Is it a problem or not?
Some people seem to be able to gamble without having problems, just as many people can drink without ever becoming alcoholics. If the person is open about their gambling, and is living a normal life otherwise, is happy and fulfilled, then they might not have a gambling problem. Gambling disorder is a medical condition and can be diagnosed (and therefore can be screened for). We use the Problem Gambling Severity Index, the most widely used tool worldwide, and you can point them towards this assessment here.
Gambling is often called the hidden addiction. You may not have evidence of an addiction but you may have a gut instinct. People with gambling problems often lie because they are ashamed of their problem. This makes it hard to identify, but these are some of the signs you might be noticing:
- Money is missing from the house or from bank accounts for no good reason.
- Your family member hides bank and credit card statements
- The person is borrowing money from friends, banks, etc
- Bills go unpaid
- Creditors are ringing up demanding money
- Valuables disappear for no good reason
- The person takes on overtime or more work, but there is no more money
- Your family member seems “far away”
- They are unusually anxious and angry
- They might have unexplained mood swings and be very happy and generous one day (when they are winning) and down the next.
- Is unusually depressed, or even suicidal
- Become uncharacteristically late for work
- Stops doing things they used to enjoy
- Is gone for unexplained periods of time
- Is awake late into the night
- Ignores family chores, such as taking the rubbish out, cleaning etc
- Doesn’t take proper care of the children
- Misses family events or is not there in spirit
- Talks about gambling a lot; or uses a lot of gambling language such as “What’s the odds on that”, “I bet…”, “dead cert”, etc
What can you do?
- Ask them outright - not in an accusing way - but something like "How has your gambling been going recently?". That is, give them something they can hook on to if they do want help.
- Ask them if they want to assess their gambling here