The rate of problem gambling has risen globally over the last few years. Around 2.5 million people in the United States have a gambling disorder that needs immediate treatment. Globally speaking, there are around 350 million problem gamblers every year.
A gambling disorder is a disease that should be taken seriously. Addictive behavior may cause mental and physical health issues, loss of residence, and estrangement from families. Because of these harmful consequences, gambling addiction has become a significant public wellness concern in many countries.
People with an alcohol addiction have the biggest chances of becoming gambling addicts, and it is already a huge case. It is speculated that 20% of patients diagnosed with alcohol addiction also suffer from a gambling addiction. Alcoholics are 5-6 times at greater risk of facing a gambling disorder.
These problems have similar symptoms, so they can be treated similarly. Even the risk factors, such as age, sex, genetics, psychiatric history, and socioeconomic status, are the same. For example, according to Allan Tasman and his co-writers of the book “Psychiatry”, young and middle-aged adults are more likely to develop a gambling disorder.
Countries With the Highest Prevalence Rate
Gambling addiction has been recognized as a global concern by the World Health Organization. Here are statistics on some of the most problematic countries in terms of online gambling.
Almost 125,000 Australian citizens are affected by severe gambling addiction, which is about 0.5%. Another 400,000 Australians are considered “moderate-risk” for problem gambling. Around 4% of the population gambles online at least once a week. In 2019-2020, more than $24 billion were lost by players in Australia.
On the outside, it may seem that the citizens of this prosperous country do not and cannot have any problems. However, over 50% of Canada’s residents gamble. At the same time, less than 3% of players display risky behavior, and even a smaller number of gamblers are considered problematic.
The local government regulates gambling activities and takes actions to reduce the level of gambling addiction. Still, approximately 1.4% of people in Norway are addicted to gambling. The number has grown 1.5 times over the last 6 years, which is a disturbing trend.
About 0.4% of people in the United Kingdom suffer from an excessive passion for gambling. The number remains stable over the last several years, while overall participation in gambling has decreased by 3.5% to 42% in the last year.
While approximately 85% of the population participates in gambling, compulsive behavior is a problem for about 2 million Americans. Another 4-6 million are players with a moderate risk who are only one step away from getting a real addiction. In total, $7 billion is the estimated annual cost of problem gambling for the US economy.
Problem Gambling Statistics
What categories of the population are the most vulnerable to getting gambling addiction? Let’s turn to numbers.
Who is more vulnerable to having gambling addiction — men or women? According to statistics, men are winning this race: 4.2% of male players are considered problematic, while only 2.9% of female gamblers show signs of addiction.
In the UK, the majority of problematic gamblers are people aged 35-44 years, according to a recent survey.
Young people aged between 16 and 24 include 0.4% of problem gamblers, just like the 45-54 and 55-64 age groups. The least susceptive to addiction are players in the 25-34 age bracket, while players 65 years old and older do not show compulsive gambling behavior at all.
A person suffering from gambling addiction is prone to committing illegal actions. It is not difficult to understand a loser-gambler, as his actions are driven by the desire to return the lost money. If there is no money to bet with anymore, and the addicted gambler has no choice but to get it by any means, including criminal ones. Some examples may include stealing money from work or even family members.
According to a survey conducted by the UK National Health Service, 47% of UK students have gambled in the last year. Moreover, 10% of those students admitted to using their student loan money to make wagers — a clear sign of gambling addiction.
In the US, almost 6% of students show addictive behavior towards gambling. Gambling addiction proves to be more widespread than excessive drinking, marijuana consumption, and drug use.
Any addiction affects the chemical reactions of the brain. The consequences of this are mental disorders, including depression and anxiety.
The result is antisocial behavior, as well as a proclivity to do illegal actions.
Causes and Effects of Gambling Addiction
The causes of gambling addiction can be the following ones:
- The majority of gambling websites are available to anyone, which creates the preconditions for gambling addiction development in society.
- Negative experiences caused by tragic events (death of a loved one, loss of job).
- Mental emotional loneliness, which is a usual trait of modern megacities.
- Greed and thirst to easily get quick money or hit the “big jackpot”.
- Desire to climb the social ladder.
- Unreasonably high self-esteem.
- Infantilism, personal immaturity, and lack of real criticism.
- Dissatisfaction with life: monetary insecurities, sexual relations, boredom, lack of friends, etc.
- Emotions getting over the senses.
- Search for thrills.
Consequences of gambling addiction:
- Pathological changes in character — irresponsibility, conflictive behavior, deceit, and even aggressiveness.
- Deterioration of physical shape: loss of appetite, insomnia, headaches, and more.
- Mental disorders, dysfunction of thinking, and suicidal thoughts.
- Family breakdown, loss of communication skills, close friends, social status, and poverty.
- The addicted player is often ready to commit theft and even capable of murder.
Who’s at Risk? Why Do Some People Get Addicted?
Signs of gambling addiction:
- a person devotes all of their free time to gambling;
- getting more excited with the increase and frequency of bets;
- state of anxiety, as well as frequent mental breakdowns;
- debts and constant search for money to win back the lost ones;
- playing in such situations that involve risks of losing a job, friends, and having problems in the family;
- refusal to participate in socially significant and entertaining events
In such a situation, there may be people with an unstable psyche, low self-esteem, lonely people, and simply losers. Gambling addiction is exacerbated by addiction to alcohol and drugs. One more reason for the increasing number of people addicted to gambling is the development of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has the potential to worsen mental health issues in the general population, including those associated with gambling. The need for social isolation pushes masses to go online and start playing.
How to Treat Gambling Addiction
Psychotherapists are engaged in treating gambling addiction, and the success of the treatment depends primarily on how strong the patient’s desire to be cured is and how the doctor will motivate the patient to overcome this illness. It is very important that the treatment, which should only be carried out with the full consent of the patient, for such a disease as gambling addiction proceeds with the participation of the patient’s relatives and close people.
First symptoms of gambling addiction:
- Unreasonable aggression and fatigue.
- Rather prolonged and very spontaneous mood swings, accompanied by an outburst of emotions or an indifferent suppressed depressive state.
People who suffer from gambling addiction are not capable of accepting constructive criticism and advice towards them. The signs of this disorder include a hostile attitude towards loved ones, family, and social environment.
The majority of the gambling addicts do not realize their gambling addiction. That’s why they often resist getting treatment. It’s up to the family, doctors, or employer to convince the avid gambler that solving this problem will restore their old relationships and financial well-being.
During therapy sessions, a person completely changes his or her worldview and, most importantly, personal attitude to their own problem. They begin to realize how destructive the effect of gambling addiction is on their life.
In other words, this is a group psychotherapy session led by an experienced moderator. Anonymous players think together about how to overcome their gambling addiction by talking about problems and achievements.
There are no drugs that directly treat gambling addiction. As a rule, gambling addiction is accompanied by depression and increased anxiety. Therefore, antidepressants and mood-boosting drugs are prescribed to relieve these symptoms.
Gambling Addiction Trends Examination
It is impossible to completely ban gambling, even in such countries where casinos are illegal. However, the governments of civilized countries are taking various actions to control and reduce gambling activity:
- The UK prohibits the use of credit cards to fund a personal casino account.
- Prohibition of a minor authorization.
- Mandatory setting the limits on the gaming software features.
- Restrictions and even banning gambling establishments advertising.
- Casinos are completely banned or banned just for residents in 66 countries, which, however, does not exclude the activities of illegal gambling establishments.
About 10 to 15 years ago, mental health became something people started to speak openly about. Hopefully, we can seize this opportunity to ensure that the stigma around gambling addiction — the hidden addiction — will disappear. Some GamCare contribute a lot to solving this problem. People should feel that they can seek the help that they need without hiding away or denying the problem.
Are gamblers addicted to losing?
Passion for the game does not allow the players to stop in time and, as a rule, they lose everything — both their own money and the one they won.
What makes gambling so addictive?
Gambling is like shopping, as well as consuming alcohol and drugs. Play stimulates specific pleasure centers of the brain that influence behavior.
How fast can you treat gambling addiction?
This is a complicated process. The speed of curing the addiction depends on the player’s own desire to get rid of the addiction and on the help from the people who are close to the gambler.
What is the best approach to getting rid of this problem?
First of all, you need to realize that you are addicted to gambling and stop refusing the help of your family, friends, or doctors. Otherwise, you will not be able to get rid of the problem.