Signs of a Gambling Problem

image of asian american familyGambling Disorder is behavior which causes disruptions in any major area of life: psychological, physical, social or vocational. It is a progressive addiction characterized by increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, “chasing” losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences.

Gambling disorder is defined by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as:

A. Persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as indicated by the individual exhibiting four (or more) of the following in a 12 month period:

  1. Needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
  2. Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
  3. Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
  4. Is often preoccupied with gambling (e.g. having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble).
  5. Often gambles when feeling distress (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed).
  6. After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (‘chasing’ one’s losses).
  7. Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
  8. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational career opportunity because of gambling.
  9. Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.

B. The gambling behavior is not better explained by a manic episode.

Severity of the gambling disorder is measured as follows3:

  • Mild 4-5 criteria met
  • Moderate 6-7 criteria met
  • Severe: 8-9 criteria met.

The South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS) is another tool that is used to identify a gambling disorder.

  • The person gambles more than they intended
  • Other people are suggesting that the person might have a gambling problem
  • The person is feeling guilty about the way he or she gambles
  • The person wants to stop betting money and feels like they can’t
  • The person gambling is hiding betting slips, lottery tickets, gambling money or other signs of betting

  • There are arguments over how the person gambling is handling money
  • The person gambling is borrowing money and not repaying it
  • The person gambling is losing time from work or school due to betting money or gambling

According to Gam-Anon, if you answer “YES” to at least six of the following questions, you may be living with a person who has a problem with gambling.

  • Do you find yourself constantly bothered by bill collectors?
  • Is the person in question often away from home for long, unexplained periods of time?
  • Does this person ever lose time from work due to gambling?
  • Do you feel that this person cannot be trusted with money?
  • Does the person in question faithfully promise that he or she will stop gambling; beg, plead for another chance, yet gamble again and again?
  • Does this person ever gamble longer than he or she intended to, until the last dollar is gone?
  • Does this person immediately return to gambling to try to recover losses, or to win more?
  • Does this person ever gamble to get money to solve financial difficulties or have unrealistic expectations that gambling will bring the family material comfort and wealth?
  • Does this person borrow money to gamble with or to pay gambling debts?
  • Has this person’s reputation ever suffered due to gambling, even to the extent of committing illegal acts to finance gambling?

  • Have you come to the point of hiding money needed for living expenses, knowing that you and the rest of the family may go without food and clothing if you do not?
  • Do you search this person’s clothing or go through his or her wallet when the opportunity presents itself, or otherwise check on his/her activities?
  • Does the person in question hide his or her money?
  • Have you noticed a personality change in the gambler as his or her gambling progresses?
  • Does the person in question consistently lie to cover up or deny his or her gambling activities?
  • Does this person use guilt induction as a method of shifting responsibilities for his or her gambling upon you?
  • Do you attempt to anticipate this person’s moods, or try to control his or her life?
  • Does this person ever suffer from remorse or depression due to gambling, sometimes to the point of self-destruction?
  • Has the gambling ever brought you to the point of threatening to break up the family unit?