Late nights? Missing jewelry? Mounting debts? Irritability? All these can point to a very serious problem: gambling addiction. While most people are satisfied with an occasional visit to the casino or a quick round of Blackjack once a while, those who have gambling problems spend hours in front of slot machines. Some even spend their entire life’s savings in just one night!

Alarmingly, statistics show that 15 million people around the world show some signs of gambling addiction, with a 42% increase in gambling among teens as young as 14 years old! And the first step to help someone fight this addiction is to check if he has a serious gambling problem. The symptoms below can help you pinpoint if your loved one has carried his penchant for slot machines and casinos a bit too far.

1. You notice that the person often hides his gambling habits from you. As with all addicts, people who have a gambling addiction will not divulge this to others. They will sneak out during work hours or even lie to their spouses, just to feed their craving for the excitement of gambling. Others even hide how much they’ve won or spent on poker, slot machines or card games. This is why it’s so hard to pinpoint exactly when that person needs gambling help.

2. You realize that the person hits the casinos or insists on a round of poker each time he gets down or disappointed. Some people might drown their sorrows with alcohol, but those with gambling problems try to escape through bets or games of chance.

3. Your loved one starts to borrow money often. As with all addictions, those who have gambling problems need money to maintain this bad habit. Even losing at a poker game won’t stop someone with gambling problems from selling his watch, his car or even bigger assets just to feed his habit. You’ll notice that he or she will run huge debts and even have his or her credit cards maxxed out.

4. The person becomes moody and irritable. People with this kind of addiction develop tunnel vision-they only see, hear and live for gambling. They will snap at those who offer gambling help or who tell them that they might be developing gambling addiction. They become irritable when they don’t have enough money to hit the slot machines or to play poker.

5. They have trouble controlling their gambling strategies. Most expert gamblers or poker players know when to stop, when to increase the ante or when to fold. This is key to smart gambling. Those with an addiction, however, won’t know when to stop. They continue gambling up until the last dollar in their wallet. They will even gamble again even if they have lost a lot, thinking that the only way to recoup their losses is to play again.

Gambling addiction is becoming a very serious threat to society. Money isn’t the only thing that is lost here-lives and families are broken and trust is shattered. Make sure to get gambling help for those who may be developing gambling problems. The symptoms above can help you decide to take the first step for your loved one before it’s too late.

By Lena Butler