While it is true that most people can and do gamble responsibly, for some individuals, what may begin as just casual entertainment sometimes crosses over the line into problem gambling. Problem gambling includes compulsive or pathological gambling, also called gambling addiction. It is a highly disabling and progressive impulse control disorder that affects between 1 and 2 percent of the adult population. So, how do you know if you have a problem with gambling? Let\u2019s look at some of the signs that may indicate trouble. Preoccupation with Gambling If gambling is all you think about most of your waking hours, if you scheme and finagle to figure out ways to indulge in your craving to gamble, you have an inordinate preoccupation with gambling. Such a fixation on finding ways and means to gamble becomes increasingly debilitating, to the point where you are no longer taking care of your day-to-day responsibilities, even your health. Chemical changes may be occurring in your brain. You may have a vulnerability marker for addiction \u2013 especially if you also abuse alcohol and\/or drugs. Losing Work Because of Gambling How many times have you had to call in sick or take a day off from work because of your gambling activities? You may have been at the casino all night and aren\u2019t fit to go to your job, or you may just blow off work because you had a string of bad luck at the tables or track. You don\u2019t really care about work, anyway. All you\u2019re thinking about is how to make back your losses or dig yourself out of the hole you\u2019ve sunk into. And that means you\u2019re preoccupied with gambling. Work productivity also suffers when you are on the job, since you\u2019re most likely counting the hours until you can again get back to gambling. For some, it\u2019s not lost time at work that occurs but skipping out on classes or ditching school altogether. The lure of gambling is just too great to compete with what soon comes to be seen as tedious responsibilities of class attendance and homework. Missing time from work or school as a result of frequent gambling is a sure sign that you have a problem that demands attention. Gambling Makes Home Life Unhappy It\u2019s hard to have a normal, functioning family life if you\u2019re constantly ducking out to gamble, hiding your losses, ferreting away money to indulge your gambling urges, and lying to loved ones about it all. Your spouse, parents, siblings or other loved ones sense that something\u2019s wrong, but you deny there\u2019s a problem. Over time, you become even more secretive. Lies build upon lies until you don\u2019t even know yourself when you\u2019re telling some shaded version of the truth or an outright falsehood. Besides, any feelings of guilt or tension fade away once you\u2019re on your way to what really matters to you: gambling. You think you\u2019re hiding your secret \u2013 and, maybe you are, to some extent. But with problem gambling, the truth always comes out eventually. Its what damage gets done in the meantime that may make the difference between being able to salvage what\u2019s left of your family relationships or losing them forever. Sleep Difficulties Because of Gambling You toss and turn, sick in your gut over the losses you\u2019ve incurred gambling. Next to you, your spouse or partner sleeps peacefully, unaware of the turmoil you\u2019re going through. You stare at the ceiling, get up and drink a glass of water, maybe smoke a cigarette, pace around the living room or catch some fresh air out on the patio. You think you\u2019ll be able to go back to sleep now. After all, it\u2019s the wee hours of the morning. You\u2019ve just returned home from the casino, still hyper from all the action. You snuck in without waking anyone and thought you were in the clear. But sleep doesn\u2019t come. It almost never does anymore. There\u2019s just too much on your mind. What if your wife (or husband) finds the cash missing you were saving for that new couch or weekend trip? What excuse can you come up with this time that will be believable? Maybe you should drive back to the casino. Maybe you\u2019ll have a run of good luck this time. Yes, you\u2019re exhausted. You\u2019ve missed several days of work in the last couple of weeks and your boss has already warned you, but you don\u2019t really care. One big win is all you need. Night after night, this scenario plays out. You definitely have a problem with gambling. Experiencing Remorse After Gambling You\u2019ve long ago passed the stage where you were able to only gamble a set amount and not exceed it. Maxing out your credit cards, emptying your checking and\/or savings accounts, seeing the hurt reactions on the faces of your family because you\u2019ve let them down time and time again \u2013 it all adds up. You feel crummy, but you know it\u2019s only temporary. All you need to feel good again is to go back and gamble. There\u2019s nothing like the lights, sounds, and smell of the action to get you going. It makes your heart race, your blood quicken. It\u2019s what you live for. But then there\u2019s crash \u2013 when you inevitably come down again \u2013 and that kills you. This is remorse, and if you are experiencing it frequently after gambling, its another pretty accurate indication that you have a problem with gambling. Your Reputation Suffers You\u2019ve noticed that people seem to be avoiding you more and more lately. At first, you didn\u2019t give it a thought, but now it appears that not only are your friends steering clear of you, your co-workers and neighbors are turning aside with whispered comments as come into view. If you\u2019ve been caught stealing or have had other brushes with the law as a result of your gambling, your reputation has undoubtedly taken a beating. No one likes to have their image tarnished, and reputation is something that, once damaged, is hard to restore. It doesn\u2019t even have to be something major. Your reputation can suffer in the eyes of your family, who no longer look up to you with respect. You\u2019ve slid down a few pegs, maybe a lot of pegs. As problem gambling worsens, reputations crumble like withered leaves that dissipate into dust and blow away. If your reputation has suffered as a result of your gambling activities, you may have a problem with gambling. Diverting Funds You\u2019ve become a master at diverting money from this account to that account. It\u2019s like a shell game or con where only you know what happened to the money: it\u2019s gone to finance your gambling urges. If you\u2019re the breadwinner, or in charge of paying the household bills, you have access and power over the finances. Problem gamblers soon develop an inordinate skill at whittling away checking and savings accounts without anyone being the wiser \u2013 for a time. But after awhile, the losses at the casino or track or Internet gambling require a massive infusion of cash. You need money now to pay off the bookie, to recoup your losses, to stick what you took back into the account before your spouse or partner finds out. As a consequence, bills often go unpaid or get paid late or with a bare minimum, financial difficulties build, and the person who\u2019s fixated on gambling gets deeper and deeper in the hole. Loss of Ambition or Efficiency Life away from the casinos or time spent gambling starts to feel like being imprisoned. You\u2019re stifled, lethargic, depressed \u2013 and your pace or progress at work or school deteriorates as a result. You simply have no ambition to get ahead anymore. What\u2019s the use? You\u2019d rather take your chances \u2013 literally \u2013 at the casino. At least there, when you win big, you\u2019ll have all the answers. You won\u2019t need this boring job to tie you down anymore. You skate through the day, doing as little as you can without attracting the scrutiny of your boss \u2013 or you make up excuses for why you\u2019re so inefficient. You didn\u2019t get the reports from the team on time, the supplier sent the wrong order, and so on. You don\u2019t even see that your boss is starting to calculate that your productivity is not up to par. How could you? You\u2019re trying to figure out how to leave early so you can go gamble. Desperate to Recoup Losses You\u2019ve got it all right there in your mind. You know exactly how much you\u2019re in the hole, how much you need to win back and win back quickly. In fact, you\u2019re so desperate to recoup your losses that you begin to take extraordinary risks. You may steal money from a co-worker, embezzle funds, write bad checks, drain your children\u2019s college fund account. This desperation is fueled by a feeling that you absolutely have to get back to gambling in order to be made whole again. You no longer have any control over whether or not you go gambling. You just have to go. You\u2019re compelled to go. It\u2019s the only way you can win back your money, the money that\u2019s rightfully yours. At least, that\u2019s what you tell yourself. But the more you gamble, the more you lose. And the more desperate you become to recoup those losses. Gamble More After a Big Win Common sense would tell you that after you win you should quit while you\u2019re ahead. But common sense went out the window long ago. When you do hit it big, you feel emboldened, on top of the world, like you can\u2019t lose. So you gamble more \u2013 and the house always wins. There\u2019s simply no way you\u2019re going to come out on top. So, why the compulsion to continue to gamble after a win? It doesn\u2019t make any logical sense. But that\u2019s why it\u2019s called compulsive gambling. Your brain isn\u2019t functioning according to logic. You\u2019re acting on your urges and the urges are the only things winning. Continuing to Gamble Until the Last Dollar is Gone Have you ever gambled until you didn\u2019t have another dollar to your name? You\u2019ve cleaned out your bank accounts, spent your gas money, maxed out your credit cards, borrowed the last dime you could from anyone who\u2019s still talking to you, and still you\u2019re looking for a few quarters to continue to gamble. At this point, you no longer care about tomorrow or the consequences of squandering away all your money, possibly all the money that your family has as well. You\u2019re only concerned with right now, with being able to come up with some cash so you can keep on gambling. You\u2019re incredibly hooked, and most definitely have a problem with gambling. Taking Out Loans to Finance Gambling Urges It\u2019s a little tougher these days to take out a loan \u2013 whether it\u2019s ostensibly to fix up the house, buy a car, put your kid through college or anything else. For those who still have the collateral and credit score to be able to obtain a loan, taking one out for the real purpose of financing gambling activities is a bad sign that the person has a problem with gambling \u2013 and it\u2019s getting worse. Incurring debt to chase after games of chance is a losing proposition. It\u2019s an indicator the individual is quickly losing his or her grip on reality. But, then again, compulsive gamblers always think that the big win is just around the corner. Gambling to Escape If you go out to the casino to gamble as a means of escaping your worries, troubles at home, boredom or loneliness, you may have a problem. Gambling, in and of itself, isn\u2019t the issue. It\u2019s the fact that you feel that you\u2019re only alive while you\u2019re gambling. When you\u2019re in the casino or at the track, you\u2019re not bogged down in the turmoil with your wife (or husband) and kids, with the big project that failed because you let the team down at work. Furthermore, you\u2019re not bored while you\u2019re in the midst of the action. You\u2019re not lonely either. After all, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of people here just like you who are chasing Lady Luck. Gambling to escape worries, problems, boredom and loneliness once in a while doesn\u2019t mean you have a problem with gambling. It can be a sign that you have a problem, however, if that\u2019s what you do frequently. In fact, problem gambling often begins with escape gambling. It just progresses from there. Gambling as the First Choice of Entertainment When others suggest going out to have a good time, do you automatically suggest (or think of) gambling as the first choice of entertainment? Whereas most people may think of going out to dinner or the movies or to a concert or just getting together with friends, a person who\u2019s got or is developing a problem with gambling only thinks about gambling. Nothing else holds any allure. Nothing else is as satisfying, as exciting, as worthwhile. If gambling is your sole form of entertainment, you may be a problem gambler. Gambling After Arguments, Frustrations, Disappointments You\u2019ve just had a major argument with your spouse. Or you lost a big client at work. Perhaps you didn\u2019t get the promotion you felt you deserved. Your first thought \u2013 and the one you act on \u2013 is to go out and gamble. Does this sound like you? Gambling as a way to cope following arguments, frustrations, and disappointments is a poor strategy. In reality, you\u2019re likely putting yourself in the position of incurring more frustration by losing money gambling. This will increase your sense of frustration and disappointment and may very likely result in even more arguments when you return home. Losing all Sense of Time Gamblers will gamble until they run out of money, drop dead, or are booted out of the casino. At least, it often seems that way. What happens is that they get all caught up in the adrenaline rush, the thrill of the potential big win, the excitement of being where the action is. Time slips by without notice. And the gambler never worries about time. This is why there aren\u2019t any clocks in the casinos. Time doesn\u2019t matter. They operate 24 hours a day. The house knows that the longer the gambler continues to play, the more the odds are in the house\u2019s favor. The gambler will inevitably lose everything he or she has won. Free drinks, entertainment \u2013 whatever it takes \u2013 the casinos are in the business of keeping the gambler in the establishment. And it works. If you find yourself losing all sense of time in the casinos, or at the track, or gambling on the Internet, you may have a problem with gambling. Family Welfare Suffers When the welfare of the family begins to suffer as a result of gambling, it\u2019s likely that gambling has progressed to a severe stage. If you lose your house or are evicted from your apartment, had your car repossessed, or are sent to jail for crimes committed to finance your gambling, you have entered the phase of gambling that is now a steep downward slide. Thoughts of Self-Destruction If you\u2019ve ever contemplated hurting yourself or others, or entertained thoughts of suicide, or attempted to kill yourself as a result of your gambling, you desperately need help for your problem. It\u2019s gone far beyond casual to problem to compulsive gambling addiction. Do not wait a minute longer. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. Help is Available If you see yourself and your behavior in any of these signs, you can benefit from help. And help is available to you. If you have engaged in several of these behaviors, you are most likely experiencing a problem with gambling. If most of these signs apply to you, you are at serious risk. Contact the 24-hour confidential National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-422-4700. There are also treatment facilities that specialize in treating gambling addiction and substance abuse. Don\u2019t allow your life to continue to go downhill. Regain your self-esteem and restore your dignity. Get help for your gambling problem today. You \u2013 and your family \u2013 will reap the benefits. And this is one instance where you have a very good chance of winning. It\u2019s all up to you.