Gambling Problems: Veterans vs. The General Public
Problem gambling affects a wide range of demographics in the veterans’ community. According to NCPG Executive Director Keith S. Whyte, 1 to 3 percent of the American public experience gambling problems in any given year, but “studies consistently find rates among age-matched veterans are significantly higher, and highest among veteran minorities. Rates are even higher among veterans seeking treatment for some other disorder.” Research reports a correlation between veterans’ mental health issues and problem gambling. Veterans need to have access to adequate health care, proper screening, and treatment.
Mental Health & Problem Gambling Among Veterans
How do mental health and problem gambling relate to the lives of veterans? Problem gambling frequently co-occurs with other psychiatric disorders, including depression, suicidal ideation and substance abuse. Veterans that present these conditions may be at a higher risk for problem gambling and vice versa. Veterans and their family members need to pay close attention to the warning signs of gambling addiction, such as:
Dishonesty (Lying to family members or others to hide the extent of the gambling)
Missing money (Asking others to bail you out of financial trouble because you gambled the money away)
Repression or withdrawal (avoiding other issues and channeling energy into one thing or withdrawing from social events with friends and family)
Unlike most casual gamblers who stop when they cross their limit of time and money, people with compulsive gambling problems continue to gamble to recover their money. In turn, this develops a pattern that becomes increasingly destructive over time.
Friends and family should also pay close attention to the warning signs of mental illness in veterans, such as:
Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings
Feeling as if there is no reason to live
Feeling excessive guilt, shame, or a sense of failure
Rage or anger
Engaging in risky activities without thinking
Increasing alcohol or drug misuse
Reaching Out For Support
If you or someone you love is a veteran struggling with problem gambling, it can be hard to come to terms with the addiction and ask for help. There is help and resources available, especially for veterans. The Problem Gambling Resource Centers are willing to assist you and your family in achieving your goals and living the best life you possibly can. You can find help in NYS at NYProblemGamblingHELP.org. There you’ll be connected to a live person to discuss the support the caller’s looking for. They are here to help.
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