Approximately 8 million Americans are addicted to gambling. Gambling addiction or compulsive gambling is similar to alcohol addiction, drug addiction or any other addiction where you or someone you know battles with an uncontrollable urge to continually do said thing, and in this case, it's gamble.
Nowadays, gambling isn't just limited to poker tables and slot machines in casinos. Depending on the state, gambling can be as easy as opening an app on your phone or accessing a website on your computer. Gambling addicts, though, do it all—from handshake bets to online and in-person whether it's in the comfort of their own home, at a casino, sportsbook or at work.
Gambling disorder is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) as "persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress" of four or more specific actions over a 12-month period.
Here are five sings you or someone you know may have a problem with gambling.
Preoccupied with gambling
Like any addiction, gambling is the only thing you think about. You can't wait to make that next bet, hopefully collect that next win, or atone for a prior loss. You bet on anything and everything, not just cards or dice games. You spend time thinking about odds and bets, and look forward to that next paycheck in order to turn it into a bet. You relive your past wins and get hung up on prior losses.
Consistently gamble regardless of consequences
Because this is the only thing on your mind, other aspects of your life — personally and professionally — will fall by the wayside. Education/career isn't a priority. Rather than spending your money on beneficial or necessary things, you instead spend your paychecks and savings on gambling. Relationships can fracture, especially if you lie about your behavior or rely on someone else to fund your addiction. There may even be criminal consequences if you steal money to fund your gambling habits.
Chasing your losses
Most people who gamble know when to quit. They set certain dollar limits or number of bets placed in a given time period. Gambling addicts don't know when to say "no" instead favoring the next bet as the winning one in the hopes of making up for prior losses. They continue to chase these losses bet after bet, day after day, spiraling out of control. Even if they are up, they still have the urge to bet again, potentially betting larger amounts of money for a greater thrill and potential reward.
Repeated efforts to cut back or stop
A tell-tale sign of addiction is the inability to cut back on usage and/or stop altogether. You may try to limit your betting - like an alcoholic will have "just one drink" - but that urge overtakes you and you continue to fall off the wagon.
The same way an alcoholic can have physical and emotional symptoms and side effects as a withdrawal from not having a drink, gambling addicts may become restless or irritable when not gambling or trying to limit their betting.