Problem Gambling, The “Hidden Addiction”

As of 2016, an estimated 2.2% of Pennsylvania adults (222,190) were believed to have a gambling problem. Gambling is a diverse activity with many different types of addictions, and problem gambling clearly impacts individuals, families, and society. Contrary to popular belief, the act of gambling is not restricted to slot machines, card games, and casinos. The gambling industry keeps redefining itself, and a significant portion of gambling now occurs online. In fact, most sports betting now takes place via phone or computer.

Gambling By the Numbers
A study by the University of Massachusetts public health researchers states that “while just 2 percent of adults have a gambling problem; the numbers are higher for people playing games that provide instant gratification – like scratch-offs. While lotteries like Powerball have a problem-gambling rate of 3.3 percent, scratch-off games hover around 4.4 percent, and daily games like Keno are closer to 8 percent.”

People who suffer from problem gambling often describe a slippery slope that leads to relationships with new “friends” who support their newfound addiction and commonly introduce them to other behaviors that they may not have engaged in otherwise. Often, gambling becomes a family habit, and the children of parents who struggle with problem gambling statistically participate in similar practices more often than the children of non-gambling parents.

The challenges don’t stop there. Gambling addicts have a higher rate of domestic abuse, bankruptcies, and depression. It’s estimated that one in five gambling addicts will attempt suicide.

Signs, Symptoms, and Impacts
Like all addictions, problem gambling is an illness. While the majority of the population plays games of chance without it becoming a problem, others develop a habit that can impact every facet of their life, leading to family, marital, and financial devastation. Some even participate in dangerous crime scenarios due to borrowing money or making deals with illegal associations.

As these problems escalate beyond denial and stress, families and friends can become exhausted and divided. What may begin as a simple family dispute can escalate into violence. Moreover, for many reasons, the “addictive personality” of a problem gambler can lead to or co-exist with other related addictions.

Research confirms that gambling addiction and gambling related issues are often associated with other (behavioral or mood) disorders. Many people who suffer from problem gambling also suffer from substance abuse issues, unmanaged stress, depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders.

Are you concerned that you or someone you love may be struggling with problem gambling? Look for these signs and symptoms:

· You/they are preoccupied with gambling

· Gambling interferes with your/their daily life

· Gambling has started to concern your/their friends and/or family

· Gambling happens even if you/they don’t have the disposable income to do so

· You/they are lying to other people about the time and/or money spent on gambling

Help is available, and Recovery is Possible! Skills provides outpatient behavioral health treatment services to address problem gambling. Anyone seeking support for problem gambling can walk into our treatment facility with no appointment and be seen by a clinician who will help you evaluate your situation and develop a treatment plan to address your specific needs.

To learn more about our addiction services, or to contact us for support, visit https://www.skillsofcentralpa.org/services/addiction-services.