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Gambling Help: What to Do With Gambling Addiction

People with gambling addiction suffer from a compulsive urge to play games of chance. They often lose their entire fortune at slot machines, in casinos or by betting. Gambling turns serious because the consequences of gambling addiction are often dramatic. Gambling addiction is a disease that those affected usually cannot overcome without professional gambling help. Read all the important facts about gambling addiction below.


Brief Overview


Criteria include strong cravings, withdrawal symptoms, loss of control, development of tolerance, loss of interests, endangerment of relationships, job or education, and concealment of use.


Continuing to gamble despite losses and debts, neglect of other interests and tasks, secrecy, withdrawal symptoms such as nervousness or irritability.

Course and prognosis

If left untreated, a vicious circle of addictive behaviour, social and professional problems and further withdrawal into addictive behaviour develops. With therapeutic help, normalization of the behaviour is possible.


Outpatient or inpatient therapy, gambling help, individual and group behavioural therapy sessions.

Causes and risk factors

Conditioning of the reward centre in the brain, disturbing impulse control, low self-esteem, family conflicts


Refrain from gambling, moderate gambling, clear money and time limits, and gambling in the company.

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What Is Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addicts often spend many hours a day in front of slot machines, in casinos or playing online poker. They lose not only their money but also their family and friends. The addiction is fatal for those affected, even if it is not tied to a specific substance, as in the case of cocaine or alcohol addiction, for example.

Also in the case of so-called behavioural addictions, to which gambling addiction belongs, the person affected loses control and has to gamble again and again out of inner compulsion.

Gambling Addict

Gambling addiction is recognized as a disease by the health insurance funds and is called “pathological gambling”. In most of these games, it is not the skill that determines the success of the game. Rather, winning or losing depends on chance.

Gambling addiction includes different types of gambling. Gambling addicts most often play slot machines, followed by games in casinos, betting, card and dice games. Online gambling such as poker is also gaining in popularity. Gambling addicts are less frequently found among lottery players.

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Gambling Addiction and Video Games

Video game addiction is also a behavioural addiction. This so-called “gaming disorder” is diagnosed in people if they meet three criteria over a period of twelve months:

Loss of control when gambling: The affected person has lost control over when, how long, at what times, how intensively and in what context they play.

Loss of other activities: Gambling becomes an increasing priority. It dominates everyday life at the expense of other activities.

Negative consequences of gambling: The gaming behaviour of the affected person has already had clear negative consequences – nevertheless, the affected person continues to play.

Video Game

Computer or video game addiction does not only affect adults. This form of gambling addiction is also increasingly seen in children and adolescents.

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What Are the Symptoms of Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction usually develops in a slow process, often over several years. Experts divide gambling addiction into three phases: the positive initial stage, the habituation stage and the addiction stage. Specific signs appear in each stage.

The Positive Initial Stage

In the beginning, the person only gambles occasionally. The stakes give them a thrill, the winnings give them pleasure. They make everyday problems disappear for a while. The gambling is regulated and the gambler continues to pursue his obligations, leisure activities and social contacts. In this phase, one speaks of the entertainment or occasional gambler. Often, however, the first larger winnings lead to a strong temptation to gamble again and again.

The Habituation Stage

In the habituation stage, the gambler gradually loses control over how much he gambles and how much money he stakes. Gambling becomes a regular distraction in everyday life. The winnings create a strong feeling of happiness. Instead of stopping when they win, gamblers push their luck. Since gambling is based on the fact that in the long run, it is not the players who win, but the providers, the losses exceed the gains in the long run.

Typical gambling addiction symptoms in the habituation phase are:

  • Loss of control over gambling behaviour
  • The belief that lucky charms, rituals or strategies influence gambling success
  • Close coupling of emotions, self-esteem and enjoyment of life with gambling
  • Irritability and tension before, during or after gambling
  • Less focus on friends, hobbies and work
  • Secrecy and lying about gambling and its consequences
Habituation Stage

It becomes especially dangerous when gamblers get increasingly into debt. Difficulties with the bank, at work and with the family are only the beginning of the downward spiral of gambling addiction. Relatives who address the gambling addict’s behaviour are often met with aggression and denial. To avoid confrontation, those affected increasingly distance themselves from their social environment.

The Addiction Stage

In the last stage, gamblers are also called excessive and desperate gamblers. There are now no longer any rational limits to the duration and the stakes of the game. The players have to take more and more risks with the stakes in order to still experience a thrill (tolerance development).

At this stage, many have lost their job, partner and social contacts and have great difficulties in all other areas of life. Part of it is that gambling addicts at this stage no longer have a realistic idea of normal amounts of money. The debts are often so high that they are no longer repaid. Nevertheless, addicted gamblers often no longer manage to stop gambling. The possible winnings seem to be the only way out of the difficulties – a momentous mistake.

In the addiction stage, players also show physical and psychological symptoms. Stress and anxiety increase. Addicted (pathological) gamblers can be recognized by their shaky hands and heavy sweating. Some gamblers literally lose themselves in gambling and at times no longer know where they are.

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Addictive Potential of Games

A certain addictive potential of games also contributes to the development of gambling addiction. This addictive potential is based on the way the games are structured and their availability. The gameplay of most gambling games is fast and thus creates a certain thrill.

The games also create the illusion that the player controls them and is in control. If the player loses, the result is often close and tempts them to try again. Instead of real money, games are often played with substitute values, for example, tokens or points. The connection to the real value of the money is thus lost.

Addiction is also supported by the fact that there are many opportunities to gamble. Machines for gambling are not only found in gambling halls, but also in pubs or bars. Further offers exist on the internet.

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How Can a Gambling Addiction Be Prevented?

There are several ways to prevent gambling addiction. The most effective is not to gamble at all. But many people do not want to give up the fun of an occasional game of poker or roulette. These tips will help you play responsibly and avoid falling into the addiction trap:

  • Set a limit on how much money and time you spend gambling
  • Never borrow money to gamble
  • Only use cash to gamble
  • Do not gamble if you have problems or are unwell at the time
  • Always prioritize friends, family, job and hobbies over gambling.
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