The Hidden Addiction: Recognizing signs of gambling harms in yourself, or an affected loved one

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Would you know how to spot if your own or someone else's gambling is causing harm?

Gambling is also known as the ‘hidden addiction’, and quite often the signs are not clear. Research and experience has indicated that these are helpful ways to identify if your own or someone else’s gambling has become harmful. 

Five signs to consider about your own gambling:

1. Preoccupation – Do you spend much of your day thinking about betting? Are you finding it distracting you while at work or school, or taking you out of the moment when you spend time with friends and family? Often thinking about or planning to gamble can be one of the early warning signs that gambling could be harmful.

2. Withdrawal – Removing yourself from social and professional situations so that you can place a bet is another warning signal that your gambling might be going too far, and that the urges to gamble are potentially harming other areas of your life.

3. Escape – Life can be overwhelming at times, and you might feel like you want to escape it for a while. Using gambling as a coping mechanism is a sign of harmful gambling and can lead to losing significant amounts of money.

4. Chasing losses – The main motive of gambling is to win money but during a gambling session, that motive can change. Chasing losses is where your motive from winning money changes to winning back the money you have already lost. This can be dangerous and lead to significant losses.

5. Lying – If you find yourself hiding how much you are spending or lying about the amount of time you are gambling, or perhaps asking for money to cover bills that you are spending. These are just some signs that gambling is harming your life, and possibly risking your relationships with family and friends.

Five signs to look out for if you’re concerned about someone else’s gambling:

1. Withdrawn – Not wanting to join in or losing interest in usual activities or hobbies like going out with friends or spending time with family can be one of the early warning signs that gambling could be harmful. Wanting to stay at home more frequently, needing to check their phone constantly to check the latest results as so much is riding on a bet.

2. Changing mood – There could be noticeable changes to their mood and behaviour, including looking worried, agitated or upset for no apparent reason.

3. Sleeping problems – If someone is chasing losses and losing money they might not be sleeping. Anxiety or constant worrying can lead to people being up all hours. Continuing to gamble on their phone during the night could lead to sleep patterns being affected.

4. Financial signs – Has money gone missing from bank accounts, or are they regularly short of money on a regular basis and are having to borrow money? There may also be more pressure to get loans out, chasing losses now not just to generate income.

5. Lying – Are you noticing that this person is lying about what they’re doing with their time, or perhaps asking for money to cover bills that could be for gambling. This can be risky as they will feel very vulnerable at being found out and very low that they have let people down.

If you, or your loved one is experiencing these sign and symptoms and needs help with gambling related harms, the PEI Gambling Support Line #1-855-255-4255 is available 24/7 for confidential assistance and support.