Enjoying things or activities you really like in a responsible manner might seem like you’re purposefully sucking the fun out of it. However, despite how discouraging it might seem at the first sight, we can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your gaming sessions in an online casino in the spirit of responsible gambling.
Why is it so significant? Well, if you know for some reason that you are in the risk group then it is obvious that you must dedicate yourself to safe gambling practices. But if everything is fine at the moment and spinning the reels of your favorite online slots only brings you joy and some extra cash, why would you care for responsible gambling? Well, the thing is that you’ll never know that you’re prone to be a problem gambler until it will really become something that ruins your life.
We strongly recommend that you read this article if you think that gambling-related harm and addiction will never be the case for you. If you or someone you’re close with is suffering from problem gambling, then you’re also in the right place. This article is intended for everyone because responsible gambling is something to be promoted and performed at all times by everyone who visits online casinos, or any casinos for that matter.
Table of contents
- What causes gambling addiction?
- Signs and symptoms of problem gambling
- Phases a problem gambler goes through
- Tips for staying safe when you gamble online
- Steps you should take to control your gambling
- How to get help if you think your gambling becomes a problem?
- Resources and services for gambling addiction treatment & prevention
What causes gambling addiction?
The question of how an addiction emerges is a really important one, and research in this field continues to improve and extend every single day. Every type of addiction has its own distinctive characteristics and a set of factors that drive its development, and the same time they all share some common features. If we’re talking about the gambling addiction in particular, we can say that there are three main categories in which all the reasons that cause the problem gambling fall. These are the biological, psychological, and social factors, and naturally they are very interconnected.
This is the core factor that drives almost all possible and classified addictions. How does it function? In fact, it’s really simplistic, but really powerful as well. Your brain normally produces such hormones as serotonin and dopamine, which are responsible for your overall well-being and happy mood, in volumes enough to make you feel good. Some practices allow you to increase your average level of serotonin, but in general it’s impossible to feel great at all times.
However, our brain has an ability to respond to some activities in an excessive manner. Perhaps, eating some really tasty food would be an example that will be understandable for 99% of people reading this text. You take a bite of your favorite dish, and almost instantly you feel a rush of happiness that goes through your body. That’s exactly what serotonin does when it’s produced excessively in a short period of time: you feel happy and almost euphoric. And that’s how you can develop an addiction.
You can become really hooked on that reward that your brain gives you for a certain action. You begin to associate this activity with the highest possible level of happiness. Everyone’s brain is responsive to different things, and some people just naturally like gambling and the excitement that you get when you’re chasing that big jackpot.
Just like all other things that you enjoy in your life, there’s nothing bad about being happy when you manage to collect a strong hand in a poker game and win a round. Problems begin when gambling becomes the main (or, in worst cases, the only) source of happiness in your life. When you get used to getting serotonin rewards from your brain for playing online slots, you start to develop a gambling addiction that can later become an overwhelming problem.
The biological mechanism of developing an addiction that we’ve discussed earlier always goes hand in hand with various psychological factors. Humans are really complex creatures, so it is really rare that a person develops an addiction simply on the grounds of getting a serotonin rush for a certain action like a lab rat. In the majority of cases, psychological problems, disorders and illnesses are the main factor why people seek high-rewarding activities like gambling.
It is possible to say that in most cases people with gambling addiction use their gaming sessions as a coping mechanism. What is a coping mechanism? To answer this question, it’s essential to take it back to the biological aspect. When you experience negative emotions on a regular basis or when you have clinical depression, your brain suffers from the lack of serotonin. To compensate for it, you seek for activities that would give you that lacking hormone of happiness. This is what a coping mechanism looks like.
The reasons that can turn people to such coping mechanisms as gambling are various. As we already mentioned, depression can be a very prominent factor. However, an impulsive type of personality also can be a cause for developing a gambling addiction because such people tend to make decisions instantly based on their emotions. Such people can easily start chasing losses and spend money that wasn’t intended for gambling.
Another personality type that is prone to becoming gambling addicts are competitive and self-confident people. They tend to perceive gambling games as another field to compete with others or with themselves for that matter. Trying to prove that you are the best in games of luck is a dangerous mindset because no matter how much confidence you have, the reels of online slots will still spin completely random.
Societal factors also play a huge role in the development of addictions. A person never exists in a vacuum, and the society that surrounds us definitely has an impact on us, whether we want it or not. That’s why it’s pretty easy to trace common social factors that contribute to problem gambling.
First of all, the direct exposure to gambling is a highly prominent factor. If you hang with people that are keen on gambling or if your family members were gamblers themselves, there are little to no barriers for you to start gambling yourself. Moreover, it is very likely that if you start to experience gamling-related problems, your gambling friends will be the force that will only worsen your addiction.
However, there are a bunch of other factors that are really prominent as well. First of all, it is essential to remember about reasons that correlate with the psychological aspect. Stress can be a very strong reason to seek relief in gambling. Emotional stress could be caused by various traumatic experiences such as a loss of a loved one, loss of job, an injury or illness. Sometimes people can’t handle these problems on their own and turn to activities that give them relief from their stress.
By the way, the absence of social connections and support is also a very powerful factor. When a person becomes isolated from society, he or she tends to develop sociopathic behavior because they can’t process their experiences with other people. In its turn, social isolation could happen due to many reasons: moving to another town or country, separation from parents, imprisonment, disability, or such mental illnesses as depression or bipolar disorder that causes you to turn away from social interactions.
And, of course, it is very common that gambling addiction goes hand in hand with substance abuse. Alcohol or drug abuse is also caused by social and psychological factors that are similar to those that influence the development of gambling addiction. When combined, these conditions increase the negative effects of each other, so everything progresses a downward spiral very fast.
Signs and symptoms of problem gambling
By now you should get a pretty good picture of what causes the gambling addiction to develop. In other words, so far we’ve discussed the background that can lead to developing an addiction to online gambling. But what red flags that actually signalize about what’s happening right now, in the moment? Let’s figure out the most important things to pay attention to if you think you or your significant other is experiencing the early stages of problem gambling.
You experience negative emotions more often
As we already mentioned, people can’t be happy all the time, and experiencing negative emotions is just an integral part of being a human. However, you should pay attention to your well-being because the increase of stressful emotions is a sign that gambling is becoming a problem. If you feel stressed out, anxious, sad, or ashamed when you gamble, after ending the gaming session, when you can’t gamble for a period of time, or in other situations that are somehow related to gambling — these are all signs of a developing addiction.
Gambling becomes less entertaining
Speaking of your gambling sessions, are they still that much fun? Normally, when you gamble responsibly from time to time, you feel excitement and thrill when playing a round of blackjack or spinning the reels of online slots. However, when you start to become a problem gambler, your gaming sessions do not entertain you as much as they used to. It’s also a normal thing to get bored from something that you do regularly. The primary red flag here is that you start playing more in search of the same excitement as you had previously.
You prioritize gambling over your responsibilities
This is one of the most important things to pay attention to. It is critical for you to keep in mind at all times that gambling is a hobby and not a priority. Your work, your family, your friends, your other hobbies — they are ALL more important than playing in online casinos. If you have some free time and spare money, then gambling for a couple of hours in a week is totally fine. But when you restrain yourself from spending time with your loved ones or neglecting your responsibilities at work for the sake of playing some more, then it is a sign to become concerned.
You gamble with the money which are intended for other purposes
This is also a clear sign of a gambling addict’s behavior. Money that is meant to be spent on paying your bills and supporting your family members should never be wagered in online casinos. If you feel otherwise, then you should seriously think about seeking some professional help, counselling, or treatment because such mindset clearly indicates problem gambling.
You’re trying to win back your losses
This symptom is a direct consequence of two previous problems. Thinking that gambling is your number one priority makes you want to win back what you lost. Either you do it out of your competitive spirit or you just can’t stand losing money — you start chasing losses. If you do so, then you’re clearly a problem gambler. Staking more and more, hoping that you will be able to cover what you’ve lost with the very big win that is just around the corner, will result only in more losses.
Gambling becomes something to hide from loved ones
Either you do it on purpose or unconsciously, it really marks the progression of a gambling addiction. Feeling ashamed about playing in an online casino means that there is something wrong with your approach to gambling. Gambling in a responsible manner with the money that you’re not afraid to lose is a thing that you shouldn’t be ashamed of as it is a way of entertaining yourself. If you’re trying to hide your losses or debts from significant others, then you should consider treatment.
You can’t stop even when you want to
This is a sign of a severe addiction, and it usually shows up after many other red flags that you should pay attention to in the first place. When you feel that gambling really became a problem that has an evident negative impact on your life and the lives of people around you, but you simply can’t stop playing — seek professional help. If this symptom is found, it means that you’re in the stage where it is really difficult for you to stop gambling on your own.
Phases a problem gambler goes through
As we’ve discussed symptoms and signs that can indicate the beginning and progression of a gambling addiction, it is high time to discuss the phases through which a problem gambler goes. Psychologists and other researchers of problem gambling recognize four stages that people go through from a regular player to a severe gambling addict.
The Winning Phase
This stage is actually the one where it is almost impossible to differentiate between a normal and a problem gambler. People in this stage are usually really happy with modest wins and they enjoy playing in general. However, if a big win occurs, a person might develop a misconception that he or she is a natural born gambler who is going to win big sums constantly. And that’s how people transcend to the second stage.
The Losing Phase
Naturally, it is impossible to win on a regular basis from an online casino, and that’s what many people with gambling addiction do not understand clearly. If you’re playing every single day, it is 100% guaranteed that you will lose more that you will win. And that’s where people get hooked up: they have a desire to play more because they don’t feel the same excitement as before, and then they start losing gradually. The majority of symptoms that we’ve discussed before start to develop in this phase.
The Desperation Phase
The third stage is a natural progression of the problems that appeared in the Losing Phase. There are two core differences though. First of all, problem gamblers are not simply losing their money now — they get in debt by gambling with the money that is not theirs. Secondly, it is increasingly difficult for them to control their gambling as they really become addicted to playing online slots or other casino games. In general, professional treatment is essential in this stage.
The Hopeless Phase
This is the very bottom that a problem gambler (or almost any addict for that matter) can hit. His or her debts become so big that he/she has no hope of paying it back. The relationships with family and friends are usually ruined completely due to conflicts and mistrust. Abuse of drugs and alcohol are also frequent companions of this phase. Logically enough, people make suicide attempts the most often in this phase. We can’t stress enough how important it is to take necessary actions long before this stage because it is really challenging to get your life back on track from this phase.
Tips for staying safe when you gamble online
As we’ve discussed in how much trouble gambling can get you, you’re probably wondering what preventive measures are. We sincerely hope that this article really provides you with a clear understanding of how much damage gambling addiction can do to you and people around you. So, let’s discuss the most useful tips of staying safe during your online gambling sessions.
Choose only responsible gambling operators
The choice of where you play is of critical importance because the responsibility of an online casino plays a huge role in preventing gambling addictions. Ideally, there are three core aspects that differentiate a responsible gambling operator from an unreliable one. First of all, you should be able to set reality checks to keep track of time spent in a casino. Secondly, there should be an availability of setting deposit limits as well as loss limits to control how much money you spend in a casino. And lastly, responsible online casinos should give you an opportunity to self-exclude yourself from their site without discussion.
Entertainment is the primary goal
This is a very important mindset to have when gambling online. We’ve mentioned it several times before because it is essential to emphasize this idea. Gaming in online casinos is a thing that should only be perceived as a way to entertain yourself. If you manage to make some money along the way — then it’s great, if you lose the money that is intended for gambling — well, the luck wasn’t on your side, and there’s nothing terrible about it. You had a good time, you got some excitement and thrill, and now it’s time to set the game aside. That’s the mindset with which you should enter the online casino.
Think of the gambling money as they’re already lost
This advice is directly connected to the previous one. You should always think of money that you gamble with as something that is intended to be entirely lost. With such an approach, you will take gambling losses as they should be perceived — as something that is normal to happen in an online casino. Ideally, you would want to set a separate e-wallet or bank account with money that are only intended for gambling purposes. Set a limit on this wallet, and thus you will easily control how much money you will spend.
Reality checks are important
If the casino site gives you an opportunity to set automatic reality checks then it’s great. But it is also significant to do it manually as well because your own will should be the primary driving force behind your responsible gambling. For example, you can make an agreement with yourself that you will spend an hour and a half this evening playing online slots. Stick to this promise and fulfill it willingly. Thus, you will not lost track of time and money you spend on a casino site.
Never gamble under the influence
It is very obvious advice but really helpful as well. Never should you start a gambling session when you are drunk or high. Without taking into account the negative effects of excessive alcohol or drug consumption, it is really bad for you to make a bet under the influence. The thing is you might suddenly think of betting half of your salary is a good idea because you feel like you’re going to win. In fact, there is nothing worse than such an approach. Statistically, playing under the influence makes for the biggest losses.
Never chasing wins
This advice might surprise you, but it really shouldn’t. We have mentioned a couple of times that chasing losses is a sign of problem gambling, but chasing wins is also not really better. Of course, you’ll be a little euphoric after a win, especially if it is considerably big, but you shouldn’t fall for the misconception that if you won one time then it’s a sign of a lucky streak. In fact, you might lose all the money that you won in just a couple of rounds right after the win. So, if you managed to get a profit — simply walk away with and buy some stuff that you planned to buy for so long, or just save this money for later.
How to get help if you think your gambling becomes a problem?
It depends on the stage of gambling addiction you’re currently in. If you have only started to lose money and play more on average, then an honest conversation with your loved ones or a responsible gambling center specialist will be enough. For example, simply reading this article will give you a good understanding of what you should expect from the addiction’s progression. However, if you didn’t do anything to prevent yourself from problem gambling, you’re already in debt, or you just can’t stop playing — then you should seek long-term professional treatment. A simple conversation will not be enough if you’re in the Desperation or Hopeless Phase. It will be best for you to reach out to one of the services that are specialized on gambling addiction. There’s nothing to be ashamed of because gambling addiction is a serious problem that needs to be treated by professionals. We really hope that you will play responsible after reading this article. Stay safe and play responsibly!
Resources and services for gambling addiction treatment & prevention
GamCare. This is one of the most helpful resources for gambling addiction prevention and treatment. You can get professional help 24/7 over the phone or through the live chat.
BeGambleAware. This is another high-quality resource of information on problem gambling for everyone who is concerned with it, including family members and friends of people who are prone to gambling addiction.Gamblers Anonymous. This resource promotes one of the most effective approaches to treating addictions — by connecting you to people who experience the same problems as you.