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How do I know if someone has a gambling problem?

Gambler's Anonymous has a list of 20 questions that they ask.

Here are the questions. Just answer "yes" or "no" to each one.

    1. Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?

    2. Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?

    3. Did gambling affect your reputation?

    4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?

    5. Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?

    6. Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?

    7. After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?

    8. After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?

    9. Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?

    10. Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?

    11. Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?

    12. Were you reluctant to use "gambling money" for normal expenditures?

    13. Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?

    14. Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?

    15. Have you ever gambled to escape worry or trouble?

    16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?

    17. Did gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?

    18. Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?

    19. Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?

    20. Have you ever considered self destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?

If the answer is "yes" to at least seven of these questions, Gambler's Anonymous would consider the person answering a compulsive gambler.

To determine if you are living with someone who might be a compulsive gambler take the assessment questionnaire (pdf).

Types of Gamblers:

There are different types of gamblers. Most gamblers, about 96% of the people who gamble, are social gamblers. They are able to:

    ? Decide on a loss limit ahead of time and stick to it
    ? Never borrow money to gamble
    ? Set a time limit
    ? Take frequent breaks
    ? Balance gambling with other activities
    ? Don't gamble when highly stressed, depressed or troubled in some other way
    ? Only gamble with money set aside for entertainment, never with money for everyday expenses.

Some social gamblers are very serious about their gambling.

They go to bingo every Thursday night, and they let little interfere with bingo (or poker) night.

These gamblers are called serious social gamblers.

They are like other people who might be serious about working out or playing tennis or golf.

These gamblers gamble regularly, but they are able to quit without showing signs of withdrawal or irritability.

Some gamblers are called at-risk gamblers. This term means different things to different people. It can refer to people who score 1 or 2 on a gambling screen called the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS).  It can mean people who fit certain characteristics.

For instance, studies show that adolescent boys who cut school or smoke cigarettes have a higher incidence of gambling behaviors. An adolescent boy who smokes and cuts school could then be called "at risk" for gambling problems because others with similar characteristics gamble at a higher rate than that of the general population.

The term, problem gambler, is used to describe someone who scores 3-4 on the South Oaks Gambling Screen. In a less scientific way, it is also used to describe anyone who is exhibiting any problems because of gambling. Warning signs of a gambling problem.

A person might be considered a compulsive gambler if he or she can answer affirmatively to seven of the Twenty Questions from Gambler's Anonymous. (The 20 questions are listed above, in the section entitled, How do I know if someone has a gambling problem.

The word, compulsion, according to Webster's New College Dictionary, means "An irresistible impulse to act irrationally." The term, compulsive gambler, implies that the gambler is unable to (cannot resist the impulse) to control his or her gambling.

Pathological gambling is a term that is used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, (DSM-IV) published by the American Psychiatric Association. It is found among other Impulse Control Disorders, not otherwise specified, 312.31. There is a list of ten criteria (pdf), of which a person must admit to five, to be diagnosed as a pathological gambler.

For links and more information see
WA State Problem Gambling Program