Warning Signs of Problem Gambling [Infographic]

How do you know if you or a loved one is struggling with problem gambling? The signs of compulsive gambling aren’t always crystal clear (which is why it’s sometimes called the hidden addiction), but there are red flags that suggest it’s time to seek out professional help.

Gambling addiction is a diagnosable condition that impacts every aspect of life—not just the bank account. The stress and strain of this addiction affects physical and emotional well-being. It’s been linked to substance abuse, clinical depression, and increased suicide risk.

Check out this warning signs infographic from Ohio for Responsible Gambling. (If you need to view it at a larger size, right click on the image and choose “open image in new tab.”) Then take the simple assessment quiz on our home page to find out if you or someone you know is at risk for compulsive gambling. If you need additional help, a counselor trained to work with gambling addiction can conduct a thorough assessment and, when necessary, develop a treatment plan that points you toward recovery.


Learn More
Support Your Compulsive Gambling Recovery: Do’s and Don’ts
Is a Loved One Addicted to Gambling? 5 Tips for Family, Friends
Gambling Addiction Treatment Options in the Lancaster/Lebanon Area

Get Help
For 50 years, Compass Mark has been helping individuals and families discover help and hope for addiction disorders. Don’t wait until “rock bottom” to seek help.  Call our team for confidential guidance at 717-299-2831 or use the Compulsive Gambling Help Form.


Specific Brain Connection Tied to Risky Gambling [Research]

People with a weaker neural connection between two specific brain regions may be more likely to make risky bets, according to recently-released research from Stanford University. The study was small, but it could help give direction to scientists and healthcare professionals working to understand the relationship between the brain and gambling addiction, a progressive disorder that impacts millions of Americans and their families.

During the study, which was published in the journal Neuron, each participant was given $10 and told to bet the money on a series of games or choose to not risk losing it.  Researchers monitored brain activity during the task with MRI technology.

The team found a direct neural connection between the anterior insula and the nucleus accumbens—a connection previously only recognized in animals.  The more thickly the cells in this pathway were insulated, the stronger the connection between the two areas. Participants with a stronger connection between the regions were more cautious gamblers.

In an article by Amy Adams for the Stanford News, researcher Brian Knutson said:

“Activity in one brain region appears to indicate ‘uh oh, I might lose money,’ but in another seems to indicate ‘oh yay, I could win something.’ The balance between this ‘uh oh’ and ‘oh yay’ activity differs between people and can determine the gambling decisions we make.”

The research offers clues that may help healthcare professionals and addiction therapists further expand their understanding of what is often a misunderstood condition.

Additional recent research in gambling addiction suggests:

Over time, the growing body of research will contribute to the development of more effective treatments for compulsive gambling.

However, problem gamblers don’t need to wait to reach out for help!

It’s never too early—or too late—to start on the path toward healing. Specialized therapists in Lancaster, PA and the surrounding areas have the tools to help you and your family. Find a treatment provider or contact Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831.


Is Compulsive Gambling Treatable?

Can gambling addiction be treated? Whether gambling problems keep you tossing all night or you’re worried a loved one can no longer control their gambling behavior, one of the most important things to understand is that problem gambling is treatable.

A professional therapist, like one of these Lancaster- or Lebanon-area providers, will be able to assess you or your family member and recommend the most effective treatment option(s). Here are some of the most common treatments and tools for compulsive gamblers:

  • Talk Therapy: Also called psychotherapy, it’s often the foundation for treating this addiction because it helps problem gamblers change their thinking patterns to reduce and eliminate gambling urges. A therapist will also be able to screen for and assess other conditions, like clinical depression, substance abuse, or anxiety, that sometimes affect problem gamblers.
  • Residential Addiction Treatment: These programs can be particularly helpful for compulsive gamblers with additional addictions, like alcohol, as well as for those with other disorders, like severe clinical depression. Residential treatment offers a range of programs to help gamblers find recovery. Programs may include individual and group therapy, life skills classes, family counseling, or alternative treatments, like animal-assisted therapy.
  • Medication: Certain prescriptions may help decrease a compulsive gambler’s urge to bet. For example, naltrexone, a medication also used to treat substance addiction, works on opioid receptors in the brain to reduce gambling cravings, particularly in people with a family history of alcohol addiction.
  • Gambling Self-Help Groups: These groups, like Gamblers Anonymous, are made up of people who have struggled with problem gambling. Members have experienced firsthand the profound impact of this addiction—and they work to achieve long-lasting recovery.
  • Self-Exclusion: This is a voluntary process that allows a problem gambler to ban him- or herself from playing at licensed facilities, such as casinos or racetracks. Each state has its own rules and guidelines regarding self-exclusion. Learn more in Casino Self-Exclusion Facts or visit the PA Gaming Control Board website.  Self-exclusion itself won’t control the urge to bet, but it can buy a gambler additional time to make healthier decisions.

If you’re in Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA and would like to find gambling addiction help for yourself or a loved one, contact Compass Mark. Our mission is to help individuals and families locate the treatment and resources they need to start a life free from the strain, anxiety, and destruction of problem gambling. Call 717-299-2831 or use our Addiction Help Form.


6 Gambling Addiction Red Flags You Need to Know

Why is compulsive gambling sometimes called a silent addiction? Other addictive behaviors often feature physical symptoms that tell family and friends there may be a problem. Think uncoordinated movement or the persistent odor of alcohol on someone’s breath. However, compulsive gambling offers few direct physical clues that suggest a person needs professional treatment. Here are 6 signs you or someone you love is struggling with compulsive gambling:

1. Spends increasing amounts of time gambling
The occasional poker game has turned into hours of online poker play every weekend. Gambling addiction is a progressive disorder, which means it worsens over time.  It can take a few years for gambling behavior to transition from harmless entertainment to full-blown problem—or a few months.

2. Lies or acts evasively about time or money spent gambling
Have you minimized tablet windows to hide gambling apps when a spouse walks into the room? Do you suspect a loved one has lied about what happened to the grocery money? It’s common for gambling-addicted people to hide their behavior from family and friends.

3. Continues to bet knowing there will be negative consequences
An addicted person will gamble even though he or she understands it will cause an argument with their spouse or make him or her late for work again. Problem gambling changes the brain in ways that alter decision-making abilities.

4. Experiences disruptive mood swings
Problem gambling can trigger excessive mood swings that interfere with normal life. A compulsive gambler might feel depressed and unable to work after losses or jubilant and distracted after wins.

5. Neglects school, work, or family responsibilities
From ditching class to bet on races to hitting the casino instead of a daughter’s soccer game, if the urge to gamble pushes you or a loved one away from necessary responsibilities, it’s time to reach out for help.

6. Makes unsuccessful attempts to stop on his/her own
Compulsive gambling changes the brain, which means a problem gambler can’t “just stop.” A therapist trained to work with gambling-addicted people can help with a combination of talk therapy, lifestyle change recommendations, and, in some cases, medication to control gambling urges.

Find out if you or someone you love is at risk for problem gambling by taking the quiz on the SafeStakes home page.

Compass Mark helps individuals and families in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA find compulsive gambling help resources. Our guidance is judgment-free and confidential. Call 717-299-2831 or use our online Addiction Help Form.


Gambling Addiction Leads to Prison for PA Woman- How to Avoid Her Fate

A former Harrisburg, PA bank manager was recently sentenced to two years in federal prison for stealing money from bank customers to fuel a gambling addiction. Earlier this year, federal authorities charged her with taking about $140,000 from four customers at two area banks.

Are you worried about your own gambling behavior—and what it could do to you or your family?

Gambling addiction is a serious condition in which a person can no longer control their urge to gamble. He or she will wager money even when they know it will hurt themselves or others.

This condition progresses over time, just like substance abuse and other addictions. It can cause problems in a person’s life even if it hasn’t gotten to the point where the gambler turns to theft, forgery, or other crimes. A problem gambler might not play every day; it could happen in binges over short periods.

Compulsive Gambling Warning Signs
  • Do you act secretively regarding how much time or money you spend gambling?
  • Have you tried to stop or cut back on your own without success?
  • Do you lose sleep at night worrying about gambling-related money problems?
  • Have you and loved ones argued about your gambling behavior?
  • Do loved ones or friends express concern?
  • Have you played to relieve stress, anxiety, sadness, or loneliness?

Learn more about your risk by taking the quiz on the SafeStakes home page.

Treatment for Problem Gambling in PA

Talk therapy: A counselor trained in problem gambling treatment will help you identify the negative thoughts and emotions that trigger the behavior. The gambling addiction therapist will also teach you to reframe those thoughts so you can make healthier decisions. In addition, you’ll be assessed for other conditions, like substance abuse or depression, which sometimes contribute to problem gambling. See Treatment for a list of providers in Lancaster, Lebanon, and the surrounding area.

Self-help groups: Gamblers Anonymous and similar groups offer support family and friends aren’t always able to provide. During meetings, you’ll connect with people going through the same struggles. Some will be like you—just starting the recovery journey. Others will be several months or years into recovery, and they’re able to offer “been there, done that” guidance. Find out more in Self-Help Groups for Problem Gambling-FAQs.

Medication: In some cases, medication may help reduce the urge to gamble. Naltrexone and memantine are two of the prescription drugs sometimes used to treat gambling addiction. Medication is not intended to be used on its own—it’s used to support other treatments, like professional therapy.

You don’t need to hit rock bottom to start living a better life. Break free from problem gambling by calling Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831 or submitting this help form. We’ll point you to addiction education, prevention, and treatment resources in Lancaster and Lebanon.


Time to Stop Gambling? 3 Steps to a New You in the New Year

An estimated 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions–yet research suggests just about 8% of those folks achieve their goals. So if your goal for 2016 is to cut back or eliminate unhealthy gambling behavior, how can you give yourself the best foundation for success?

1. Reach out for professional help. 

Some gamblers may be able to reduce their behavior with goal setting or lifestyle changes—many others need the guidance of a professional counselor to curb the cravings to bet. This progressive condition, which is formally classified as an addictive disorder, alters how the brain makes decisions, just as alcohol and other drugs change a substance abuser’s brain.

A professional therapist—one specifically trained to work with this addiction—offers the tools and resources to help a problem gambler retrain his or her brain. Therapists for compulsive gambling often use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of talk therapy, as the foundation for healing. It’s typically used in conjunction with other therapies, such as family/marriage counseling, financial counseling, alternative therapies (like equine therapy), and support groups, like Gamblers Anonymous.

Find Problem Gambling Treatment Providers in Lancaster and Lebanon.

2. Make lifestyle changes.
Stress is one of the most common triggers for unhealthy gambling behaviors. If you can lower stress in a healthier way, it will help reduce the urge to wager. Different stress relief techniques work for different people, so you may need to try a few different activities until you find the strategy that works best. Activities that help reduce stress include:

  • Meditation;
  • Physical exercise;
  • Mind-body exercise (yoga or martial arts);
  • Creative activities (writing, crocheting, woodworking, or painting);
  • Outdoor activities (walking, hiking, or gardening);
  • New hobbies (music lessons, art classes).

3. Self-exclude yourself from gambling in PA.
The state of Pennsylvania allows gamblers to voluntarily ban themselves from gambling in licensed facilities. People who violate their self-exclusion agreement can be arrested and charged with trespassing. Visit PA’s Self-Exclusion FAQs for details. While adding your name to the list isn’t a cure for gambling addiction, it can help you avoid the temptation to bet at casinos or racetracks.

Since each state has its own self-exclusion process, you may need to add your name to lists in more than one state. For more information, visit Maryland Gaming Resources and New Jersey Self-Exclusion Program.

Take a positive step into 2016!

For problem gambling prevention education, resources, and treatment referrals, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 or use our online help form. We’ll guide you into a new year that offers hope and healing.


Gambling Addiction Resources, 2014 Round-Up

Yes, it’s one of those inevitable year-end round-up posts. But instead of rehashing the year’s worst celebrity flubs or top viral pet photos, we’re posting a few of the gambling addiction resources we’ve shared this year.

Gambling addiction is a serious disorder that doesn’t just affect the bank account. It impacts every part of the gambler’s life, and the consequences often extend to that person’s family, friends, and employer. Problem gambling has been connected to clinical depression, substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, and suicide. Whether you’re concerned about a loved one’s gambling or you’re trying to assist a potentially-addicted student, employee, patient, or client, check out these gambling information resources:

Biology & Risk Factors

Learn more about the factors that contribute to the behavior or increase the risk of developing the condition.

Problem Gambling Linked to Personality Disorders [Research]

Gambling Addiction May Run in Families [Study]

Problem Gambling Rate Among Veterans Nearly 9% [Research]

Compulsive Gambling Research Round-Up, Part 5

Compulsive Gambling Research Round-Up, Part 4

Addiction Treatment

Making unsuccessful solo attempts to quit is one warning sign of problem gambling. Professional treatment with a counselor specifically trained in gambling addiction provides the best chance for recovery.

4 Reasons to Get Problem Gambling Help

Problem Gambling Recovery is Possible- 5 Facts for Gamblers & Their Families

Want to Stop Gambling? 4 Tips for Resisting the Urge to Bet

Self-Help Groups for Problem Gamblers

Treatment Providers in Lancaster, PA & Lebanon, PA

Gambling Addiction Resources for Businesses

Problem gambling can lurk under the radar at businesses. These articles will help you protect your company and its employees.

Employer’s Guide to Workplace Gambling- Do’s and Don’ts

PA Woman Addicted to Gambling Embezzles $250,000 From Customers- Tips for Employers

Problem Gambling- 4 Facts for Lancaster, Lebanon Employers

Get Help for Gambling Addiction

Compass Mark is dedicated to helping individuals, families, educators, employers, and health care professionals in Lancaster and Lebanon find addiction help resources. For confidential, judgment-free guidance, fill out our help form or call our team at (717) 299-2831.


Problem Gambling Linked to Personality Disorders [Research]

Problem gamblers are much more likely to have borderline personality disorder than those without disordered gambling behavior, according to a review newly published in the Journal of Gambling Studies. This suggests health care professionals may want to consider screening compulsive gamblers in treatment for borderline and other personality disorders.

In addition, the review’s authors found that people who struggle with problem gambling share similar biological and social factors with those who have personality disorders, particularly borderline personality disorder, a condition marked by persistent unstable moods and impulsivity. Some of the shared characteristics include:

  • Substance abuse
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Presence of mood disorders, like clinical depression
  • Presence of anxiety symptoms or anxiety disorder
  • Poor parental relationships
  • Feelings of social isolation
  • Feelings of dissociation

Treatment for Co-Occurring Personality Disorder & Gambling Addiction

Personality disorder screening can be an important part of problem gambling treatment. Left untreated, a personality disorder often makes it harder for a compulsive gambler to stay compliant with his or her recovery plan. Additionally, the presence of any untreated mental health condition can increase the risk for problem gambling relapse.

The review’s findings suggest that Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) could be an effective addition to traditional treatment strategies for those with comorbid problem gambling and personality disorder. DBT, which is already being used to treat borderline personality disorder, expands on cognitive behavioral therapy by teaching skills like mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. The researchers found that this form of therapy has also been successfully used to help problem gamblers who’d been resistant to other treatments. What’s more, the gamblers receiving DBT were less likely to drop out of the program than those receiving conventional cognitive behavioral therapy alone.

Help for Problem Gambling

If you’re a gambler, concerned loved one, or a health care professional in Lancaster or Lebanon, contact Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831 or submit this help form. We’ll guide you to gambling addiction education or treatment resources.


Problem Gambling Recovery is Possible- 5 Facts for Gamblers & Their Families

People can heal from addiction. That’s the message at the heart of National Recovery Month, which is observed every September. During Recovery Month, we celebrate those who have started rebuilding their lives, and we take time to educate people about the importance of addiction treatment in overall health.

Here are the facts you need to know about problem gambling and recovery:

1. Gambling addiction is a treatable condition.
As with other addictions, compulsive gambling can be treated. While there are self-help resources available, they’re often not enough to tackle the problem alone. The brain of an addicted person is wired differently than that of someone who is not addicted. A therapist trained to work with compulsive gamblers will have the knowledge and tools needed to re-work how the gambler thinks and makes decisions.

2. You don’t need to hit “rock bottom” to seek treatment.
If you’re reading this article, you already suspect you or a loved one has a problem—and the best time to reach out for help is now. Don’t wait! The sooner a problem gambler enters treatment, the sooner he or she can start the path to recovery. Find out if you or a loved one may have problem gambling by taking the quiz on the SafeStakes home page–it’s quick, easy, and anonymous.

3. Gambling addiction often occurs with other conditions.
A person struggling with compulsive gambling may suffer from conditions that contribute to its development. For example, it’s not uncommon for a gambler to abuse substances. Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can contribute to gambling addiction as well. Treating these conditions is essential for achieving lasting recovery.

4. Treatment includes a range of strategies.
A counselor will start with an assessment to determine if you or your loved one has gambling addiction as well as other concerns, like substance abuse. Although individual treatment plans may vary, problem gambling recovery often includes talk therapy, lifestyle adjustments, and self-help meetings, like Gamblers Anonymous. A therapist may also recommend family counseling, debt counseling, or other supplementary services.

5. The gambler’s family may need help too.
Problem gambling does more than empty the bank account. The real cost is measured in splintered relationships and unhealthy decisions. For instance, compulsive gamblers may become so desperate to play that they do things that shock those around them, such as leave young children alone in cars parked at casinos or drain an elderly parent’s retirement savings.

Often family members need help coping with a loved one’s addiction. Gam-Anon is a self-help group that educates and supports family members. Find a meeting here. In addition, a family might need financial counseling so it can properly assess the damage, repay debt, and rebuild resources. Consult a certified financial planner or non-profit debt counseling service to get started.

Living with problem gambling can feel overwhelming. Compass Mark will help. If you’re not sure where to start, call our team of compassionate professionals. We’ll guide you toward the Lancaster and Lebanon resources you need to reclaim your life. Our help is free and confidential. Call (717) 299-2831 or fill out this help form.


Do I Have a Gambling Addiction?

Are you and your spouse arguing more and more about how much you’re gambling? Have you lost track of time while playing online poker or slipping coins into slot machines? Do you think about stealing from a family member or employer so you have money to play or chase losses?

Problem gambling often starts out harmlessly. Perhaps you began playing casino apps over lunch to forget about a stressful morning with the kids. Maybe the lights and action at the casino beat staying home in an empty house.

Yet as this brain condition develops it hampers a person’s ability to make healthy decisions about when to stop wagering. Why? While researchers are still studying exactly how gambling addiction impacts the brain, it’s believed the neurotransmitter dopamine plays a role by stimulating reward signals in the brain during gambling activities. This dysfunction is similar to what happens in those with substance abuse disorders. To learn more, see How Can a Person Get Addicted to Gambling?

How to Find Out if You Have a Problem

Gambling becomes a problem whenever it interferes with your life—or the lives of those around you. If you’re concerned about whether you’re at risk for problem gambling, take the simple quiz on our home page. We also share guides and tools, including Spanish language articles, on our resources page.

These tools are intended as a guide only. The best way to determine if you have compulsive gambling is to see a counselor trained to identify and treat this addiction. The counselor’s job is not to judge you; instead it’s to determine whether you have a problem and, if so, start you on the path toward healing.

Addiction Treatment

Compulsive gambling treatment typically includes a combination of talk therapy and self-help group meetings, like Gamblers Anonymous. When necessary, your therapist may also recommend additional treatments, such as family counseling or substance abuse treatment.

If you’re not sure where to start, get in touch with Compass Mark. We provide confidential, judgment-free help to individuals and families in Lancaster and Lebanon. Our team will guide you to resources that help the addicted heal, and we’ll point you to resources for loved ones who may also need support.

Gambling addiction is treatable. Let us help you. Call Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831 or submit an online help form.