Most problem gamblers have mixed feelings about gambling. They know that they are causing problems for themselves and those they love, but they are unable to accept that they cannot win back the money and recover the time that they have already lost. As a result, they often feel anxious or unhappy and may even hate themselves… but the urge to gamble is too strong to resist.
As a gambling addiction progresses, the gambler progressively loses more and more control over themselves and their gambling. They spend increasing amounts of time and money and are unable to stop themselves from gambling – aware only of the activity of gambling itself while ignoring their other responsibilities and the harm that’s caused by their gambling.
Many problem gamblers are unaware that they are addicted, and may not even know that it’s possible to become addicted to gambling. Others have tried and failed to cut down or stop gambling in the past, and become more irritable or upset each time they try to change. Other gamblers want to quit, but are afraid that stopping – and accepting their financial losses – will lead to their loved ones learning about their problem. This, in turn, drives them to hide the problem even more (while accruing more debt) while hoping for a “big win” to recover their losses.
The first step for a problem gambler to recover from their addiction is to admit that they have a problem, accept what they have lost and stop seeking the big win. Until the gambler takes this first step, they will be unable to stop themselves from continuing to gamble.1