Recognizing Problem Gambling
Gambling can be a fun pastime but compulsive gambling is an addiction that takes lives and families apart. It is important to recognize problems early and take steps to address them.
Learn to manage unpleasant feelings in healthy ways, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques.
What is gambling?
Gambling is when you place a bet, usually money, on an event that is unpredictable and involves luck. It’s the opposite of skill and can cause problems with relationships, work and finances.
Whether you’re betting on a football match, playing scratch cards or roulette, it’s a form of gambling if there is an element of risk and the possibility that you will lose money. The same can apply to online gambling and even some games of chance where you use collectable game pieces, such as marbles or pogs.
The term ‘gambling disorder’ or ‘compulsive gambling’ refers to people who have trouble controlling their gambling behaviour and are unable to stop, even when it causes significant problems for themselves and those around them. This can include losing a job or a relationship because of gambling and spending more and more time and money on it. Symptoms can start in adolescence and can continue throughout life. It’s often a family problem and can be linked to trauma and poverty.
How do I know if I have a gambling problem?
Problem gambling, also known as compulsive gambling, is characterized by an inability to control the urge to gamble, even when it causes harm. It can lead to severe psychological distress, including insomnia, depression and substance abuse. It can also cause financial problems and jeopardize relationships with family and friends. People with a gambling addiction often hide their behavior from others and lie to the people around them. They may also steal money or items to fund their gambling habits, which can cause additional harm and stress in their lives.
If you or someone you know is displaying signs of a gambling disorder, it’s important to seek help immediately. If you’re concerned about someone, watch for signs of a mood change such as lethargy or fatigue, changes in appetite or unhappiness. Gambling addiction is associated with depression, so if your loved one has been exhibiting these symptoms, it’s likely they are struggling with this debilitating mental health condition as well.
How can I stop gambling?
Recognizing that gambling is a problem and wanting to break free of the habit are positive first steps towards recovery. But it can be difficult to stop on your own, especially if you have pathological gambling disorder (formerly known as compulsive or addictive gambling).
To prevent triggers, avoid situations that make you want to gamble such as visiting TABs and casinos. Delete betting apps from your phone and stay away from websites that promote gambling. If you’re struggling to control spending, consider using a cash allowance system or leaving your debit cards at home. Write down your feelings and activities in a diary to help keep track of your progress.
If you feel depressed or anxious, try calming exercises like meditation or deep breathing. Alternatively, spend time with friends and family who don’t gamble or engage in hobbies that generate endorphins such as yoga, running and swimming. Stress also plays a major role in gambling addiction, so reducing your exposure to it will support your recovery.
How can I help a friend or family member with a gambling problem?
If you have a friend or family member who has a gambling problem, it can be difficult to know how to help. It is important to approach the subject calmly and not criticize them, as they might become defensive. Active listening is also vital. Let them know you are concerned about their behaviour and want to discuss it with them.
It can be helpful to explain how gambling can affect their life and relationships. For example, it is common for people with a gambling disorder to be in debt or even declare bankruptcy. It is also linked to mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. It can also lead to relationship distress and even stealing, lying or violence.
It is important to remember that your loved one cannot control their gambling habits, but you can take steps to protect yourself and your finances. You could consider managing joint bank accounts or putting money into safe deposit boxes. You could also try speaking with a therapist or joining a support group such as Gam-Anon.