March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, the perfect time to check in with your friends and family who enjoy gambling—which can include casinos, poker, scratch-offs, sports betting and even Bingo and some video games.
While social or recreational gambling can be a fun pastime, for some, it can turn into a serious problem that interferes with finances and relationships. “Gambling stimulates the brain’s reward system much like drugs or alcohol can, which can lead to addiction,” explains Nancy Quidas, Problem Gambling Program Coordinator at Maryland Coalition of Families. “However, there are important differences between recreational gambling and gambling addiction—signs you can watch for that can indicate your loved one has a problem.”
“One of the earliest signs of a problem is when the person can’t stop talking about gambling,” Nancy says. “They talk about their methods for winning, or their systems for figuring out where to buy winning lottery tickets and how to ‘beat the system.’ They may have superstitions or compulsive behaviors they believe are lucky. And it’s their favorite topic of conversation.”
Additionally, these behaviors also can be signs that someone has a gambling problem:
- Disappearing for periods of time or turning off cell phone. Your loved one suddenly seems hard to reach or unavailable, doesn’t return your calls, is late coming home or doesn’t account for their time.
- Personality changes. Your loved one suddenly seems more irritable, aggressive or defensive. They seem to pick fights with you over trivial things, or blame you when things go wrong.
- Hiding bills and financial statements. Your loved one may rush to get the mail before anyone else so they can hide credit card or bank statements, or late notices from utility companies.
- Money goes missing. You may find cash missing from your wallet, your debit card goes missing, or your loved one repeatedly asks to borrow money, but never repays the loan.
If you think someone you love may have a gambling problem, Maryland Coalition of Families can help. Try checking out our private Facebook support group, Maryland Families Dealing With Gambling Addiction.
Or, contact a member of our staff to help you find support and treatment for your loved one while protecting your own emotional and financial and emotional well-being. For more information, visit mdcoalition.org/get-help-now/Gambling or call 410-730-8267.