Gambling is usually a fun, socially acceptable, activity that people engage in occasionally for thrill and enjoyment. Unfortunately, for some people, it will become a problem.
Do You Have a Gambling Problem
The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that 2 to 3 percent of the US population has a problem with gambling. The Mayo Clinic explains that gambling can stimulate the brain’s reward system in the same way drugs and alcohol do and can lead to compulsive gambling. It’s a serious condition that can destroy lives. Many people look back and wonder if there were signs they could have picked up on all along. Here are 8 common signs of gambling addiction to look out for.
#1. Spending More Money Than They Can Afford
One of the first things that happen when someone becomes a problem gambler is that they run out of money fast. A good gambler has set aside a budget of discretionary income they can afford to lose. A problem gambler will risk it all and gamble away their rent, car payment, and family savings. If you notice a loved one placing large bets they can’t afford, it’s likely they have lost control of their gambling and spending habits.
#2. Borrowing Money And Going Into Debt
Once a gambler has lost all of their money, the gambling addiction doesn’t simply go away. It stays obsessively in their thoughts and they start to seek new ways to get money to gamble with. They will start by borrowing money from family and friends. When that resource is no longer an option they might start to sell belongings, or borrow money from hard money lenders or even from darker sources. When they cannot repay this money there will be serious consequences. Problem gamblers that cannot pay their debts can lose their homes, possessions, and even their lives.
#3. No Longer Enjoys Gambling
Gambling should be fun. Casinos are designed with glitz and glamour to create a fun customer experience. Online gambling is also designed to be lighthearted fun. When the joy fades and you keep grinding away at the tables or slots like it’s your job, there might be a problem forming. Addiction is a disease where even after the joy or the “high” is gone, you keep compulsively gambling without control. A problem gambler isn’t even having fun anymore, they simply can’t fight the urge to place bets and take risks.
#4. Has Anxiety And Physical Symptoms
Gambling addiction can cause both mental and physical symptoms to manifest. In an article by Psych Guides, which is an American Addiction Center resource, mental health symptoms include anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. These mental health conditions can cause physical symptoms to arise as well; such as insomnia, pale skin, excessive weight loss or weight gain, and dark circles under the eyes. As a coping mechanism, many problem gamblers will develop a co-addiction to drugs or alcohol. If you have an addictive personality then you are more susceptible to all forms of addiction. Often while treating gambling addiction it is necessary to first treat the symptoms that are most impacting the gambler’s life such as anxiety or depression and medications can be used in addition to therapy.
#5. Risking Increasing Amounts For The Same Enjoyment
When you become addicted to anything, drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling, etc., there comes a point where you up the ante if you get the same amount of enjoyment. Betting starts to increase even as enjoyment levels plummet. In the beginning, a casual gambler will risk small amounts and have a great time even if they didn’t win big. The experience of gambling itself was fun enough. When gambling becomes an addiction, you will feed the beast more and more to get the same small amount of enjoyment. Eventually, you won’t enjoy gambling anymore at all but won’t be able to stop.
#6. Neglects Obligations
It’s not uncommon for problem gamblers to lose their jobs because they call in sick too many times, arrive late, or are gambling on the job. Addicted gamblers might also forget to pick up their kids from school, or ignore other high priority obligations. As the addiction takes over, there is less and less space to worry about the day to day tasks that need to get done. Eventually, the need to gamble becomes all-consuming. If a normally responsible family member starts dropping the ball as they ditch obligations to spend more time gambling, this could be a red flag that an intervention is in order.
#7. Lying And Hiding Gamgling Habits
They say hindsight is 20/20, meaning that after you learn a problem exists, it’s easy to look back and spot all the signs you wish you had noticed earlier. When you don’t yet know a problem exists, it’s easy to overlook the warning signs. Compulsive gamblers become good a lying and hiding their bad gambling habits. BeforeYouBet.org has a great list of common lies gamblers tell. Among the most common are, “I can stop anytime,” and “I have my gambling under control.”
#8. Finds It Difficult Or Impossible To Stop
Finally, the compulsion takes over completely and the gambler is unable to stop, even if their life is falling apart. An addict will continue to lie, to steal, and to hurt those around them, in order to keep gambling. They will borrow more money than they can hope to pay back, and they will stop going to work or spending time with family and friends. When you are unable to control your gambling, then it’s time to admit there is a serious problem and seek help. If you notice these signs in people you care about, urge them to get treatment.
Do you notice any of these signals in a loved one, or maybe even in yourself? You can call the national hotline for problem gambling at 1-800-522-4700 for help and resources. Marina Turea Online Casino Gems also has a helpful list of gambling habits you should stop immediately.