The Hidden Addiction: signs of gambling harms

Man at computer screen in darkness

A gambling addiction can be devastating. This disease affects a person’s self-worth, their relationships with others, their financial livelihood, and so much more. Problem and compulsive gambling is referred to as a “hidden addiction”, because suffering persons often appear normal on the outside. Like alcohol and substance abuse, the disorder does not discriminate and affects persons from all backgrounds and walks of life.

Signs & Symptoms

Gambling problems share many similarities with other addictive disorders. However, there are no visible signs or physical changes that will indicate a gambling problem.

Instead, there are common behavioural, emotional, financial and health signs.

Behavioural signs of problem gambling

The person:

  • stops doing things he or she previously enjoyed
  • misses family events
  • changes patterns of sleep, eating or sex
  • ignores self-care, work, school or family tasks
  • has conflicts with other people over money
  • uses alcohol or other drugs more often
  • leaves children alone, seems less concerned about who looks after them, neglects their basic care
  • thinks about gambling all the time
  • is less willing to spend money on things other than gambling
  • cheats or steals to get the money to gamble or pay debts
  • has legal problems related to gambling
  • is often late for work or school
  • organizes staff pools
  • is gone for long, unexplained periods of time.

Emotional signs of problem gambling

The person:

  • withdraws from family and friends
  • seems far away or anxious, or has difficulty paying attention
  • has mood swings and sudden outbursts of anger
  • complains of boredom or restlessness
  • seems depressed or suicidal.

Financial signs of problem gambling

The person:

  • frequently borrows money or asks for salary advances
  • takes a second job without a change in finances
  • cashes in savings accounts, RRSPs or insurance plans
  • alternates between being broke and flashing money
  • has family members who complain that valuables and appliances are disappearing or that money is missing from a bank account or wallet.

Health signs of problem gambling

The person complains of stress-related health problems, such as:

  • headaches
  • stomach and bowel problems
  • difficulty sleeping
  • overeating or loss of appetite.
If you, or your loved one is experiencing these sign and symptoms and is in need of help with gambling related harms, the PEI Gambling Support Line #1-855-255-4255 is available 24/7 for confidential assistance and support.