Some people can have fun making a neighborly bet on the outcome of the Super Bowl, but for others gambling is habitual and even compulsive.
The compulsion to gamble is often driven, as with so many other addictions, by the desire to fill an emotional hole.
Chronic gamblers may be able to hide their problem for a while. They show up at work, love their families and may be the life of the party, but eventually their lives will unravel as their preoccupation with gambling spins out of control. There are common symptoms which point to an unhealthy relationship with gambling.
Learn about the seven signs of gambling addiction.
Signs of gambling addiction
- The person spends increasingly more time, more money and more conversation on the subject of gambling.
- The person may claim that they can stop gambling at any time, but they don’t. Not gambling leaves them feeling cranky and restless and within a short amount of time they are back to betting.
- People trapped in addiction continue with behaviors even though they bring negative consequences. In the case of gambling, the person often winds up running through every bit of available cash and then continues searching for more rather than walking away from the gambling table. Salaries and saving disappear and more money is often borrowed until the entire family is in a precarious legal and financial position.
- The person will attempt to gamble their way out of financial ruin. When bills have gone unpaid and groceries can’t be bought the person will head to the casino in order to win big and overcome current straits.
- In order to hide the desperate reality, the person will lie over and over again. They may claim to win when they have actually lost, they will lie about whether or not they have been gambling and they certainly lie about how helpless they feel to escape gambling. Lies and addiction are common bedfellows.
- Pretty soon the need to gamble eclipses every other responsibility and social obligation. The person may miss pleasant activities like a child’s performances initially but after a while even going to work or coming home after work gives way to the need to gamble.
- Obviously, at this point the key relationships in the person’s life will be starting to suffer. The person addicted to gambling will choose to escape the shame, guilt and frustration by spending more time gambling, not less.
A national council, which reports on gambling, estimates that two million Americans are addicted to gambling while another four to six million are considered problem gamblers.
As with any addiction, the first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem. From there, help is available to address the emotional needs behind compulsive gambling. With time, the person can regain control over his/her behavior and learn how to put life and relationships back together.