Gambling for fun and a gambling addiction are sometimes hard to differentiate, but the latter can cause serious problems between married couples and among families.
Wagering money meant for bills and not knowing when or how to stop placing bets can bust a household budget and ultimately tear families apart.
If you or someone you care about is a frequent gambler, here’s how to tell the difference between casual betting and addiction and how to get help for your loved one.
Identifying a Problem
As with any addiction or psychological condition, when gambling starts to disrupt everyday activities like your work, school or home life, you may have a problem.
And if you’ve lost sleep over gambling, if you’ve broken the law or considered it to get more money to gamble or if you’ve borrowed money to gamble, for instance, you’re showing signs of pathological gambling, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling.
And if you’ve gambled with money that’s meant for bills and gamble even more to earn back the money, a gambling addiction seems likely.
But addiction isn’t about the habits; there are sure psychological aspects to gambling addiction too. If you’ve uncontrollable urges to gamble, felt guilty after gambling, if your losses have made you depressed or suicidal or you’ve tried and failed to quit gambling, those may be symptoms of addiction as well, according to the group.
And according to the support group Gamblers Anonymous, if you’ve had the sudden urge to return to gambling after losing, you often gamble until your last dollar is gone, you gamble to feel less worried or lonely or you have a strong urge to celebrate (sometimes lavishly) when you win, you may have a gambling problem.
Gambling With Your Family
Even if you only go gambling alone, it’s not just a personal matter when you have a family. It can easily lead to family stress and even divorce when household funds dry up due to a gambling addiction.
About 35% of adult problem gamblers support children under the age of 18, according to the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling. And one survey found that 63% of those gamblers had trouble paying the bills and 77% had already dipped into their savings in order to keep gambling.
Money, of course, is easily a source of family conflict whether or not you’re a gambler. But, among gamblers who called the Connecticut gambling hotline, more than half said they were having marital or family problems because of their habits. And when tension rises between any family members, the rest of the family is likely to feel it too, the Connecticut Council warns.
How to Kick the Habit
There are several online questionnaires even casual gamblers can take to see where their gambling tendencies stand.
The state of Washington’s Web site, for instance, has a survey where you can rate your level of addiction based on betting habits, lying about gambling, guilt over gambling and family history.
Calling the National Problem Gambling HelpLine Network, (800) 522-4700, is a confidential way to talk to someone about a gambling problem or find someone who you can talk to about how to kick your gambling habit.
And if you don’t have insurance coverage for private counseling or you can’t afford it, you may qualify for state-sponsored treatment. You can search online according to where you live at the National Council on Problem Gambling Web site.