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Gambling Addiction Signs and Symptoms

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Gambling Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Legalized gambling is becoming one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. Gambling’s tremendous popularity is evident in the recent increase in the number of off-track-betting parlors (OTBs) and riverboat casinos that dot the Midwest and the Mississippi Delta. Billboards on major highways depict the action and excitement available at such facilities.

For most of the industry’s patrons, gambling is fun and a form of harmless entertainment. For the four to six percent of gamblers who become a problem or pathological (compulsive) gambler, it can become a powerful addiction with harmful consequences for one’s life and the lives of those closest to them.

Gambling Addiction

Compulsive gambling, defined as gambling addiction, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Even when the addict knows their gambling is hurting themselves and their loved ones, compulsive gamblers can’t control the impulse to gamble. Gambling is all they can think about and all they want to do no matter the consequences. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they’re up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Even when they know the odds are against them, even when they can’t afford to lose, people with a gambling addiction can’t “stay off the bet.”

However, gamblers can have a problem without being totally out of control. Problem gambling is any gambling behavior that disrupts your life.

Gambling Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Common Signs of Gambling Addiction

These are some common signs of one who may exhibit problem gambling.

  • Preoccupation: Problem gamblers spend a lot of mental energy thinking about the next time they will gamble, planning their strategy, or thinking of ways to get money for gambling.
  • Inability to stop or control gambling: Problem gamblers find that they cannot stop gambling when they want to. Maybe they decide to quit altogether but then they still gamble anyway. When they gamble, they may try to control the amount of time or money they spend but are unable to stick to the limits they set. They often gamble until their last dollar is gone.
  • “Chasing” losses: Problem gamblers get a strong urge or idea to win back money that they have lost in the past. They may say, “If only I could win back what I’ve lost, I won’t have to gamble anymore.” More and more, they feel trapped. They start thinking that the hole they have dug is so deep that only a big gambling win can get them out of it.
  • Gambling to escape negative emotions: Problem gamblers may gamble in order to feel better temporarily or to change their mood. They may feel angry, lonely, bored, anxious, or depressed, and they gamble to escape these emotions. Gambling feels like an escape from their problems. After gambling, the negative feelings return as strong as before.
  • Lying to conceal gambling: Problem gamblers have lied to their spouse, family, friends, or employer in order to hide or minimize their gambling.
  • Borrowing to pay for gambling: Debts grow because of gambling. Bills are unpaid. Money that could be used to pay bills is used for gambling. Problem gamblers may have borrowed money from family or friends because of gambling debts. They may have sold possessions, stocks, or bonds, borrowed from retirement accounts or savings, or gotten a second mortgage because of gambling debts.
  • Allowing gambling to jeopardize other parts of life: Gambling can ruin marriages, friendships, careers, school performance, and reputations. Divorce, bankruptcy, or legal problems are all closely associated with
  • Ambivalence about quitting or controlling gambling: A problem gambler may say things like:
    “I know I should stop but I love to gamble.”
    “My wife/husband/partner/parents/children want me to quit but I’m not sure I do.”
    “Maybe I can slow my gambling to the point where it is manageable.”
    “I want to quit but don’t think I can.”

Signs of a Possible Gambling Addict

If your loved one has a gambling problem, he or she might:

  • Become increasingly defensive about gambling. The more a problem gambler is in the hole, the more the need to defend gambling as a way to get money. Your loved one may get secretive, defensive, or even blame you for the need to gamble, telling you that it is all for you and you need to trust in the “big win someday.”
  • Suddenly become secretive over money and finances. Your loved one might show a new desire to control household finances or there might increasingly be a lack of money despite the same income and expenses.
  • Become increasingly desperate for money to fund gambling. Credit card bills may increase, or your loved one may ask friends and family for money. Jewelry or other items easily pawned for money may mysteriously disappear.

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