What is Problem Gambling?

Gambling is a popular pastime in America, including the pokies, instant scratchies, lotto, cards, online betting or racing. Many people have fun gambling now and again, but sometimes it can get out of hand and become a cause of financial hardship and distress.

Problem gambling is when betting starts to create trouble in your life, such as relationship problems, depression or stress, loss of a job, debt or it gets in the way of being a good parent. It may start out fine, but gradually feel like it’s taking over. This is because gambling can be addictive, it can become a habit that you find hard to control, even though you know it’s causing you and your family harm.

How do you know if you are in danger of developing a gambling addiction?

It’s hard to know if your gambling is getting out of hand. A common reaction is to minimize it or deny that it’s causing harm. Usually, people hide the gambling or start to lie about how much money and time they are spending on it.

You might say to yourself:

  • I can stop whenever I want
  • I enjoy this, it’s just my way of relaxing
  • I’ll stop when I have the next big win or
  • It makes me forget my worries.

These are all forms of denial.

If you can tick yes to any of the following, your gambling may be starting to become a problem. Do you:

  • feel ashamed and guilty about your gambling
  • miss important things like work, appointments, family time or leisure activities because of gambling
  • think about gambling every day
  • spend more time and money than you intend to on gambling
  • have arguments with family and friends about your gambling
  • steal or lie to get money for gambling
  • get into debt because of gambling
  • try to win back your losses

What can you do?

There are many things you can do to get things under control and to prevent gambling problems building up from self-help strategies to peer support, online programs, telephone counseling, or face-to-face therapy and treatments. These activities have worked well for many people:

  • First of all, talk to someone you trust about your gambling. This will be a first step in finding the best way forward to cut down or stop.
  • Call the National Problem Gaming Helpline 24/7 (800-522-4700) or Georgia Gambling Helpline 24/7 (888-236-4848) and they can talk to you confidentially or send out self-help information and tools.
  • Contact a Georgia Gambling Help Service. Just one session with a professional counselor can help you assess your situation and set up a plan to suit your needs.
  • See a financial counselor to look at the money going in and out so you can decide if the balance is right and get help to manage any debts.

You’re not alone. Many people have overcome problems with gambling. The important thing is to do something now to make sure you stay in charge of your money, time and life.

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