Another thing that you should know is that gambling is unhealthy even if the compulsive player can afford to spend the money.

In reality, pathological gambling creates a number of problems that are not related to money. For instance, spending too much on the activity up to the point it becomes an obsession, the loss of jobs, depression or law trouble.

How To Recognize Problem Gambling

While you may not be able to notice any physical symptoms, unhealthy gambling does show through a number of things:

Problem-players are extremely secretive about their gambling habits and they often times lie about the number of times they gamble throughout the week.

Most compulsive gamblers keep playing in hopes of striking a huge jackpot that will surprise everyone in their life and justify their behavior.           

Gamblers cannot walk away from the slots machine or the poker table, be it brick-and-mortar or virtual, once they start playing.

They feel the need to wager all of their money and keep upping bets in a desperate attempt to get back their losses.                 

More often than not, they end up spending the monthly bills’ money or home mortgage money. Some will start selling items inside the house, whether they belong to them or not, start borrowing from everyone they know or engage in stealing money.      

If you or someone you know is showing signs of unhealthy gaming behavior we recommend you contact a gambling anonymous program. They will help you to evaluate the situation and you can talk to them anonymously. You should also reach out to friends and family, join a support group and very often the person involved needs professional help for any underlying psychological problems related to unhealthy gambling. Fighting a gambling addiction can not be done alone! 

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