Gambling: Is it for fun or has it become compulsive?
By Deanna Staples, MS, LADC, Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor
Opportunities to gamble are everywhere and the variety is endless: lottery drawings, scratch cards, bingo, sports betting, internet gaming, casino games and more. It can be fun, reduce stress and increase social networking with the possibility of developing new skills and winning money. In the United States 85 percent of adults have gambled at least once.
Julie first visited a casino when she was in her thirties. She and a friend were looking to do something new and fun. They enjoyed the atmosphere, the gambling options, and sharing a meal at the buffet. Their casual visits became more frequent and soon they spent every weekend at the casino. It was not long before Julie was relying on borrowed money from family and friends to pay her bills. Eventually she faced legal issues for bouncing a check and was forced to get help for her addiction.
Two million adults in the United States meet the criteria for severe gambling each year. (National Council on Problem Gambling)
When gambling for fun turns into an uncontrollable urge to continue despite the disruptions it may cause, it becomes an addiction also called gambling disorder. Much like drugs and alcohol, gambling stimulates the brain’s reward system, which can lead to addiction. But unlike drugs and alcohol, gambling behaviors associated with compulsion are not easily detectable. They include hiding betting habits, depleting savings, accumulating debt, or resorting to theft or fraud to support addiction. Since most people do not divulge their personal finances, it is difficult to help a loved one who may have a gambling addiction.
Gambling disorder criteria includes four or more of these behaviors:
- Preoccupation with gambling, such as constantly planning how to get money to gamble
- A need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to achieve desired excitement
- Repeated unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back or stop gambling
- Feeling restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling
- Gambling to escape problems or relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, or depression
- Trying to win back lost money by gambling more
- Lying to hide the extent of gambling from others
- Jeopardizing or losing important relationships, a job, or educational or career opportunities because of gambling
- Resorting to theft or fraud to get gambling money
- Relying on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling
Where to find help
If you or a loved one needs help, getting a comprehensive gambling assessment is the first step. Gambler’s Anonymous provides an online assessment. Christian Family Solutions (CFS) provides a thorough gambling assessment and an individualized treatment plan to guide one-on-one therapy sessions. Email Deanna Staples, MS, LADC, or call 507.779.7861. A grant received from the Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services will cover treatment services that are not covered by health insurance. A member of the CFS team will be able to help you receive low or no cost treatment.
MEET Deanna Staples, MS, LADC, Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor
Bio: Deanna joined Christian Family Solutions in June 2020. She received her BS in Corrections from Mankato State University in 1998 and her Master’s in Community Health, with undergraduate degree in Alcohol and Drug Studies from Minnesota State University-Mankato in 2005.
Prior to her work at Christian Family Solutions, Deanna was most recently an Assessment Specialist completing Rule 25 assessments for treatment funding and also gambling assessments/individual gambling treatment at the House of Hope, Inc. program in Mankato, MN. She has held other positions in the past which include as a staff at a detox facility, a residential counselor, and a counselor supervisor. Deanna’s interest into going back to graduate school for her LADC was due to her Corrections internship and working at the detox facility. She enjoys working with adults who struggle with substance use disorders and/or gambling disorder.
Specialties: Specializes in working with adults who struggle with substance use disorders and/or gambling disorder.