Can a Compulsive Gambler Ever Gamble Again?

Is it worth a shot?


Can a gambling addict ever gamble again? This is one of the most dangerous questions to come from someone who may have, has, or has had a gambling problem. You may be able to guess from that statement alone what the answer is, but we’d being doing past, present, and potential problem gamblers a disservice to leave it at that. So let’s ask it again; can a compulsive gambler ever gamble again? Please read ahead for clarity.

Why The Question About Whether or Not a Problem Gambler Can Ever Gamble Responsibly Again is the Wrong Question to Ask

Theoretically It’s Possible, But Why Would You Want To?

Data finds that 90% of problem gamblers relapse, with prevention plans being created solely to keep this from happening. So isn’t this what the question about whether or not a compulsive gambler can ever gamble again is all about? It is and it isn’t.

Unlike chemical dependencies associated with drugs and other elicit substances that are classified as traditional addictions, gambling is a process addiction. A process addiction occurs when a person’s behavior becomes compulsive to the point that they are unable to stop the activity, despite significant negative repercussions. You can read more about problem gambling’s classification as a process addiction here for further insight, but the gist for today’s topic is this – there are mild, moderate, and severe cases of problem gambling. Consequently, a select few with mild compulsions to gamble more than they should, who have not felt the severity of consequences in the same manner that more advanced problem gamblers have, could take a “time out” and return to play responsibly from thereon in.

However (and it’s a big “however”) a large number of problem gamblers have indeed felt the consequences. Given that you’ve labelled yourself a compulsive gambler in the search query that brought you here, you’re likely aware of the signs and symptoms of the disorder. We apologize in advance for the mordancy, but did you enjoy being in debt? Did you like the fact that gambling consumed nearly every thought that you had? Did your loved ones appreciate playing third fiddle to casino gaming and sports betting? Were the physical consequences worth it too? Certainly not. So to this realization we ask – why would you ever want to gamble again knowing that it had more negative consequences in your life than positive ones? Given that the house always wins (only 13.5% make it out with a profit on a declining scale to zero) and the entertainment aspect is fleeting, what’s the point?

“The brain tells us we aren’t sick and it’ll be different this time, when all the evidence points with a compulsive gambler as myself and many have experienced. It may be manageable for a day, or a few weeks, or maybe longer, though the addictive behavior and actions show up quickly and destructively regardless.”

Ryan Pienovi | Director of Engagement, Kindbridge Behavioral Health

For Some, the Answer is Flat Out “NO”

We took a somewhat non-biased (ahem) approach above when suggesting that it’s theoretically possible for a mild compulsive gambler to return to responsible gaming. However, we must employ a hard edge and sharp tone to some of the population. These individuals have innate vulnerabilities to problem gambling. If they had known about their vulnerabilities beforehand they may never have rolled dice, put chips on the table, or signed up with a sports betting app. And they most certainly should never ever return to gambling once in recovery.

Who are these individuals? Are you one of them?

Individuals who have any one of the following mental or behavioral health conditions are known to be more vulnerable to gambling disorder than the general population, and should never attempt to gamble again:

  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Alcohol use disorder (AUD)

View more on problem gambling risk factors.

Additionally, individuals in certain professions exhibit a propensity to become problem gamblers. One group of individuals that land in this category are athletes. They have a statistically greater vulnerability to developing gambling disorder than the general population. Another group includes veterans and active military servicepersons (PTSD is also a cooccurring condition).

Further research is being done to identify other vulnerable populations as we speak. For instance, genetic, gender, age, and a number of psychological factors also play a role in vulnerability. If you don’t fit in any of the above categories but remain unsure about your status, we encourage you to speak with a Kindbridge care coordinator to schedule a session with a counselor to discuss your desire to gamble again.

Thinking About Gambling Again?

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