Signs That Your Gambling Might Be A Problem

Bright lights, elaborate signs, the sound of cards slapping together, laughter and excited exclamations overlapping to create the lively soundtrack of the evening … there is no question of the allure of gambling. Considerably less glamorous and often glossed over though, is the potential for significant financial loss and the development of an addiction.

According to, roughly 15% of Americans gamble at least once a week and more than 5 million people meet the criteria for “problem gambling.” What’s even more astonishing is the average accumulated debt of problem gamblers; for men the total averages between $55,000-$90,000 and for women, it’s around $15,000. In fact, over 20% of individuals with a serious gambling problem file for bankruptcy.


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How Do I Know If I Have A Gambling Problem?

Sometimes, it can be difficult to assess your own behavior (or that of a loved one) and determine if your gambling is problematic. The following list is not absolute, but can provide a helpful frame of reference.

1. You are preoccupied with constant thoughts about gambling.

If you find yourself continually thinking about gambling, either the last time you went, when you get to go again, or ways you can obtain more money to gamble with, it might be a sign that your relationship with the activity is an unhealthy one. Thinking about it occasionally or every so often is one thing, but when it starts to cloud your vision and take up significant brain space and thinking power, you may have a gambling addiction.

2. You require increasingly more money to reach the same level of thrill as before.

What was once $250 now might become $2,500, $3,000, and higher and regardless of your financial ability to fund this habit, you continue to bet more and increase your risks just to chase that high of winning big.

3. You’ve tried to curb, control, or cut back on your gambling with no success.

When you gamble, do you find that you are able to walk away at any time, regardless of the outcome? Have you gone to many lengths to prevent yourself from gambling just to find yourself circumventing your own obstructions and betting your money anyway?

4. You feel restless or irritable when you try to limit your gambling.

You may feel uncomfortable and on edge if you’re unable to gamble, much like someone with an alcohol use disorder abstaining from alcohol. Your mind and body crave the high risk and chance of reward and when you don’t obey, you feel agitated and tense.

5. You find yourself gambling to avoid your problems or to combat negative feelings like anxiety, guilt, helplessness, or depression.

In the same way people struggling with substance abuse use their drug of choice to escape, using gambling as an emotional coping tool is not healthy. Unlike yoga, meditation, or journaling which help us process and work through challenging feelings and situations, gambling does the opposite and will most likely make you feel worse. Generally, the odds of walking away a winner are only about 30%.

6. You try to win back all the money you’ve lost from gambling.

You realize how much money you’ve gambled away and in hopes of earning it all back, bet even more. However, because so much of gambling is left up to fate and luck with little to no reward, your chances of winning that cash back are slim to none and you’ve created an even deeper financial hole.

7. You lie to the people in your life about your gambling habits.

While it is certainly normal to enjoy our hobbies and interests without telling the world, when you start lying to the ones you love about how and where you’ve been spending your time and money, it might be time to really evaluate your behavior.

8. You go to extreme ends to either hide the money you’ve spent or to obtain more money to gamble.

You tell yourself it’s fine because you can shift money around between various accounts or “borrow” from children, spouses, or parents. Maybe you’ve resorted to criminal activity because the pull of your gambling habit is too strong. Are you neglecting to pay your bills or maxing out your credit cards? These are all signs of compulsive and problematic gambling behavior.

9. You risk losing important relationships and other aspects of your life like your job, school, or possible career-advancing opportunities in order to gamble more.

Prioritizing gambling over all else is a sign that you might be experiencing an addiction. A fun, harmless activity should never jeopardize your relationships, your education, or your career.

10. You’ve had to ask friends or family to help you out of a tough financial situation that came as a result of gambling.

Asking for help is part of what makes us human, but if you’ve found yourself in a place where you’re in over your head and require outside financial assistance, it’s a sign that your gambling might be out of control.

Where Can I Get Help?

It’s important to remember that you’re not alone and there are many resources available to help you. Depending on the severity of your addiction, treatment can vary. The most common approaches include therapy, medications, or self-help groups. If you or someone you love is exhibiting signs of a gambling addiction and considering online therapy options, resources can be found here. It’s never too late to take that first step into a new and brighter life.

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Hannah Zwemer

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  • Hannah Zwemer graduated with a BA in dance and a minor in educational studies from Denison University in 2017 before moving to Orlando to work as a performer at Walt Disney World. While at Disney, she discovered her passion for writing and pursued a master’s degree in creative writing with an emphasis in nonfiction. She is passionate about helping people in any way she can while simultaneously sharing stories that remind us that the best of us are still only human.

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