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Signs of Gambling Addiction

Given the subtle nature of gambling problems, how can you identify someone who is at risk for compulsive gambling? Here are eight warning signs of a gambling problem:

  • Increased frequency of gambling activity
  • Increased amount of money gambled
  • Gambling for longer periods of time than originally planned
  • Bragging about wins, but not talking about losses
  • Pressuring others for money as financial problems arise
  • Lying about how money is spent
  • Escaping to other excesses (alcohol, drugs, sleep, etc.)
  • Denying there is a problem

Additional signs of problem gambling may include frequent absences from home and work, excessive phone use, withdrawal from family, personality changes (increased irritability/hostility) and diversion of family funds. It’s important to realize that problem gambling can affect anyone.

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), also suggests that signs of problem gambling may include:

  • Preoccupation with gambling (reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next venture or thinking of ways in which to gamble)
  • Needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement
  • Trying to control, cut down or stop gambling unsuccessfully
  • Feeling restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling
  • Using gambling as a way to escape problems or bad moods (helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)
  • Returning to gamble after losing money gambling
  • Lying to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling
  • Committing illegal acts, such as forgery, fraud, theft or embezzlement to finance gambling
  • Jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of gambling
  • Relying on others to get out of debt

Problem gambling manifests differently depending on the specific population and context. Signs of problem gambling can be recognized in the workplace, in school or among older adults.

To help determine if you or someone you know is at risk for problem gambling, take the 2-minute risk test (in sidebar on right). If you think you need help or know someone that does, there are resources available. If you’d like to seek help immediately, please call the Minnesota Problem Gambling helpline at 1-800-333-4673 (HOPE).