Noticing the Signs of Addiction When They’re Hard to See Posted On

It’s not obvious upon first meeting someone. Unlike a waft of nicotine, or a faint smell of alcohol on a person’s breath, problem gambling is an addiction that can be much harder to spot. Even in those who are close to us, our own spouses and family members.

For this reason, we often call it the Hidden Addiction. If we don’t know what signs to look for, we often won’t see the problem until it has already gotten out of control.  This might be the point where our loved one’s credit card maxes out, or they’ve lost their job from a series of absences and poor performance from too many late nights gambling.

Or maybe you worry you might be experiencing a gambling disorder, yourself.

Whatever the case may be, know you are not alone. Two million U.S. adults are estimated to meet the criteria for disordered gambling each year, and problem gambling affects men, women, children and seniors of all ethnicities and backgrounds.

So how can you help protect a loved one from problem gambling?

Notice the Warning Signs in Others

  • Your loved one or spouse may be spending more time than they have in the past at casinos, or out betting on sports games.
  • They may have more difficulty paying their share for common necessities, such as groceries, utilities and rent or mortgage payments.
  • They may become secretive about the money they have, and how it’s being spent, while they were more open in the past.
  • They may have a greater interest in checking game scores and stock pages, and become either highly elated or depressed depending on their bet.
  • They have trouble playing games without making it a competition where something of value is at stake.
  • They excitedly share their big gambling wins, without ever talking about their losses.
  • Your may find your child or teen is missing money, or has significantly more money than you know has been given to them or earned from working.
  • They’ve begun selling items unexpectedly, in order to support their gaming habits.

Notice the Warning Signs in Yourself

  • You find yourself lying about whether you gambled, how much you gambled, and if you won or lost.
  • You know that you’re behind on bills, but you can’t bring yourself to stop gaming, placing bets, or purchasing scratch-off tickets.
  • Thoughts of gambling or worries of losing money are disrupting your sleep and affecting your work performance or daily responsibilities.
  • You borrow money from friends or loved ones to repay debts caused by gambling, and continue to gamble to try to win it back.

You can use our interactive tool to calculate what you spend on gambling in a year, too.

These signs aren’t meant to diagnose a gambling disorder, but rather, to help you think about the types of behavior to look for in order to stop a loved one, or yourself, from developing a serious problem gambling disorder.

Gambling can occur virtually anywhere, from the comfort of one’s home with online games, to the grocery store check-out, community centers, and anywhere from a mobile device. Because it can be difficult to tell when or where a person has gambled, it’s important to pay attention to behavioral and emotional changes, as well as fostering an open dialog about gambling and personal finances if costs are shared between you and your loved one.

If you suspect that you, or a loved one, might be dealing with a problem gambling situation, help is available. Call the NYS HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY for support 24/7.