- 1 Warning sign: You are gambling to keep your mind off something else
- 2 Warning sign: You lose track of time
- 3 Warning sign: You lose track of the money
- 4 Warning sign: Beg / Borrow / Steal
- 5 Warning sign: Feeling the need to keep others in the dark about your gambling habits
- 6 Warning signs: Missing important events
Each year, millions of people around the world enjoy gambling in a safe manner. For some, however, the thrill of a good gamble is to alluring, and they develop problematic gambling behaviours.
Below are some warning signs that you might be at high risk of developing a gambling problem – or that you already have one. A gambling problem, including a gambling addiction, can creep up on a person. Sometimes, the change is so slow and gradual that it is difficult to realise what’s going on and that the gambling habits are no longer healthy.
Warning sign: You are gambling to keep your mind off something else
Are you gambling to keep your mind from wandering to thoughts and emotions that you don’t want to face? This can greatly increase the risk of developing a gambling problem.
A common downward spiral looks like this:
- Gambling to avoid thinking about the original problem.
- Developing a gambling addiction.
- Gambling to avoid thinking about the original problem + all the new problems that the gambling addiction has brought on.
Warning sign: You lose track of time
Do you lose track of time when you gamble? Do you become absorbed into the world of gambling and conveniently forget about other obligations? Are you sometimes chocked when you realise what time it is, and how long you’ve been gambling? Are other people in your life expressing disappointment about you not showing up on time to meetings, work, family time, etc?
It’s not a coincidence that most casinos don’t have any clocks on the walls. They want you to lose track of time and spend more time gambling than you orignally planned.
Warning sign: You lose track of the money
Just as losing track of time is a warning sign, losing track of how much you’ve spent gambling during a session is a symptom that should’nt be ignored.
Warning sign: Beg / Borrow / Steal
For someone addicted to gambling, chasing money to spend on gambling can be almost like a fulltime job.
Are you begging others for money, either to spend on gambling or to cover necessary expenses such as rent and food? This doesn’t have to mean that you are begging in the street; calling your parents to ask them to cover your rent because you gambled away your rent money is just as bad.
Many gamble addicts start borrowing money to fund their addiction, and the deeper the addiction, the less discriminate they become about who to borrow from. It might start out with a few payday loans and maxed out credit cards. Then, you burn through every connection in your social circle – family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, that old basketball buddy, the ex-boyfriends, the kid’s friends parents at the local soccer club, etc. Eventually, it is not uncommon for gambling addicts to turn to loan sharks and risk life and limb to fund their gambling.
Stealing doesn’t have to be about robbing banks or hijacking cars. In many cases, discrete gambling addicts manage to go undetected for a long time while they steal – or commit other crimes – to fund their addiction. They may for instance be embezzling funds from work or form an organization, or they might be garnishing their children’s savings account. Maybe family members have been starting to complain about valuable items disappearing from the home, or maybe the addict is engaging in some discrete shoplifting to avoid being found out when money intended for groceries, shoes and birthday presents have been gambled away.
Warning sign: Feeling the need to keep others in the dark about your gambling habits
Do you feel an urge to keep others – people close to you – in the dark about how much time and money you spend on gambling? Are you straight-up lying, or are you cleverly covering your tracks to prevent any questions from being asked in the first place?
We’re not saying that you have a gambling addiction just because you don’t feel like talking to your super-religious Great Aunt Marjorie about your occasional visits to the casino. It’s all about context. There is a difference between keeping Majorie in the dark and being secretive before your husband or wife who depends on your ability to make responsible decisions about how your spend your time and resources.
Warning signs: Missing important events
How was your life before your started gambling a lot? Did you take the time to attend birthday parties, outings with friends, milestone celebrations, work-related events, and so on? And how about now? Have you consciously started to turn down invitations? Or maybe you promise to show up and then don’t – or show up two hours too late?