Gambling is one of the most common addictions, affecting 1% to 4% of all Americans. It can begin with a quick thrill associated with winning, or with the risk of losing. Over time, you grow more dependent on gambling as a source of joy and a relief from stress. As gambling becomes your primary coping skill, this dependence can become a full-fledged addiction, with far-reaching personal consequences.
"The most obvious consequence is financial. It is devastating, and has such long term effects," says Krista Miller-Tsosie, a therapist and addiction counselor. "The next is relationships. Like all addictions, relationships become strained, and family and friends become estranged."
Most gamblers lose more than they win, causing them to sustain significant financial losses. This may also cause you to rely on more gambling in a desperate attempt to recover lost funds.
Gambling debts can lead to serious safety issues when you relies on illegal lenders to fund their gambling. Additionally, people addicted to gambling in areas where certain types of gambling are illegal may turn to illegal betting. This betting is not regulated, and may expose you to other criminal behavior.
Gambling addiction tears apart relationships, especially when you lose family funds. You may lose relationships with loved ones because of your behavior. Additionally, the time demands of gambling can erode relationships even when the gambling itself is not a source of conflict.
Poor Mental and Physical Health
Addictive gambling can undermine your health. One study found that about 65 percent of people addicted to gambling experience physiological withdrawal symptoms. You may also suffer secondary issues related to gambling, such as alcohol-related liver damage if you drink while gambling or poor nutrition if you forget to eat or only eat food available at a casino.
"One of the least talked about gambling side effects is also incredibly common," says Miller-Tsosie. "Many gambling addicts have co-occurring mental health issues. Gambling and depression often co-occur. Suicidal behavior is common among people addicted to gambling."