The Warning Signs of Gambling Addiction
How can you tell when gambling is becoming a problem for you or a loved one? After all, when done in the spirit in which it’s intended – as a fun thing to do every now and then for the happy few times one beats the house and wins a few dollars – gambling can be an enjoyable pastime during a vacation or long weekend away from the everyday. But it can be difficult to tell when it’s become something more insidious and dangerous. Problem gambling is often referred to as the “hidden addiction” because, unlike alcohol or drug abuse, there are rarely outward signs or physical symptoms. Read below for some of the signs when gambling has become – or is starting to become – more than an occasional amusement and turning into an addiction.
- Are you or a loved one haunted by bill collectors?
- Do you or a loved one gamble to escape worry, boredom or trouble?
- Do thoughts of gambling disrupt your sleep?
- Do you or a loved one ever gamble longer than originally planned?
- Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations cause you or a loved one to gamble?
- Do you or a loved one celebrate good times with gambling?
- Have you ever had self-destructive thoughts because of problems resulting from gambling?
- Have you or a loved one lost time from work or school due to gambling?
- Do you hide the rent/mortgage or food money because your spouse, partner or other family member gambles it away?
- Do you or a loved one borrow money to finance gambling or to pay back gambling debts?
- Does your spouse, partner or other loved one promise faithfully that she or he will stop gambling, yet continues to gamble?
- Have you noticed a personality change in a loved one as his or her gambling has progressed?
- Is your spouse, partner or other loved one away from home or unavailable to the family of long periods of time due to gambling?
Adolescent warning signs may be different than those experienced by adults. Is your child exhibiting any of the following?
- Unexplained absences from school or classes
- Sudden drop in grades or failure to complete assignments on time
- Change of personality or behavior
- Exaggerated display of money or other material possessions
- Daily or weekly card game
- Bragging about winning at gambling
- Intense interest in gambling conversations
- Unusual interest in newspapers/magazines/periodicals/sports scores
- Unaccountable explanation for new items of value in possession
- Borrowing or stealing money
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Uncharacteristically forgetting appointments or dates
- Exaggerated use of word “bet” in vocabulary and/or use of gambling language in conversations (e.g. bookie, point spread, underdog, favorite)
Gambling problems can impact the workplace causing distress for the individual employee as well as peers. If you are concerned about one of your employees or colleagues, ask yourself the following:
- Does the employee spend excessive time away from the job? (NOTE: Excessive time away from the job may include extended use of telephone to place bets or check results; reviewing form sheets, racing, sports or the stock pages in the newspaper, when pretending to work; participating in cards, lottery and/or office pools often, etc.)
- Does the employee take unusual amounts of sick time, especially half-days? (NOTE: The compulsive gambler frequently takes excessive time. S/he often suffers from depression, hypertension, ulcers and other health problems. S/he also uses sick time to gamble.)
- Does the employee routinely arrive late, leave early, take long lunches or experience difficulties reporting and/or remaining in scheduled work location(s)?
- Does the employee talk or worry about money problems, or experience money difficulties, resulting in requests for cash advances or loans (i.e. borrowing) from fellow employees and/or employer?
- Does the employee always seem to be the person who starts and/or runs the office pools (e.g. sports, lottery, birth)?
- Does the employee encourage coworkers to bet in office pools and/or bet more money?
- Does the employee try to organize an office excursion to a casino or racetrack?
- Does the employee have a history of writing bad checks?
- Does the employee have more than one mailing address?
- Does the employee’s use of company money seem suspicious or inappropriate?
If you’re concerned that problem gambling may be affecting you or someone you know, find help.