Recognizing Gambling Addiction

Gambling is often referred to as a hidden addiction because, unlike addictions to drugs or alcohol, the effects of compulsive gambling aren’t always obvious. It is often easy to hide the fact that money is missing, or to make excuses for where it went. With the rising trend of online gambling, it may not be as obvious to others that you are, in fact, gambling when sitting in front of your computer.

Though it is a difficult addiction to spot, and many gamblers themselves are in denial that they even have a problem, there are some things to keep an eye out for if you are worried that you or a loved one have a problem with gambling. Gambler’s Anonymous offers these 20 questions to ask to determine if you are compulsive gambler:

  1. Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?
  2. Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?
  3. Did gambling affect your reputation?
  4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
  5. Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?
  6. Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?
  7. After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?
  8. After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?
  9. Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?
  10. Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
  11. Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?
  12. Were you reluctant to use “gambling money” for normal expenditures?
  13. Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?
  14. Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?
  15. Have you ever gambled to escape worry, trouble, boredom or loneliness?
  16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?
  17. Did gambling cause you to have difficulty sleeping?
  18. Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?
  19. Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?
  20. Have you ever considered self destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?

If you can answer "yes" to at least seven of the above questions, you may need to seek treatment for pathological gambling.

What to Do if You Are a Compulsive Gambler

If you are a compulsive gambler, it is likely that gambling has become the most important thing in your life — despite the negative consequences it has on your family and friends. No matter how many times you try to stop, you are unable to resist the urge to gamble. But there are things you can do to help you break your gambling addiction and get your life back on track.

One of the most immediate things you can do is join Gambler’s Anonymous. These free groups, based on the 12 steps of Alcoholic’s Anonymous, offer meetings in many areas that provide support from others who are or have been addicted to gambling. If you do become involved with Gambler’s Anonymous, you will be paired with a sponsor who can provide guidance throughout your recovery.

Obtaining individual therapy, in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy, can also help you break your addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy works to change your unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts while helping you resist the urge to gamble, learn to deal with your issues and solve any personal issues caused by your addiction. A therapist can help you think about gambling in a new way so that it is no longer a compulsive habit.

If you are unable to stop gambling through these methods, you may need to spend some time at a residential treatment center that specializes in gambling addiction. These centers provide a supportive setting away from daily stressors so that you can focus on overcoming your addiction. Residential treatment centers will provide you with counseling (both individual and group), lectures related to gambling addiction and a structured day that teaches you to live without gambling temptations.

Quitting gambling is not easy, but it is important to remember that recovery from your gambling addiction is possible. Find the method that will work best for you and get your life back.