Problem gambling is gambling to the extent that it causes emotional, family, legal, financial or other problems for the gambler and the people around the gambler. Problem gambling can get worse over time, and gambling problems can range from mild to severe.
What are some signs of problem gambling?
When people have a problem with gambling, many times they feel like they need to;
- bet more money more frequently,
- feel irritated when they try to stop, and
- think that they can “chase” their losses to recover money.
This can lead to more gambling, despite financial loss and the trust of friends and loved ones. In general, people with gambling problems usually spend a large portion of their income on gambling.
Do a lot of people have problems with gambling?
If gambling is becoming a problem for you, you are not alone. Research shows that 1.1% of the adult population in the U.S., Australia and Canada has had severe problems with gambling in the past year.
Understanding how gambling works and the dangers that are associated with gambling is an important step in your journey. This part of the guide will help you to understand your gambling patterns. Complete the questions below to see if you should examine your gambling patterns more closely:
- Have you ever tried to cut down on your gambling? How often? Did it work?
- Are others annoyed by your gambling? Partner, colleagues, friends or family?
- Do you ever gamble alone? When? Where? Does it make any difference?
- Do you ever feel guilty about your gambling? Even when you won?
- Do you ever gamble to feel better? Comfort gambling?
If you answered “yes” to one or more questions, then you may want to consider looking at your gambling more closely. Many people are not aware of all the ways that gambling can affect their lives.
Another way to understand your gambling is to consider the financial impact it has on you. Many problem gamblers experience various kinds of money problems. For example, some problem gamblers are always short of cash despite adequate income, and others will borrow, pawn, or even steal to get some quick cash to gamble.
Another way to understand ones gambling is to look at the classification of gamblers. Gamblers can generally be classified as;
Recreational gamblers gamble on social occasions with friends or colleagues. They have pre-determined acceptable losses and by and large their gambling activities cause little harm and their behaviour is associated with minimal guilt. They simply require information and education on gambling behaviour in order to make sensible decisions.
Problem gamblers spend too much time and money gambling. Their behaviour causes harm both to themselves and others and is associated with much guilt. Most patients requiring treatment fall into this group and they very often respond positively to the intervention.
Compulsive and pathological gamblers have a psychiatric disorder diagnosable by strict clinical criteria. It is regarded as a disorder of impulse control and has a very poor prognosis. Such gamblers have an inability to control their gambling, with consequent significant damage to themselves and others. They are often very difficult to treat.
What can I do to handle an urge to gamble?
Urges are normal for a person who is reducing the amount that they gamble. Urges are often very difficult to deal with, but with practice you will be able to let these feelings pass without giving in to them.
You might notice that after stopping or cutting back your gambling you get more urges to gamble than you did before. This is normal. What’s important is that you recognize that these urges are temporary and they will pass.
It might also help to try some of the following:
- Attend self–help meetings such as Gamblers Anonymous
- Avoid going in or near places where gambling is available.
- Spend less time with people who gamble to avoid being pressured into gambling.
- Carry only the minimum amount of money that you need for the day.
- Have your paycheck direct deposited, if possible.
- Destroy your credit, debit, and ATM cards.
What if I gamble and I really don’t want to?
If you find that you gamble even though you are trying to quit, you are not alone. Many people find that it takes several attempts to quit or cut down on gambling. Stopping or reducing gambling is a very difficult thing to do and you may not be able to do it the first time you try.
Remember, however, that a lot of people don’t even get this far. By asking for information and thinking about change, you have already begun your journey to a safer, happier, and healthier life.
If you do gamble and you don’t want to, that does not mean that you will never be able to stop. Keep trying, keep talking to people you trust, and keep asking for help. Going back to gambling doesn’t make your goals any less valuable or possible.
- Helpful websites;
- Bettors Anonymous – www.bettorsanonymous.org
- Debtors Anonymous – www.debtorsanonymous.org
- Gam-Anon – www.gam-anon.org for family and friends of compulsive gamblers
- Gamblers Anonymous – www.gamblersanonymous.org similar to Alcoholics Anonymous