How Do You Know If You Have Gambling Problem

There are several ways to know if you or someone you love has an addiction to gambling. For a simple, informal, self-diagnosis, we refer you to the section entitled, 'What is gambling addiction?' In the next section, we review the formal method of determining if someone has a gambling addiction. Gambling can be a fun activity. But, if they seem to be unable to control themselves, then they may have a problem. If you have seen any of these warning signs, it is important to seek professional advice. A common response when a person with gambling addiction is confronted is denial.

This Year It Will Be Different


It’s that time of year again, the Holiday Season.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably already begun to tell yourself, “This year it will be different!” The ghosts of past holiday horrors taunt you as you vow that this year you will succeed in having that picture perfect holiday you’ve always imagined. So you begin making those same promises to yourself that you’ve made every year before…

“This year I will serve the most scrumptious feast and take photos of my family gathered around the table like a Norman Rockwell painting.”

In my experience you are never recovered. You are always recovering. There is no cure for gambling addiction but it can be arrested. I have met people who have not had a bet for over 10 years but tell me its always lurking in the background and still everyday they wake up and have to be focused and not let their guard slip. Problem Gambling Self-Assessment If you recognize symptoms of gambling addiction in yourself, take this gambling self-assessment to learn how to tell if you have a gambling problem. This quiz is a self-guided assessment that has been created from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which is the standard criteria for. Gambling addicts are obsessed with gambling and may be preoccupied with gambling to a point in which they don’t care about anything else. Compulsive thoughts about gambling or gambling obsessively to a point in which it causes other problems in your life are just a few of the common signs of gambling addiction. Unable to Stop Gambling.

“This year I will not succumb to the commercialism, the tension, the last minute frantic spending, the irritation of disgruntled shoppers, nor the foolish notion that anyone is ever really as happy as they look seem on social media!”

“Because this year it will be different….”

Many have said those words about the holiday season, time and time again, only to discover like the rest of us that there really is no such thing as “perfect”.

In the same manner, many have promised themselves that “…this time I will control my gambling”, only to find themselves once again unable to walk away.

Just know that you are not alone.

Gambling is an Emotional Behavior

No matter how hard you try, the Holidays can be a very stressful time, and stress can be a serious trigger for anyone with an addiction to gambling. Problem gamblers often use gambling to relieve stress and avoid uncomfortable feelings. Their gambling is more about emotion than money, yet the end result can be financial devastation.

For the husband, wife, mom or dad who loses it all, the emotional devastation can far outweigh the money, leading to serious depression and potentially even thoughts of suicide.

So, how can you identify a problem with gambling?

More importantly, what do you do about it?

Here are some of the warning signs of Problem Gambling:

For the Gambler:

  • Being preoccupied with thoughts of gambling.
  • Borrowing money to pay gambling debts.
  • Feeling restless or irritable when trying to cut down or quit gambling.
  • Gambling to escape worry or trouble.
  • Losing time from work or school due to gambling.
  • Lying about time and money spent gambling.
  • Neglecting family because of gambling.
  • Unable to stop playing regardless of winning or losing.

For the Family:

  • Emotional distress, anger, depression.
  • Family members working overtime or taking a second job to make ends meet.
  • Items of value lost or missing.
  • Lack of communication among family members.
  • One member (gambler) noticeably absent from or disinterested in normal family activities.
  • Reduced involvement in social/group activities outside the home.
  • Unexplained financial problems.

The good news is that gambling addiction is a treatable disorder.

People can, and DO recover!

If you are facing the Holidays with the fear, guilt and pain caused by a gambling problem, give yourself and your family the most important gift of all: the Gift of Hope!

Call the Problem Gamblers Helpline at 1-800-522-4700.

Use the information and support that is freely offered, and this year it really can be different!

Carol O’Hare, Executive Director
Nevada Council on Problem Gambling
Authors contributing to this blog on Disordered Gambling are all recipients of the Shannon L. Bybee Award, presented by the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling in recognition of proactive commitment to problem gambling advocacy, education, and research. If you believe that you or a loved one may have a gambling problem, please call the 24-hour national Problem Gamblers Helpline at (800) 522-4700 FREE for confidential assistance.
By Sydney Smith LPC, LADC, NCGC-II

A gambling problem can be difficult to detect

Problem Gambling can be hidden for a long time which often makes it very difficult to detect. By the time the problem surfaces and the family finds out, the devastation and wreckage can be tremendous. Family members tend to know that something is wrong with their loved one but due to gambling addiction’s invisible nature, especially in the early stages of the disease, it can be extremely hard to identify.

In this article, we will discuss the signs and symptoms of, and ways to identify if your loved one has a gambling problem. Then, we’ll invite your questions about how to get help at the end.

Determining if there is a gambling problem

As a family member, we may or may not know the extent of the gambling problem or how long gambling has been an issue for our loved one. We may know about the gambling, but still have much uncertainty as to whether there is a gambling problem. So if you are asking yourself,

“How do I know if my loved one is a problem gambler?”

…the following are questions and information that may help determine if there is a gambling problem.

SIGN 1: Time away. If I know the person is gambling, the amount of time spent gambling or engaged in gambling activities increases. The gambler can be gone for long unaccounted for periods of time.

When the gambler in my life gambled, he often gambled while he was at work. So, in the early stages I did not know how much time he actually spent gambling. As his gambling worsened, he would not come home from work and would disappear for 24 hours at a time.

SIGN 2: Obsession to find money. Is the gambler becoming preoccupied or obsessed with obtaining money to gamble or thoughts of gambling? The great obsession can be on coming up with ways to borrow money, taking out loans, pawning items for cash, or planning their next bet.

Living with a gambler in the past, I would frequently have jewelry missing or items of value just disappear. Later I would learn that my gambler would pawn these items to obtain gambling money or to chase his losses. Later in the progression of the disease, the gambler may be physically present but not there, as the mind is preoccupied with gambling.

SIGN 3: Emotional volatility. Does the gambler have moods swings or gambles as a means to cope or change feelings? A gambler deep into his addiction can exhibit mood swings similar to those of a person diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. The extreme up and down in moods can be hard on both the gambler and the family members. The “up” moods can follow a win, and the gambler may even brag about the winnings. The “down” mood can be very depressive and the gambler may experience anxious or depressed mood, anger, and become irritable.

Gambling is used to change the way the person is feeling and the family members may hear the gambler make statements such as, “I had a stressful day at work and I just need to go gamble to unwind”.

SIGN 4: New secrets. Are there secretive behaviors or hiding? Is the gambler becoming very secretive in his actions and with his money? Hiding of gambling wins or losses, hiding lottery tickets, tax documents, etc. becomes common.

In my therapy practice, I often hear the spouses say, “I found payday loan papers, or while cleaning, I found ATM receipts from the casino.”. The family may begin to lose trust for the gambler as the hiding, concealing, and lying about gambling grows.

20 questions to ask yourself

How Do You Know If You Have Gambling Problem Gambling

These are a few of the more noticeable warning signs one may experience with the gambler. In addition, Gam-Anon created a simple list of 20 questions for family members to ask themselves.

Family members of problem gamblers will answer “YES” to at least seven of the twenty questions.

  1. Do you find yourself constantly bothered by bill collectors?
  2. Is the person in question often away from home for long unexplained periods of time?
  3. Does this person ever lose time from work due to gambling?
  4. Do you feel that this person cannot be trusted with money?
  5. Does this person promise that he or she will stop gambling, yet gambles again and again?
  6. Does this person ever gamble longer than he or she intended?
  7. Does this person immediately return to gambling to try to recover losses or to win more?
  8. Does this person ever gamble to get money to solve financial difficulties?
  9. Does this person borrow money to gamble with or to pay gambling debts?
  10. Has this person’s reputation ever suffered due to gambling?
  11. Have you come to the point of hiding money needed for living expenses?
  12. Do you search this person’s clothing, go through his or her wallet, or check on his or her activities?
  13. Do you hide his or her money?
  14. Have you noticed personality changes in him or her?
  15. Does this person consistently lie to cover up or deny his or her gambling activities?
  16. Does this person use guilt induction as a method of shifting responsibility for his or her gambling onto you?
  17. Do you attempt to anticipate this person’s moods to try to control his or her life?
  18. Does this person ever suffer from remorse or depression due to gambling sometimes to the point of self-destruction?
  19. Have you ever threatened to break up the family because of the gambling?
  20. Do you feel that your life together is a nightmare?

What can you do next?

This list can be found on the Gam-Anon website or in Gam-Anon published literature. If you can identify with any of the information listed above:

  • Continue to educate yourself about gambling addiction through resources and literature.
  • Reach out to a trained professional.
  • Attend a Gam-Anon or any 12-step support meeting for friends and family of addicts.

If we believe our loved one has a gambling addiction, it is OK to encourage them to seek help, however, it is vitally important for us as family members to seek out our own help. We are not alone, there is hope, and life can get better.

How Do You Know If You Have Gambling Problem Solving

About the Author: Sydney Smith, CEO of RISE Center For Recovery in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a psychotherapist and Internationally Certified Gambling Counselor, currently active in her practice which has a specialty focus on the treatment of problem gamblers and their family members. She also works as a researcher with the Desert Research Institute in Las Vegas, NV. She was the 2016 recipient of the Shannon L. Bybee Award.

How Do You Know If You've Got A Gambling Problem

Authors contributing to this blog on Disordered Gambling are all recipients of the Shannon L. Bybee Award, presented by the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling in recognition of proactive commitment to problem gambling advocacy, education, and research. If you believe that you or a loved one may have a gambling problem, please call the 24-hour national Problem Gamblers Helpline at (800) 522-4700 FREE for confidential assistance.