This week the ERLC released a free, downloadable bulletin insert for use by your church on Anti-Gambling Sunday (September 18). In preparation for the event, here are five facts you should know about problem gambling:
1. Problem gambling is an umbrella term for all gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, the essential features are increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, “chasing” losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences.
2. When problem gambling causes significant problems or distress, it can be a sign of gambling disorder, also called gambling addiction or compulsive gambling. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) notes that some people develop a craving for gambling that is similar to the cravings for drugs or alcohol. Those with gambling disorder often hide their behavior, and may lie to family members and others to cover up their behavior and may turn to others for help with financial problems.
3. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States, classifies problem gambling as a disorder if a person exhibits at least four of the following behaviors during the past year:
1. Need to gamble with increasing amount of money to achieve the desired excitement
2. Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling
3. Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on or stop gambling
4. Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, thinking of ways to get money to gamble)
5. Often gambling when feeling distressed
6. After losing money gambling, often returning to get even (referred to as “chasing” one’s losses)
7. Lying to conceal gambling activity
8. Jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job or educational/career opportunity because of gambling
9. Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling
4. Gambling disorder tends to run in families, but environmental factors may also contribute, notes the APA. Symptoms of the disorder can begin as early as adolescence or as late as older adulthood. Men are more likely to begin at a younger age and women are more likely to begin later in life.
5. Approximately 4-6 percent of high school students are addicted to gambling, and another 10-14 percent are at risk of developing an addiction, which means that they already show signs of losing control over their gambling behavior.