Maybe you play bingo once in a while, bet on a horserace occasionally or go to Las Vegas to play the slots a couple of times a year. You set a limit and stick to it. That is not a problem. If you find you gamble more than that and use money beyond what you can spare, you might have a gambling problem.
First, let’s look at some of the myths about problem gambling.
Myth 1. It is only a problem if you gamble every day. If you think you aren’t a problem gambler because you don’t gamble every day, you would be wrong. Even if you only gamble once a week, it could still be a problem.
Myth 2. Gambling only becomes a problem for those who can’t afford it. Even if you have plenty on money and are not financially affected, gambling still negatively affects other aspects of your life.
Myth 3. Problem gamblers are pushed into gambling to cope with the behavior of loved ones. People who have a gambling problem or addiction often attempt to steer blame away from themselves by blaming those they love for the problem. Family members usually have nothing to do with the reason a person gambles.
Gambling can be like a drug. At first, you think you can control it but it eventually controls you. It doesn’t matter what type of gabling it is. It could be playing poker, betting on sports, roulette or even lottery scratch tickets. It is more about you having a strong desire or need to gamble to the point that it is taking over your life. It becomes more than just a friendly wager.
Stopping before it becomes an addiction is easier than trying to recover from addiction. It doesn’t matter that it is gambling and not drugs. Both cause many of the same problems and need similar treatment.
Another similarity problem gambling or addiction has with drug use is the feeling the person gets. Remember the first time you scored a big win? It was a high. That is like the high a person gets the first time they use a drug like marijuana. Trying to get that same or better high is what drives people to keep using drugs or keep gambling. Later highs are never as good as that first time but the attempts to get it don’t stop. When a gambler is losing, they keep gambling in the hope of winning back what they lost and more. When a gambler is winning, the pursuit of bigger wins goes on. It is less about the money and more about the high from winning big.
Being a problem gambler doesn’t mean you are addicted to gambling. Not yet, anyway. If you do have a gambling problem, now is the time to nip it in the bud and get help. Look at the following signs to see if you do fit the profile of a problem gambler.
- Do you have trouble stopping when you have lost all your money?
- Are you secretive about gambling?
- Do you gamble even when you have no money?
- Do you think about gambling all the time?
- Do you miss work, stay away from home late or miss social obligations to gamble?
- Do you use money meant to pay bills for gambling?
- Do you risk losing your home, car or job because of gambling?
- Do you find yourself stealing money or things to sell so you can gamble or pay debts?
- Is your mood dependent on how you do gambling?
- Do you deny that you gamble or minimize how much you gamble?
- Do you lie to hide your gambling or the debts incurred from it?
If you see yourself on this list, whether it is one point or more, you may be a problem gambler or on the road to becoming one.
According to Dr. Michiel Bosman, “a simple two question quick test can help determine if your gambling may be problematic.”
Problem gambling disrupts the life of the gambler and his or her family and friends. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your gambling only affects you. It will affect everyone in your life. Your family likely knows you gamble even though you may have tried to hide it from them. Even if they don’t know, they may be worried because they see that something is wrong and you have changed from the person they once knew.
If you fit the profile of a problem gambler, talk to someone. The first step to recovery is recognizing and admitting to yourself as well as others that you do have a problem. Be completely honest with yourself and with your family. Their support is important.