How to Recognize a Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction doesn’t discriminate-- it’s just as likely to impact a woman as it is a man, a minimum-wage employee as a CEO, a college student as a retired senior citizen. Compared to other addictions, gambling addictions are easy to hide. There are no physical signs or symptoms; even close loved ones might not know the truth.

And that’s exactly why this addiction can quickly become a big problem.

Facts and information about gambling addictions

Gambling addiction is a more pervasive issue than many people realize, especially here in Connecticut, where there are three casinos within 50 miles, sports betting has become legal, Keno has gained momentum, lottery tickets are available at every gas station and convenience store, and Fantasy Football leagues are popular. For those with a gambling problem, there is literally temptation at every corner.

Since approximately 85% of American adults have gambled at least once in their lives, with 60% reporting they did so in the past year1, gambling can be overlooked as normal behavior. The problem may be even more obscured for Connecticut residents, who are accustomed to the prevalence of fancy casinos and used to dining in restaurants equipped with lottery games.

Gambling addiction statistics paint a clear picture of how this abundance of opportunity reinforces gambling addiction, and why problem gambling is a devastating issue:

  • Problem gambling rates double for those who live within 50 miles of a casino.
  • Those with a gambling problem are more likely to have health issues, and are more likely to be hospitalized or visit the emergency room.3
  • Gambling is linked to health problems such as heartburn, migraines, backaches, liver disease, and heart conditions.3
  • Problem gamblers are more likely to have issues with alcohol (including binge drinking), illegal drug use, smoking, depression, and suicidal thoughts.3
  • A study showed that 75% of gambling addicts also had a problem with alcohol, 38% also had an addiction to illegal drugs, and 60% were hooked on nicotine.1
  • It is estimated that as many as 8 million adults in the U.S. are pathological or problem gamblers.4

While many gambling addiction statistics are alarming, there is also encouraging data for those who seek help:

  • When problem gamblers get treatment, their psychiatric issues significantly decrease.3
  • More than half of those who get treatment for a gambling addiction are able to significantly reduce their gambling.3

How to recognize a gambling addiction

By the time gambling becomes out of control, it’s common for the gambler to view it as the solution, not the problem. The big win feels close, even probable, and they keep going in hopes of cashing in on the major jackpot that will solve their financial issues. The common mindset is, “I’ll just do this once more, and then I’ll stop.” When that “one more time” comes, though, the big win still seems close, and it feels impossible to stop.

Does this sound familiar? In addition to this mindset, there are common signs that will help you recognize a gambling addiction in yourself and others. The signs of a gambling addiction include:

  • Gambling alone
  • Borrowing and/or stealing money
  • Getting behind on bills
  • Missing time from work or school to gamble
  • Hiding gambling activity from friends, family, and coworkers
  • Feelings of despair and loss of self-worth
  • Depression
  • Feeling anxious and overwhelmed

If you think someone you love might have a problem, look for these signs of a gambling addiction in addition to the ones listed above:

  • Hiding or being illusive about money
  • Not being able to account for time
  • Behavioral changes, including anxiety, sudden anger, and depression
  • Violence

Gambling addiction info shows that gambling and depression have a close relationship. By the time a problem gambler becomes willing to admit that they have a problem, their finances and relationships are in jeopardy, and these issues compound the gambler’s bleak outlook.

Often, when people come to us for help, they feel hopeless and disconnected from their lives. They say things like, “I just feel like a robot” or “I’m a horrible person.” These feelings are common in those struggling with a gambling addiction-- but there is help, and the Bettor Choice Gambling Treatment Program here at Wheeler Clinic has successfully provided that help to residents of greater Hartford and central Connecticut for more than 20 years.

If you think you or a loved one has a gambling addiction, please call Wheeler’s Bettor Choice Program Manager Katie Kirch at (860) 782-2549, or after hours at (860) 692-8857.


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