Legal gambling is a booming industry–from casinos to state lotteries–and most Americans occasionally play a game of chance. While a lucky few may win big, others have become problem gamblers and lost their fortunes, families, and friends. In fact, 2-5% of adults show signs of having a gambling problem. What are some of the warning signs? A person developing a gambling problem may:
- give up important activities to spend time gambling
- be unable to cut down or stop gambling
- gamble away all his/her money
- lie to hide gambling
- commit crimes to get money for gambling
- become restless or irritable if unable to gamble
- continue to gamble despite the problems caused by gambling (e.g., debt, family conflict)
need to bet more often or larger amounts to achieve the same thrill
Problem gamblers may have high hopes after a big win early on, but often become discouraged and even desperate later as the losses pile up. Gamblers are reluctant to admit that they have a problem, but this is the only way they can get help and break the cycle.
If someone you know has a gambling problem, lending him or her money will only keep the problem going; encouraging someone to get help, on the other hand, might start to turn the situation around.
Self-help organizations such as Gam-Anon can also give you support in coping with a problem gambler. If you think you may have a gambling problem yourself, be assured that there’s help available in many forms, including self-help groups (e.g., Gamblers Anonymous) and treatment programs.