Gambling is not just playing games; it can turn into a disease. From doctors’ point of view, it deserves a position in the list of other medical conditions that all of us are familiar with: arthritis, pneumonia, gastritis, etc. Compulsive gambling is a diagnosis listed in the International Classification of Diseases.

A gambling addiction, just like drug or alcohol abuse, affects different people differently and, additionally, can cause psychological disorders. Not all the gamblers who frequent casinos are doomed, though: only 1-10% of them develop the addiction.

We are sure all of you know a person who can smoke one cigarette per month or drink alcohol occasionally and don’t feel obsessed with the idea that they have to do it again. The same goes for gambling.

The question of why some people are more likely to get hooked on something is complicated, and the answer will have to cover several factors, including genetics, parents’ influence, personality type, exposure…

Another thing that makes gambling addiction extremely hard to treat is the social stigma. 90% of the population doesn’t recognize substance abuse or compulsive gambling as a disease. People see it as a vice or a sin. Unfortunately, some doctors still agree with this definition.

That’s why raising awareness of the issue is crucial today: the more people look into the matter, the fewer stereotypes and stigmas will withstand. We’d like to contribute to the process and tell two stories on the subject. We’ve changed the names and some personal details to keep the confessors anonymous.


Peter doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink alcohol, and hasn’t once used drugs in 33 years of his life. However, he considers himself a damned soul. The man reveals that a few years ago, he used to have everything he needed for a comfortable, happy life: a loving family, good friends, a nice car, regular vacations… Then one day, he decided to try himself as a stock investor, but quickly switched to Poker and sports betting. Beginner’s luck showered him with a cash prize that equaled his initial bet multiplied by 30. That success intoxicated Peter stronger than any alcohol and triggered the compulsion.

‘Money is not the only thing you can gamble away. I’ve lost the trust of everyone I love, my reputation, and my dignity. A compulsive gambler is a status you get for life. It’s a chronic disease. You can reach a remission stage and can even forget about the mania for a while… But then something upsets you, and you lose it: you return to gambling as if nothing had ever happened to you’.

According to Peter, he was gambling all the time: at home and at work. As everyone knows, games of chance are created for the House to win all the time, which means that a player loses more than wins. Peter found himself in constant need of money. He started borrowing from his colleagues and chasing his losses, consequently, never paying the debts back. His parents gave Peter enough money to buy a 2-bedroom apartment, and he gambled it all away. He was hoping to win everything back and kept lying to his family that he was still renovating a new flat.

Peter confesses that he hardly remembered how got divorced: his real life was getting more and more blurry. The man closed himself in a small cheap rental and spent days and nights gambling on the computer. He told his parents that he’d got a job as a sailor and was going away for 20 months. Obviously, there was no ship and no job: only self-isolation and obsession.

‘Our country needs more centers that can help you recover. It’s not just a whimsical dream: it’s a necessity. Nothing can be worse for a problem gambler than self-isolation, secrecy, and self-castigation. We mustn’t only say: ‘It’s all my fault’ to ourselves, we have to speak out about the problem and its scale’.

The last straw of self-disguise dropped when the man secretly got into his parents’ house and stole their money from a safe. He lost everything the same night and felt a strong urge to take his life.

Fortunately, Peter didn’t do it. He has a new job that keeps him busy day and night. The boss pays the salary to his mum’s account. Peter is in therapy; he’s learned how to pray. He has relapsed a couple of times and lost some money, but he doesn’t lose hope.

‘Would I make a bet now if I had money? I guess it would be a lie if I said I wouldn’t. I still think about gambling online and can’t say that I have changed and become a totally different person yet’.


Can anything be worse than gambling away the money your father was saving for his own funeral? This question makes Natalie tremble with horror, but she asks herself about it again and again.

Psychologists, who work at Gambling help centers, note that women play casino games differently than men: they don’t do it for money or excitement – it’s a tool to numb pain, anxiety, or loneliness. They tend to develop the addiction later, in their 30-s, whereas men usually give gambling a try in the early 20-s. Plus, women most often do it online because they are ashamed to be seen at a casino or a bookmaker’s.

Natalie was 37, when one night together with her partner, they placed a $1 football bet online. She had never gambled before in her life; all her friends and family would definitely agree that she was a caring, sensible woman who had no psychological issues.

The couple took up the habit of making football matches more fun with these harmless $1 bets. When Natalie’s partner got busy with studies and started spending less time with his girlfriend, she continued doing it on her own. The man was moving forward, and Natalie found herself stuck in a boring job during the day and in an empty apartment – during the night. She noticed that the online platform they were using offers no deposit bonuses and free cash for making more bets. Six months after the very first $1 bet, Natalie was gambling 24/7 losing much more than winning.

‘I really don’t understand why I wasn’t fired. I would leave my desk dozens of times per day, take my phone, and gamble. I remember gambling on the phone while having dinner with my dad at a restaurant’.

It was going on for 5 years. The woman got into debt, but not even once did she talk to anyone about her problem.

‘Considering myself an honest person, I was surprised how easily I lied. I didn’t think I could do it so well. My phone was constantly beeping with notifications, and my partner wasn’t suspecting a thing!’

When the truth got out eventually, Natalie argued with her partner and his mum. She was feeling hopeless, desperate, and alone: nobody understood that she couldn’t just stop gambling and needed professional help, not even her. She was fed up and headed to the town canal, determined to take her life.

An elderly lady asked if she was feeling ok.

‘Her words tolled like a bell. I wasn’t feeling ok at all! I talked to her about my problem, and something in my head shifted. I got up and called a GamCare center. Very soon, I got rid of all the devices with Internet access and asked my mum to be in charge of my bank account and credit cards. If anyone struggling with similar issues is reading it, the most important thing you have to hear is me begging you to talk to someone about your addiction and seek help. It really does work’.

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