How do I know if I'm addicted to gambling?
A gambling addiction results in any form of gambling behaviour that has a negative impact on one’s quality of life. To help people determine whether or not they have a problem with gambling, responsible gaming organizations like Gamblers Anonymous have developed questionnaires that target key areas where problem gamblers’ lives are almost always affected. For instance, virtually all problem gamblers will answer “Yes” to at least half of the following questions. More information about each of these key areas is below.
- Has gambling ever made it difficult for you to repay debts or fulfil existing financial obligations?
- Does gambling make your life at home unhappy?
- Have others ever commented on or expressed concern about your gambling?
- Have you ever missed work due to gambling?
- Has your gambling negatively affected your drive or ambition?
- Have you ever felt remorse from gambling?
- Do you often gamble until you have used up all of your available money?
- After losing, do you have a strong urge to return to the gambling venue to recoup your losses?
- After winning, are you tempted to return shortly thereafter to get more money?
- Do you gamble to escape feelings of boredom, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, grief, or worry?
- Have you ever lied about or made excuses for a gambling session?
- Do you have the urge to celebrate any good fortune with gambling?
- Have you ever committed or considered committing a crime to get money for gambling?
- Does gambling cause you to feel sleeplessness or irritability frequently?
- Have you ever thought or attempted suicide because of your gambling?
Problem gambling tends to affect a person’s financial well-being. However, contrary to popular belief, a problem gambler does not have to be financially ruined in order to have a problem. Problem gambling can simply make it difficult to pay existing debts, bills, and other obligations; worsen a person’s lifestyle; grow a person’s outstanding debt to an uncomfortable level; or prevent a person from saving for emergencies, retirement, or goals to the extent they would like to.
These financial difficulties do not have to come solely from unexpected losses. Problem gamblers may also set aside a fixed portion of their budget for gambling and simply be unwilling to use that money for normal expenditures, even when circumstances change.
Deterioration of home life
Many problem gamblers see a deterioration of their home lives. This usually emerges from feelings of mistrust between couples and other immediate family members due to the problem gambler’s unexplained absences from the home and missing cash or bank account funds. Problem gamblers are also prone to becoming irritable after a big loss or after an extended period of time without gambling, which can add to the tension. If progressed far enough, the addiction can even make the problem gambler prioritise gambling more than family responsibilities.
Concerns of others
Despite a problem gambler’s best efforts, his excessive gambling is not usually kept secret. Friends, family, and other people in the person’s life may begin expressing concern or simply commenting on the extent of his gambling. This can be especially detrimental if the person’s addiction becomes a topic of discussion in his professional life.
Deterioration of work life
Problem gambling can affect a person’s work life in a number of ways. These include missing work in order to gamble, decreased productivity and performance, and deterioration of relationships with coworkers and/or clients. This can lead to a damaged reputation, disciplinary action like a demotion or pay cut, and even job loss.
Problem gamblers frequently have feelings of remorse due to their gambling behavior. This can come from a number of factors, including heavy financial losses, excessive time spent gambling, and shame from lying or avoiding questions from loved ones.
Inability to stop
Many people with a gambling disorder find it difficult or even impossible to stop gambling until they have spent all of their money, even if they realize that their gambling is causing considerable harm to themselves or others. This tends to get progressively worse. At first, the gambler will simply stop once they have run out of the money they originally intended to spend. They will then often begin dipping into other funds to continue playing through ATM withdrawals, credit card advances, or check cashing. This can get to the point where a problem gambler will spend all of their available funds and credit in a single session.
A need to return
In a similar vein to the inability to quit, problem gambling tends to instill a desire to return to the casino, poker room, sportsbook, or other gaming venue after a loss in order to recover the money, which is almost always futile. This urge can persist even if the problem gambler understands, on an intellectual level, that he cannot reasonably expect to ever get the money back.
Problem gamblers can also have a strong urge to return to a gambling venue after a win, feeling that they are “‘on a hot streak’ or ‘feeling lucky’. Even if this winning cycle does continue for a time, the gambler will almost certainly lose it all at some point in the near future due to a combination of two factors: 1. the frequency of his gambling, and 2. the house edge, which ensures that the gambling establishment will maintain a long-term profit over players.
Problem gamblers usually do not gamble solely for recreation. Although it can start as a desire to have some fun, the problem gambler will often start turning to gambling as a primary means of escaping from reality. This can make it difficult for the person to cope with feelings of stress, boredom, loneliness, grief, or loss without a trip to the casino or other gambling venue.
Those with a gambling disorder often make excuses for their behavior. These excuses can stem from either positive or negative events. For instance, problem gamblers may use a recent achievement as a reason to celebrate with a few hours at a casino, even though they are aware it will likely diminish the positive feelings. Problem gamblers may also seek to gamble if triggered by a difficult situation like an argument with a loved one or colleague.
Questionable or illegal financing of gambling
Some problem gamblers turn to unwise or even illegal means of procuring funds for gambling once they run out of cash from their income. This usually starts by obtaining credit through conventional means, most often a credit card. If the problem gambler’s addiction leads them to reach their credit limit, they may consider alternative means like pawning off personal possessions, asking for money from relatives, or committing illegal acts like fraud or theft.
Physical and mental effects
The effects of problem gambling are not just emotional, financial, and social. Many problem gamblers report a deterioration of their physical well-being. These can include stress-induced headaches and other ailments, as well as sleeplessness. Left unchecked, pathological gambling can potentially lead to suicidal ideation, self-harm, or even a suicide attempt. These effects tend to get worse as the addiction progresses and usually can only be resolved if the addict eliminates his harmful gambling behaviour.