Know the Signs of Problem Gambling
Compulsive gambling can lead to big losses—of money, relationships, employment and personal and financial freedom. The first step to resolving the problem is to recognize the signs and symptoms.
Have you ever missed time from work or school because of gambling?
Has gambling ever caused you to feel remorseful, damaged your reputation or affected your financial standing?
At times, do you find it hard to resist the impulse to gamble, and feel restless or irritable if you can’t?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be one of the millions of Americans with a gambling disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition can be defined as “persistent and recurring problematic gambling behavior that causes distress and impairs your overall livelihood.” In the U.S., the problem affects about 2% of the general population, affecting more males than females; experts say the affliction may become more widespread as legal online casinos and mobile sports betting expand.
Why do people develop a problem with gambling? According to Healthline.com, people with a gambling addiction may respond to the activity in the same way that an alcoholic responds to a drink. The more they feed their habit, the worse it will become.
According to the Council on Compulsive Gambling (1-800-GAMBLER), disordered gambling has been called a “hidden addiction” because sufferers often show no obvious physical signs or symptoms, and go to great lengths to conceal the behavior from friends, family and coworkers. Some may be unable or unwilling to admit they have a problem, even after they’ve lost more money than they can afford.
That can lead to a cycle of debt in which gamblers start “chasing their losses” (trying to win back what they’ve already forfeited), opening new lines of credit or borrowing to sustain their habit. Sometimes, problem gamblers resort to illegal means including theft, embezzlement and fraud to support their addiction or avoid the negative consequences.
Luckily, help is as close as your phone or computer, and professional counseling and group support meetings also are widely available.
An Equal Opportunity Affliction
Whether you’re seeking help for yourself or for someone else, remember that problem gambling can strike anyone, young or old, man or woman. Some people turn to the activity as a way to relieve depression or anxiety. Others have a genetic predisposition. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, this is not a financial problem, but “an emotional problem that has financial consequences.”
Moreover, problem gambling isn’t limited to “irresponsible or weak-willed people,” but affects those who have been viewed as responsible and strong in other parts of their life. The problem can manifest itself at an online or land-based casino or sportsbook, an online lottery or lottery retailer, a racetrack, informal betting contests among friends, in esports competitions and even in the trading of various financial and digital assets. Sometimes compulsive gamblers deal with illegal offshore bookies, which offer no consumer protections and no guarantee that winning bets will be paid out.
Here to Help
The legal U.S. casino industry is committed to helping problem gamblers. In addition to funding responsible gaming programs and displaying responsible gaming messages in advertising and on websites, it trains floor employees to identify problem gamblers and intervene to assist them; limits lines of credit, deposits and cash advances; and allows customers to set self-imposed limits.
In addition, it offers self-exclusion programs that enable gamblers to “ban” themselves from entering and playing at land-based or online casinos. Check the website of the American Gaming Association for a list of programs in your state: https://www.americangaming.org/resources/responsible-gaming-regulations-statutes-2/
According to Healthline.com, if you have a gambling addiction, you may display some or all of the following behaviors:
- Obsessing over any type of gambling
- Gambling to feel better about life
- Failing to control your gambling
- Avoiding work or other commitments to gamble
- Neglecting bills and expenses and using the money for gambling
- Selling possessions to gamble
- Stealing money to gamble
- Lying about your gambling habit
- Feeling guilty after a gambling session
- Taking bigger and bigger risks while gambling
Such behaviors can lead to the loss of personal relationships, the loss of a house, job or car, bankruptcy and other negative outcomes. Are you ready to take the first step to freedom? Call Gamblers Anonymous at 1-800-GAMBLER or go to 800gambler.org for help.
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