Are You a Compulsive Gambler?

Are You a Compulsive Gambler?

Everybody likes to make a bet now and then, right? It’s the American dream to strike it rich, come into a windfall, and win big at games of chance. How else are you going to beat the system, stick it in the face of those who hold you back, dictate your life, control your money. What begins as a way to pass the time or escape from your troubles soon escalates into an everyday activity. Before long, you can’t seem to help yourself. You spend more and more time gambling in one form or another.
Oh, no, that’s not me, you may be telling yourself right now. But look a little closer at what kind of behavior and thoughts you have. You’re not in control anymore. Ask yourself these questions, and answer honestly.

• Do you gamble as a means of escape?
• Have you ever resorted to stealing in order to finance your gambling?
• Do you gamble even when you don’t have any money?
• Do you use money intended to pay bills in order to gamble?
• Do you gamble every day?
• Are you losing sleep over your gambling losses?
• Has your relationship with your spouse been negatively affected by your gambling?
• Are you depressed over your gambling?
• Do you gamble with the hope of striking it rich?
• Do you gamble after an argument, when you are anxious, frustrated or depressed?
• Does gambling give you a rush when you win?
• Do you continue to gamble, even when you lose big and keep losing, in order to achieve that rush?
• Have you borrowed money from friends and family to gamble by telling them it was for something else?
• Have you ever taken out a loan to finance your gambling, pay off your gambling losses?
• Have you used money you borrowed that was intended to pay off your gambling debts and instead used it to continue gambling?
• Have you ever entertained the thought of doing something illegal in order to get money to gamble?
• Have you sold your possessions – or those of your spouse and/or family – in order to get money to gamble?
• Do you ever feel regret after you’ve been gambling?
• Is your reputation tarnished as a result of your gambling?
• Do you lose track of time while you are gambling?
• Is your gambling jeopardizing your job?
• Have you lost time at work due to absences or lateness?
• Is your gambling affecting your ability to take care of your responsibilities at home, at work, with friends?
• Have others told you that you have a problem with gambling or that you are addicted to gambling?
• Do you use any excuse to gamble, to celebrate – “Let’s go to the casino,” – to put yourself in a better mood, you deserve it, etc.?
• Do you gamble to escape your worries, stress or problems?
• Do you feel justified in gambling?
• Do you make excuses for your gambling losses?
• Does your life revolve around gambling to the extent that it’s all you want to do every day?
• Have you lost all sense of ambition, getting ahead with your job, moving forward with your family?
• Are you unable to enjoy normal family life because of your gambling?
• Have you become so depressed over your gambling or gaming losses that you’ve considered suicide?

The above questions have been adapted from several sources, including the California Department of Drug and Alcohol Problems, Problem Gambling Services from the State of Connecticut’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and Gamblers Anonymous. These questions have been developed by experts as a screening method to help identify problem gambling and gambling addiction. They have been expanded upon here a bit for clarity. If you answered yes to more than 7 of the questions, however, it indicates you may have a serious problem with gambling. The more questions you answered yes to, the greater the severity of the problem, even to the point of addiction.

You’re Not Alone

According to statistics available from the National Council on Problem Gambling, an estimated 2 million U.S. adults each year meet the criteria for pathological gambling. Another 4 to 6 million U.S. adults could be considered problem gamblers – that is that they don’t meet the criteria for pathological gambling but gambling is causing significant problems in their lives.
It should be noted that most Americans are able to responsibly gamble. In fact, about 85 percent of U.S. adults have gambled at least once in their lives, and 60 percent have gambled during the past year. In the U.S. only two states have no legalized gambling – Hawaii and Utah. All other 48 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized gambling.

Remember that it isn’t the amount of money that determines whether or not you are a problem gambler, it’s when your gambling interferes with, disrupts or destroys your personal, family or vocational pursuits. It’s more than a financial problem. It’s an emotional problem in that you are obsessive and feel compelled to gamble.

What You Can Do About Compulsive Gambling

The first step is one you have already taken. By answering the questions honestly, you have a good idea about the nature and severity of your gambling problem. You recognize that there is something wrong, and you’ve just confirmed it. That doesn’t mean, however, that you’re doomed to continue on this self-destructive path. There is help available.

In California, you can contact 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) for help with gambling problems. There’s also a 24-hour helpline available through the National Council on Problem Gambling at 1-800-522-4700 and many resources available through their website at

There’s also help available through Gamblers Anonymous at 1-888-GA-HELPS (1-888-424-3577) or visit their website at for links and help finding 12-step meetings in your area.

You may also consider getting inpatient or residential treatment at a licensed and credentialed facility that specializes in treating gambling addiction. In California, be sure that the facility’s staff includes a California Certified Gambling Counselor, and that the center offers credentialed care for the compulsive gambler. Access to Gamblers Anonymous meetings is also recommended as part of the treatment and recovery process.

Act Now

In the end, no one can force you to quit gambling and get help. But the fact that you are reading this article means that you, or someone you love or care about, have a problem with gambling. Recognizing that a problem exists is a big step. Doing something about it is the next important step. Don’t allow gambling to wreak havoc on all that you hold dear. An obsession with gambling, problem gambling, or a gambling addiction can be overcome. It will take work, there’s no getting around that. The gambler needs to learn why they gamble, and to develop coping skills and techniques to overcome the compulsion to gamble. Attendance and participation in support group meetings will also be required in order to maintain recovery following treatment.

Whether you get help by calling a referral hotline, going to 12-Step Gamblers Anonymous meetings, go into inpatient or residential treatment, the best thing that you can do for yourself is to act now. You can free yourself from this impulse-control disorder. Throw off the shackles of your gambling obsession. Do it today.

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