For those of you who don’t know, the month of March is officially Problem Gambling Awareness Month. The timing is very appropriate, given the arrival of March Madness, and the spike in problem gambling behavior that often comes with it. Approximately $10 billion of mostly illegal bets will be placed this month, and calls to the National Problem Gambling Helpline will increase around 30 percent.

Fun and Games?

Participating in March Madness brackets may seem like harmless fun and games, but an unhealthy relationship with the betting process can result in devastating financial, career, and personal consequences. March Madness presents an opportunity to continuously gamble on many games in the hopes of winning as much money as you can or make back losses (which usually doesn’t happen). And the losses add up quickly. For example, let’s say you bet $100 on UNC and they win. Then you excitedly try to double your money on UVA and they lose, so you try to win back your original $100 but lose again. At this point, you have lost many more hundreds of dollars than your original 100.

How far is too far?

So how do you know when the party has become dangerous? The DSM-5 describes the following diagnostic criteria for Gambling Disorder:

Persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as indicated by the individual exhibiting four (or more) of the following in a 12 ­month period:

  1. Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
  2. Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
  3. Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
  4. Is often preoccupied with gambling.
  5. Often gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed).
  6. After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses).
  7. Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
  8. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling.
  9. Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling

If you or a loved one are struggling with problem gambling behavior, there are resources available for you, such as:

http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/

https://getgamblinghelp.com/

https://justaskmn.org/

We here at Williamsville Wellness are especially capable of helping. We offer the only licensed problem gambling residential treatment program in Virginia, as well an online program for problem gambling help and education.

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