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Know The Warning Signs

Often referred to as the ‘hidden addiction’, problem gambling is not as easily detected as alcoholism or substance abuse. As one gambler put it “You can’t smell a deck of cards on my breath!”

There are warning signs, however, that may indicate when a person is crossing the line from the fun of social gambling to the pain of problem gambling. These include:

Losing time from work or school due to gambling
Repeated failed attempts to stop or control the gambling
Lying about the amount of time and money spent on gambling
Gambling to escape from life’s problems
Gambling for increasing amounts of time or with increasing amounts of money
Gambling more money in an attempt to win back losses (chasing)
Neglecting the care of one’s self or family due to gambling
Relying on loans or “bailouts” from family or friends to meet financial obligations
Feelings of helplessness and depression, or thoughts of suicide
The first step in finding a solution is to recognize the problem.

Surprisingly, problem gamblers are very often the last ones to realize what is happening to them in spite of mounting consequences and increasing emotional impact. They may attribute their difficulties to a mere financial problem or believe they are just not being 'smart' enough when they gamble. The fantasy that one more big win will solve the financial problems and return everything to normal drives them on to gamble even harder.

Problem Gambling Self-Test
(Source: Gamblers Anonymous)

Answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to each of the following questions:

  1. Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?
  2. Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?
  3. Did gambling affect your reputation?
  4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
  5. Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?
  6. Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?
  7. After losing, did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?
  8. After a win, did you have a strong urge to return and win more?
  9. Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?
  10. Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
  11. Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?
  12. Were you reluctant to use "gambling money" for normal expenditures?
  13. Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?
  14. Did you ever gamble longer than you planned?
  15. Have you ever gambled to escape worry or trouble?
  16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?
  17. Did gambling cause you to have difficulty sleeping?
  18. Do arguments, disappointments, or frustrations create in you an urge to gamble?
  19. Did you ever have the urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?
  20. Have you ever considered self-destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?

Most compulsive gamblers will answer ‘Yes’ to at least seven of these questions.

Problem Gamblers HelpLine