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How do you know if you have a gambling problem?

A breakdown of the facts


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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For some, gambling is a fun hobby, a way to relax and maybe even win a little cash. But for others, gambling can become a habit that can be as dangerous as drugs or alcohol. There are lots of different ways to gamble, and as gambling is becoming easier with many apps and websites devoted to it, it is also getting more risky. Here’s what you should know about gambling.

What is gambling?    

Gambling is a game of chance where you bet money on the outcome. There are lots of different types of gambling: online games, slot machines, playing the lottery, and placing bets in a bookmaker’s are some of the most common. These days, all of those types are also available in online games, where it’s very easy to play—and to lose.

Is all gambling bad?

Gambling can be really fun! From the slot machines in Las Vegas to playing the lotto, a lot of people gamble to treat themselves, just for fun, to compete, or for the thrill of it. If you’re sensible about it, gambling, like any other behavior, can stay just for fun. Here are some tips to keep it simple:

  • Don’t bet with large sums of money.
  • Limit the amount of time you gamble—a lotto ticket once a week, only half an hour in an online game, etc.
  • Limit your spending amount.
  • Always quit while you’re ahead!
  • Don’t use gambling as a way to change your mood.
  • When does gambling become bad for you?

Find out more tips for staying safe while gambling here.

When people don’t keep it simple, they can get addicted to gambling, which can cause big problems for the gambler. People with gambling addictions are often unable to stop gambling even when gambling starts to cause them to lose money, friends, and jobs.

Do I have a gambling problem?

If you think you have a gambling problem, it’s important to recognize it and seek help. Ask yourself these things:

  • Do you find it hard to stop gambling, even if you’re losing a lot of money?
  • Do you think or talk about gambling constantly, to the point that it’s distracting?
  • Are you trying to hide your gambling from family and friends, or lie about how much you lose?
  • Are you borrowing money or selling possessions, or avoiding paying other things in order to gamble more?
  • Does gambling affect your moods a lot? Are you anxious, depressed, nervous, or worried a lot because of your gambling?

Answering yes to any or all of these questions does not necessarily mean you have a gambling addiction, but you may have a problem that it’s important to be aware of, or you may need to talk to someone about it. Find out more about the signs of a gambling addiction here.

The Gamblers Anonymous website also has a self-test questionnaire you can fill out to find out more.

What should I do if I think I have a gambling addiction?

The very first and most important step is admitting to yourself that you may have a problem. This may take some time, but the sooner you accept it the sooner you can seek help. Recovery is possible no matter how big the problem seems.

  • Open up to someone. Telling someone you trust can really help you come to grips with your gambling. If you don’t have a friend or family member you feel like you can be honest with, there are also a number of free and confidential hotlines where you can speak to someone who can help you.
  • Ask for help. Be willing to let people help you—whether that’s helping you to control your money, going to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting, or just helping you talk through your feelings, you don’t need to do everything by yourself.
  • Avoid locations and situations in which you might be tempted to gamble. You can’t break those bad habits if you’re not changing anything, so stay away from those triggers—walk home a different way if you normally pass a betting shop; don’t hang out with friends who encouraged you to gamble, etc.
  • Be patient. Take things one day at a time, and don’t expect to be able to stop right away. Gambling is a compulsive behavior, so it’s hard to stop for a lot of reasons. Remember to be gentle with yourself while you re-learn good habits.

There are a number of services you can turn to. Read about them here.

For more information and for problem gambling resources:

Problem Gambling Ireland provide resources and phone/email supports.

Gamblers Anonymous hold meetings around the country.

Samaritans also provide confidential advice and help. You can call them on 116 123.

Find a full list of support services here.

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Published April 6th, 2016
Last updated December 5th, 2017
Tags gambling addiction
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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