Maybe you lose sleep over how much you’re gambling lately. Perhaps you worry about how much time a loved one spends making bets. Unhealthy gambling behavior isn’t a vice or indulgence; it’s a progressive brain condition with a significant impact on emotional and physical well-being. March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, making it the ideal time to check in with how gambling might be affecting you or loved ones. Gambling addiction costs Americans $7 billion annually. While many adults can gamble without negative consequences, an estimated 4-6 million Americans struggle with problem gambling; however the cost is measured in so much more than money lost at the slots. That $7 billion figure represents the social impact of gambling-related crime, addiction, and bankruptcy. This addictive behavior exacts a toll on emotional and physical well-being too. Problem gamblers are more likely to experience clinical depression and substance abuse. They also have an increased risk of suicide. Research suggests women in relationships with problem gamblers are more likely to be the victims of domestic violence; the same study discovered a higher likelihood of severe child abuse when a parent was a problem gambler. The condition is classified as a behavioral addiction in the DSM-5, a diagnostic manual for health care professionals. Researchers have found the brains of gambling-addicted people differ from those of non-problem gamblers. For example, one recent study found that those with a weaker neural connection between two specific brain regions may be more likely to make riskier bets than those with a stronger bond. Find out if you or someone you love is at risk for developing a gambling problem by taking this simple quiz. For more information about gambling addiction, check out our resources at SafeStakes.org. You can also find the latest gambling resources, including research, news, and help articles, by following our SafeStakes blog. Anyone interested in learning more is invited to Compass Mark’s Start the Conversation: Fantasy Sports Gamble on Wednesday, March 30, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. This session, held at the Blair Room, 630 Janet Avenue, Lancaster, is worth 2 CEU credits. Click on the National Council on Problem Gambling’s infographic below to enlarge it.  Problem Gambling Infographic

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