Gambling can be a fun way to spend your evening and make some money if you’re lucky. You may lose some money and then make it up at work. Gambling can end your night on a high note or a low note, but both of these results are all right in moderation. For some, though, gambling can be addictive. You may have heard of stories of those with a gambling addiction. These people gamble until they lose everything.
Could you be one of those people and not know it? Could gambling be putting a strain on your personal and financial relationships? According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, about 2 million people in the United States are struggling with a gambling addiction. These people have many, if not all, of the symptoms listed below. Another four to six million people in the United States, do not have a full-blown gambling problem but are “problem gamblers”.
These seven signs will explore some of the subtle and not so subtle ways a gambling addiction can wreak havoc on your life. Quitting may be the hardest thing you ever do, but maintaining your recovery after a gambling addiction is possible.
#1 STOPPING ISN’T AN ANSWER
When gambling is a fun activity, those who engage in it often set a limit on time and money and stop when this threshold is reached. Those who have a gambling problem or addiction are unable to stop when there is no money left and they may spend hours gambling. They may find that gambling has become the central activity in their life and they can think of little else. When they aren’t gambling, they are thinking about gambling. When they are gambling, they are thinking about gambling with higher stakes. Quitting may be tried, but for those with a gambling problem or addiction, they may not be able to.
#2 YOU RISK MORE MONEY THAN YOU CAN AFFORD
While those who gamble for fun may set aside some money from their budget to go to a casino or get a few lottery tickets, those who have a problem may lose everything that is or isn’t theirs. Not only may they lose the money for their mortgage, rent, car insurance, savings, and/or children’s education, they may lose money others have let them borrow. Eventually, they may be in debt to everyone and be unable to pay any of these debts. This can wreak havoc on their relationships as people begin to feel used and distrust their actions.
#3 BETTING IS NOT JUST FOR FUN
Gamblers who do it just for fun will spend a couple of dollars and stop when they hit their limit. They do not often go over this limit because they do not feel a strong pull to continue betting after a few times. Those who have an addiction bet for reasons that may have nothing to do with entertainment. They may bet to rid themselves of anxiety, stress, other addictions, or to try and fix financial strain. But, gambling is not the solution to any of these problems. It will only add another layer of strain on them and those around them. Because a person with a gambling addiction will not be able to stop, gambling won’t solve any money issues as they will continue to bet well after they have no money left.
#4 WHEN YOU LOSE, YOU TRY TO RECOVER THESE LOSSES WITH MORE GAMBLING
When gambling is a problem or addiction, they may try to recover lost money by betting more. The idea that their lucky bet will roll in if they just add more money may be a continuous theme in their gambling behavior. Unfortunately, this does the exact opposite. Gambling is a slippery slope and someone other than you holds the end of the rope to ensure you won’t fall.
#5 YOU BET MORE AND MORE
Addiction is an insidious illness. It starts small and quickly grows into an inferno. Someone who is prone to addictive behavior or trying to escape unpleasant emotions may start with a few dollars. The thrill of winning or even the possibility of winning in the face of losing can be highly enticing. Those who gamble for fun have little need to continue. They start small and end small. Those who have an issue with gambling have a hard time keeping the risks low and setting limits. Like drinking, their bodies may grow a tolerance to the rush and need more to get the same “rewards”. This leads to compulsive gambling as the rush floats higher and higher and they climb further up to chase it.
#6 FINDING MORE MONEY IS MANDATORY
After their pockets are empty and their bank is depleted, they may ask to borrow money. As their gambling problem intensifies, the need for more money will take over. They will need to scratch this insatiable and unending itch. Some people are able to curb their need for money just through borrowing, but others may steal, cheat, or commit other crimes to get the money they need to feed their gambling addiction.
#7 GAMBLING COMES BEFORE HIGHER PRIORITIES
The need to bet more and more overshadows everything else in their lives. Those with a gambling problem or addiction may miss work, spousal commitments, or their children’s activities in order to spend more time gambling. The need to gamble pushes everything else to the background and becomes the center of their lives. Nothing else compares and nothing else will suffice. A gambling addiction can ruin marriages, friendships, the parent-child relationship, and many other activities, including employment.
Gambling is a real addiction that can be detrimental to your life. If you are prone to addictive behaviors, avoid this activity if you have not started. If you are already experiencing these symptoms and feeling out of control, talk to a mental health professional or seek out organizations such as the National Council on Problem Gambling.