Millions of people enjoy gambling activities every year. As a form of entertainment, it can be a fun way to pass the time, and it can also be a great social activity. For the vast majority of people that engage in gambling, it is nothing more than that. They gamble in a reasonable and responsible manner, and have some fun placing bets.
However, there are people for which gambling can cause some real problems. For those, gambling goes beyond just the fun and entertainment that most people enjoy, and it has a negative impact on their life and possibly the lives and wellbeing of those around them. In this guide, we are going to take a closer look at problem gambling and provide information about treatment.
What is Problem Gambling?
In the most basic sense, problem gambling is a compulsive urge to keep gambling even when the activity is causing harm to the individual or to others. In recent years, problem gambling has been recognized as an addictive disorder because problem gamblers exhibit patterns and behaviours that are similar to those with substance abuse issues.
For a problem gambler, the activity of gambling is very different than it is for most other people. The average gambler might go to a casino or place some bets for fun and entertainment. With a problem gambler, it is an obsessive urge. They might even want to stop gambling, but the impulse toward gambling is so strong that it makes it hard for them to stop. For many problem gamblers, there isn’t even a sense of entertainment and enjoyment connected to the activity.
How to Recognize the Problem
Compulsive gambling is a problem that can cause serious problems in the life of the individual and in the lives of those around them. It can affect the gambler’s career, have psychological effects, damage personal relationships and it can have an impact on the physical health of the pdroblem gambler. With compulsive gambling, there are several signs that a person can recognize to identify the possibility of unhealthy gambling habits.
If the gambler needs to continually increase the size of wagers to get the same level of excitement, that could be a sign of problem gambling. If the person cannot resist the urge to “chase losses”, this is another sign that there might be a problem.
If you feel as though you need to lie to conceal the level of your gambling habit, this could indicate a problem. Problem gamblers will often lie to friends and family members about the amount of time that they spend gambling or to conceal the amount of money that they have lost.
Borrowing money for the purpose of gambling is another issue. Borrowing money from friends, maxing out credit cards and spending money that is not available can all indicate an issue with compulsive gambling. Many problem gamblers will also turn to theft or fraud once borrowing is no longer an option.
Obsessive behaviours in connection with gambling are also common. The individual may not be able to stop thinking about betting. They will look for any reason gamble, and they will have a difficult time stopping once they have started. Further, these individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to cutback or stop altogether.
For some problem gamblers, it will start a cycle of behaviours. The gambling will cause financial problems and problems with relationships. To forget about these problems, the individual will gamble more, and it will make the problems even worse.
While there are some problem gamblers that will be able to resolve the problem on their own, there are many who cannot regain control without some form of treatment. For the treatment of problem gambling, there has been no single strategy that has been recognized as the best course of treatment. Treatment strategies for problem gambling include peer-support, step-based programs, counselling and medication.
One of the more common treatment solutions is the group Gamblers Anonymous. This is based off the model of Alcoholics Anonymous, using the 12-step program and emphasising the mutual support of the group as an effective means of overcoming the problem.
Some medications have shown promise in the treatment of problem gambling, though none have been approved for this specific purpose. Some problem gamblers may also have underlying mental health issues, in which case, medication and counselling can be an effective means of addressing the problem.
Where to Get Help in NZ
For a person that is affected by compulsive gambling, recognition of the problem is the beginning of the process for getting help. Once the individual realizes that they have a problem with gambling, they can then seek out help that will assist them with addressing the issues that they have.
With most problem gamblers, the first step in getting help is calling one of the problem gambling help lines. These phone services provide support to people that are struggling with problem gambling and they can also refer the individual to services that may help them to further address the issue. For New Zealanders, there is the Gambling Helpline New Zealand and the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand. Both of these organizations operate phone lines that can provide support for problem gambling.
In addition to the phone lines that can provide support, both of these organizations can help the individual to find support groups and clinics that specialise in treating problem gambling.
If you can enjoy gambling in way that is reasonable and responsible, then there is nothing wrong with that. However, if you suspect that gambling is causing problems in your life, then you should take steps toward addressing the issue.