I know I’ve posted more than a few articles on gambling… everything from sports betting, to online gaming to real casinos. Gambling is not an inherently bad thing. When done responsibly it can be fun and exciting. The thrill of winning money gets your heart racing, and while that’s a blast, no one should be literally banking on it. While most of us can handle a little action every now and then, there are a few who take it too far.
When gambling crosses into addiction, there is an impulse-control disorder at play, and people just can’t help themselves—the urge to gamble is overwhelming, and bets are placed no matter how grave consequences.
But, there is a step before addiction, and is referred to as “problem gambling.” You are not a full blown gambling addict (yet), but you are certainly at risk of getting there. The trouble is, it’s easy to go into denial at this stage, and this can be dangerous. If you are concerned you may be problem gambling, there is a good chance you are. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Problem Gambling?
Like any other type of addict, gambling addicts feel completely out-of-control, and powerless to stop betting. But feeling some sense of control over your behavior does not automatically mean you don’t have a problem. With ‘problem gambling’ you may not be at the total mercy of your urges, but your gambling activities are disrupting your life in some way—usually many ways. There may be a growing preoccupation with gambling or betting despite serious consequences, like not being able to pay your bills on time.
People engaging in ‘problem gambling’ are recommended to enter gambling rehabilitation centers and undergo other recommended forms of treatment, such as therapy, just as a full-on addict would. This problem deserves the same amount of attention because of what it has the potential to turn into.
Myths About Gambling
A variety of myths surrounding gambling leads people to overlook they are in this dangerous “grey area” of problem gambling. One of the most damaging myths is you only have a problem with gambling if you are doing it on a daily basis. But, that’s irrelevant—if your gambling is causing any sort of issues, even if you’re playing “just on the weekend,” it’s a problem.
Another myth that makes people think they may not be engaging in “problem gambling” is if they can afford to lose, then it’s not really an issue. Obviously, financial troubles are a primary problem with excessive gambling, but it’s not the only one. Maybe your bank account is intact, but it is causing you other problems in your personal or professional life? Is it affecting your mental well-being? Your relationships? Your job?
Signs of ‘Problem Gambling’
Lacking that feeling of being totally out of control, or having their life falling apart at the seams, people with a gambling problem, but not a full-blown addiction, can easily rationalize and deny day in and day out. But, if you notice these signs in yourself, you need to do something.
One of the first things you need to examine is whether you are using gambling as a salve for things like anxiety, depression, fear or anger. For example, when you have a fight with your girl, your boss, or some asshole on the road, do you turn to gambling to get your mind off of it, or to boost your spirits?
Another question to ask yourself: Have you reached the point where you feel the need to lie about how frequently you’re gambling, how much money you’re wagering, or to totally hide your gambling behavior altogether? Are you having increasing difficulty walking away when you are down, or up the ante trying to win back lost money? Once the “fun money” runs out, are you turning to money that’s earmarked for your other, more important, financial obligations, such as your mortgage, credit card bills or the needs of your family? Have friends or family expressed concerns you may be gambling too much? Answer “yes” to any of those, and it’s time to wake up and smell the complimentary tableside drinks.
If you feel like your gambling behaviors are moving into dangerous territory, it’s crucial you do something about it now. The key is fully acknowledging the problem and slapping it down before it becomes devastating, potentially destroying your entire life. And that’s nothing to gamble with.