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How to Identify Your Own Gambling Problem

If you’ve been gambling frequently, you may have begun to wonder if things are going too far. Alternatively, it’s possible a loved one or friend has been asking questions.

This page can help you get a better idea. While we’re not mental health professionals or capable of diagnosing anything, we can provide you with several red flags that may mean something is spinning out of control.

The key question

Although a gambling problem can take many forms and present in different ways, there is one question you can ask yourself to determine if you should worry:

Can you stop gambling?

It’s time to be honest. Deceiving yourself only makes things worse. If you find yourself routinely spending more time and more money gambling than you intended to spend, there may be cause for concern.

On the other hand, knowing the answer to the question may not be sufficient. Prove it to yourself. Set a time limit and loss limit, and stop gambling immediately when you hit one of them. If you can’t, you have your answer.

Warning signs

Here are some of the most common red flags that may signal a problem.

🚩 Spending too much time gambling

Gambling is supposed to be fun, not some sort of grind. If you find yourself playing for longer than you anticipated, it might be time to take note. If you are missing out on social events and family functions to gambling, it’s extremely worrisome and is a definite sign that things are going too far. You may not have a problem, per se, but you need to start being more circumspect.

🚩 Focusing on your next gambling session

If you find yourself preoccupied with gambling away from the slots or the table, there might be an issue. You may not be aware that you are ruminating on gambling, however. The best clue is how often you bring up gambling in casual conversations. It’s one thing to be excited about a big trip to Vegas, but quite another to view your entire life through the lens of gambling.

🚩 Chasing your losses

Chasing your losses means that, in the face of a tough losing session, you continue to play in hopes of breaking even. Chasing losses may also entail you increasing your bet amount to an atypical level. Chasing losses is never a good strategy – even if you happen to claw your way out, you may find yourself unsatisfied by simply breaking even. In most cases, chasing ends up digging you into a much deeper hole. If you are commonly chasing or trying to get even when you play, you may have something else going on.

🚩 Lying to family or friends about your gambling

If you find yourself lying or tempted to lie to your loved ones about the amount of money or time you spend gambling, you should almost certainly consider some options for help. At the very least, you need to take a break from gambling for a time. This behavior is unequivocally going too far – even if you don’t have a gambling problem. If you have to hide the truth about your gambling, it’s not fun anymore.

🚩 Stealing money to gamble

Stealing money to gamble is never right. It’s a crime, and – since you’re probably taking from someone close to you – a betrayal of the people who love you and you hold dearest. If you’re stealing money to gamble, there’s a problem. Even if you don’t have a gambling problem, you have some other kind of issue. If you’ve swiped cash for the casino, you need to step away from gambling for a significant period of time.

Self-assessment resources

For those of you looking for more in-depth tools to identify gambling problems, we’ve listed a number of self-assessment resources below.

  • Gamblers Anonymous quiz: This 20-question quiz from Gamblers Anonymous delves into the many aspects of problem gambling. Compared to other self-assessment surveys, the GA quiz is detailed and asks yes/no questions.
  • NORC Diagnostic Screen for Gambling Problems: This 10-question survey is available directly on the National Council of Problem Gambling website. The NORC screening was developed based on the American Psychiatric Association’s gambling disorder guidelines.
  • BeGambleAware quiz: This short survey was developed to give gamblers and those closest to them a starting point in seeking support. The survey is free, anonymous, and it will suggest personalized support options upon conclusion.

One last thing…

The only way you can receive a diagnosis for a gambling problem is through a licensed therapist. Neither the information we provide nor the resources we include on our site can definitively say you have a gambling problem. So, you’ll need to pursue counseling and treatment options on your own.

If you don’t know where to begin, start with the National Council on Problem Gambling and its helpline, 1-800-GAMBLER. The NCPG staffs its support options with trained counselors who can direct you to the appropriate organization in your state. You can also reach out to your state’s gaming commission or department of health and human services for more specific advice for your area.

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