10 Myths of Compulsive Gambling

Most people who engage in recreational gambling don’t believe that they could ever become addicted. After all, they only engage in gambling on occasion, never lose more than a few hundred dollars in one sitting and always act responsibly.

Many people may not realize that their gambling habit has become an addiction until it’s too late. Here are some myths of compulsive gambling that may surprise you.

Myth #1: Compulsive gamblers gamble every day.
Fact: How often a person gambles has no relation to a gambling addiction. Pathological gamblers may only gamble once a week or once a month. It’s the emotional and financial consequences of the gambler’s actions that signal an addiction.

Myth #2: Gambling only becomes a problem when you lose every last penny.
Fact: How much money you win or lose is not determinative of a gambling addiction. Gamblers may win big and then lose all their earnings the next day, or they may only bet a certain amount each time. Typically, gamblers will incur enough debt that the financial consequences of their behavior begin impacting their lives, but that is not always the case.

Myth #3: It’s not possible to become addicted to something like gambling.
Fact: Certain activities, such as gambling, are just as addictive as drinking or doing drugs. Gambling may produce a euphoria that encourages the gambler to keep repeating the behavior to achieve that effect. As with drugs and alcohol, the gambler develops a tolerance for gambling and will take bigger and bigger risks to achieve that euphoria. A gambler will give into a craving for gambling by doing it more often, regardless of the negative consequences. As with any other addictions and compulsive behaviors, pathological gamblers may also be in denial about their behaviors, and may not believe they have a problem at all.

Myth #4: Compulsive gambling is just a financial problem.
Fact: Compulsive gambling is an emotional problem that has financial consequences, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. Even if a gambler’s financial obligations are taken care of, that person will still be a compulsive gambler. The problem is not how much money the gambler has lost, but that the person has an uncontrollable obsession with gambling.

Myth #5: Only irresponsible people become addicted to gambling.
Fact: It is common for people to believe that those suffering from addictions are weak-willed and irresponsible. But anybody can become addicted to gambling, no matter how responsible they are. Once they become caught up in their addiction, gamblers may engage in irresponsible behaviors to maintain their addiction.  

Myth #6: All gamblers engage in criminal behavior.
Fact: While some gamblers may engage in criminal behavior, such as theft or assault, that is not the norm. It is often a feeling of loss of control that drives a gambler to engage in such behaviors.

Myth #7: A compulsive gambler will bet on anything.
Fact: Gamblers normally have a preference for what they will be on, and are not likely to be tempted by betting on other things. For example, a gambler who makes weekly trips to the race track may not be tempted by lottery tickets or slot machines.

Myth #8: Compulsive gambling isn’t really a problem if the gambler can afford it.
Fact: Just because people have money to lose doesn’t mean that their actions aren’t problematic. Compulsive gambling typically interferes in all areas of the gambler’s life, including relationships with family and friends and work. It is the behavior of gambling itself that is the problem, not the financial consequences of the activity.

Myth #9: Helping compulsive gamblers break their addiction means paying off all their debts.
Fact: Constantly bailing a compulsive gambler out of debt may only enable the behavior. While getting the debt repaid may be a priority, it is more important to address the gambling addiction itself and get the gambler the help needed to overcome the addiction.

Myth #10: It’s easy to recognize a compulsive gambler.
Fact: Unlike addictions to drugs and alcohol, compulsive gambling has very few apparent symptoms. The behavior is easy for people to hide, especially if they are addicted to online gambling.

If any of these myths are realities for you or a loved one, it may be necessary to seek treatment for a gambling addiction.