Do you consider yourself a recreational gambler? Would your loved ones say the same about you? If the thought of getting in front of the slots, video lottery machines or a blackjack dealer consumes your every waking moment, the experts say you may have a problem. We talked with an outpatient therapist with Avera who says you need help if you can't control your need to chase down the next big win.
The sounds that come out of video lottery and slot machines is instant gratification for a person with a gambling problem. You could compare it to heroin for a drug addict. Once you have a little taste, it can leave you wanting more.
Therapist Sara Bennetts with Avera Behavioral Health Outpatient Treatment says, "2-6% of regular recreational gamblers can develop into problem gamblers. The biggest reason is with video lottery there is a quick return on the reward system. You put something in, you get the bells and whistles and you may win a little bit. Then you say let's try a little more, and a little more and it hooks you into chasing that next big win. It becomes a problem when it feels like you can control your gambling. It's gone from not being able to go in to a casino, win $20 and leave. You may walk in now and lose $300 and not be able to leave."
Bennetts says with that chase often comes deceit. When that trust is broken with your significant other the gambling can feel like an affair. She says a good indication of an addiction is when you make time to gamble and lie about it. If your husband/wife thinks you are working until 5, but you leave early at 4 to get to the machines before anyone expects you home... that's a problem.
Bennetts says, "The sooner it's addressed the better, the less damage that's done because gambling is a secretive issue. You could blow $1000 dollars in a morning and no one would know, but they would smell alcohol on your breath."
Betting more than you have to lose, getting defensive when asked about gambling, and a need to hide it; all signs you need help. Let your loved one get you to a therapist who can assess the level of help you need. A gambling addiction can affect the whole family. It often leads to criminal activity like writing bad checks and stealing credit cards which can lead to divorce, suicide, broken homes and children with problems. Again, the best solution is early intervention.