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13 Signs of Gambling Addiction

If you suspect someone you love has a gambling problem, there are several common signs that indicate addiction.

Here are 13 signs of gambling addiction.

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Most people who gamble are social gamblers. They can participate in gambling activities, win or lose, and go right back to their everyday activities without any symptoms of having a problem.

There are others, however, that are more than just social gamblers. They are addicted to gambling and find it difficult to keep their addiction from interfering with their personal and professional lives.

There are specific signs of gambling addiction to look for when trying to determine if you, or someone you know, has a problem.

Here are 13  symptoms of gambling addiction …

1. Spending Too Much Time Gambling

When someone spends too much time gambling, they are ignoring other areas of their life. They may miss important activities to gamble or they may lose sleep to gamble. Giving up something important and replacing it with gambling is a sure sign of a gambling addiction.

2. Lying About Gambling

If you ask someone if they are gambling and they lie, saying they are not gambling, this is a sign of gambling addiction. They know what they are doing is wrong and you will not approve, otherwise they would not be secretive about it. They are trying to hide the fact that they have a problem.

3. Missing Work

A person who begins missing work to gamble is showing signs of a gambling addiction. Whether they call in sick, take off early or skip work altogether, this behavior will eventually cause the addicted individual to lose their job, and therefore, lose their source of gambling money.

Despite these consequences, however, they are not able to stop gambling.

4. Will Gamble Any Way They Can

A symptom of gambling addiction includes a person finding ways to gamble and chase the high they get from gambling by any means possible. They will play cards, go to the casino or races, and play bingo or lottery. They may try to bet on football games, using a bookie for betting. They may also try to make silly bets with family and friends to try and get that feeling of winning.

There is no one form of gambling that can satisfy the needs of an addicted gambler acting out in their disease.

5. Mood Swings

Many people showing signs of a gambling addiction will go through mood swings. One day they may be feeling depressed and sad, yet when they know they are going to be able to gamble, they become happy and pleasant to be around.

Mood swings may also occur due to mental health issues that are undiagnosed, like depression or bipolar.

6. Severe Depression

You are more likely to see the signs of gambling addiction, like severe depression, during times when the addict is losing or unable to fulfill his or her desire to gamble.

Severe depression can appear as excessive crying, over sleeping or not wanting to get out of bed. Complaints about achy joints and muscles, and self-harming behaviors can also be symptoms of further depressive symptoms.  Others may claim to feel hopeless or suicidal. This is a sign they need immediate help.

7. Personality Changes

Addiction can change some of the personality characteristics of a person. People who were once friendly and laid back, may now be aggressive and easily agitated. Those who once had reputable friends and are now hanging around a questionable crowd, may have signs of a gambling addiction.

Paying attention to personality changes can help you recognize a problem sooner rather than later.

8. Criminal Behaviors

Have you noticed money missing from your wallet or safe spaces in your home? Are you missing property from your home, like televisions or computers? If so, these could be signs that someone in your family has a gambling addiction.

Addiction can lead to someone stealing from those they love to get money to satisfy their hunger for gambling.

9. Change in Appearance

A person’s appearance can give clues about their level of addiction. The less addicted a person, the more likely they are to take care of themselves and take pride in their appearance. They will keep up with grooming and hygiene.

Signs of a gambling addiction, however, can be noticed when someone’s appearance begins to change for the negative. They may bathe less, appear unkempt and disheveled.

10. Being Defensive

Individuals with an addition do not usually like to admit they are wrong or that they have a problem with gambling. They like to think they are in control over their thoughts, feelings and actions. However, the opposite is true. When you try to confront them on anything from how they get money to where they spend their money, you will be usually met with a reactive, negative, defensive response.

11. Increased Tolerance

Tolerance means the amount of something you need in order to achieve a specific effect. For instance, the more someone drinks alcohol, the more they need to drink in order to feel a buzz. Gamblers have the same issue with tolerance.

The longer a person gambles, the more their tolerance increases. This means they need to take bigger risks and gamble more often to feel that same high they felt the first time they gambled.

12. Continues to Gamble Despite Consequences

One of the signs of gambling addiction is the inability to stop gambling despite major consequences. This means that an addict can lose their job, lose important relationships with family or friends, or even lose their children, but they will continue to gamble.

They are unable to stop gambling, despite negative consequences. 

13. Denial

One of the most common signs of a gambling addiction is when someone denies having a problem. Until they can recognize they have a problem, or until they hit rock bottom, it can be difficult to help them recover. However, you should never stop trying to get them the help they need, no matter what stage of addiction they are in.

Conclusion

If you suspect someone you love may have a gambling problem, keep an eye out for one or more of the signs of gambling addiction.

If you want to help, it is important that you understand these signs as well as how to overcome gambling addiction.

If you hope to work through gambling addiction treatment with your spouse or family member, you want to consider seeking the help of a licensed family therapist specialized in addiction. She will be able to guide you through the recovery process and prepare you for challenges down the road.

If you have questions or would like to schedule a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation to explore your options, I am here to help.

Photo by Mitch Rosen