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Online gambling addiction

When one bet just isn't enough

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

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Compulsive or addictive gambling has been around for centuries, but because of the internet and the ability to download a gambling app onto your phone, gambling is now at a completely different level. With the click of a mouse, or simple finger swipe people can play poker and bingo, bet on sporting events, play the lotto and have fun with online casinos. As with all things in life, these activities are fine in moderation. The problem starts when people find themselves gambling more money than they should, or spending a lot of time gambling online or on their phone.

Sometimes things go so far that people neglect their personal health, their friends or family and their work or studies. As with all addictions, the person’s life may become a complete mess as a result of the gambling, yet the person becomes unable to stop.

Is all gambling bad?

Gambling can be really fun, but can also get out of hand and become a problem. From the slot machines in Las Vegas to playing the lotto, a lot of people gamble as a way to have fun, to compete, or for the thrill of it. Gambling, like any other behaviour, can stay just for fun. Here are some tips to keep it simple:

  • Remember that with most gambling you should be over 18 to take part.
  • Don’t bet with large sums of money. 
  • Limit the amount of time you gamble—a lotto ticket once a week etc.
  • Limit your spending amount.
  • Always quit while you’re ahead

Why online gambling can be more of a problem

  • Easy access to online betting which is always available 24/7. 
  • Many websites give you a number of free bets in which to get you started. To keep you playing they will also offer more bets to ensure you stay online as long as possible.
  • It is very easy for betting companies to track your betting habits and therefore target you specifically making it harder to stop betting.

People who are addicted to Internet gambling may exhibit the following signs:

  • Trouble controlling their gambling - They may promise to take a day off, but won’t be able to follow through. Or they may promise to bet less money, but not be able to.
  • Secrecy - They may try to hide their gambling. They may hide how much time they spend gambling, the sites they visit and the amount they bet.
  • Emotional reactions to being offline - They may become upset if they cannot get to a computer.
  • Lying about their usage - They may lie to people about the amount of time they spend online.
  • Lying about bets – They may lie about the money they spend online.
  • Mood changes - They may act or seem to feel grumpy/upset/stressed when they are not online or on their phone.
  • Neglect of relationships - They may neglect family, friends, personal hygiene and work/school/college responsibilities.
  • Time wasting - They may spend excessive amounts of time online or on their phone.
  • Withdrawal from socialising - They may lose interest in socialising and have no interest in their usual social routine.
  • Spending a lot of time online or on their phone.

How to deal with:

  • Firstly, the person needs to accept they need help before they can get better.
  • Many people with this problem will benefit from specialised addiction counselling such as CBT.
  • Support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous may be enormously helpful.
  • Many people find that taking up an exciting substitute hobby such as hiking, rock climbing or surfing makes it easier to stay away from gambling.
  • Relaxation techniques can be very useful for addictions. Activities such as yoga, pilates, meditation and even baths can really be helpful.

How to help a mate/partner dealing with it:

  • Be a listening ear. Keep in touch via text, phone calls, IM and visits. Let your friend/partner know that they can vent to you anytime. Try not to give advice, just listen as best as you can.
  • Offer to do an activity or new hobby with them. Maybe take up a yoga class together. Or join your friend/partner in other activities such as rock climbing.
  • Seek out a support group for family and friends of gamblers, if you have been affected by your friend’s gambling.
  • Encourage them to seek out professional help. If they are already seeing someone, encourage them to keep appointments and to keep working on their issue.
  • If they gamble online or using their smartphone encourage them to spend more time offline, or to switch to a basic phone that can't download gambling apps.
  • Avoid locations and situations in which they might be tempted to gamble such as casinos or pubs near betting shops.
  • Be patient. Take things one day at a time, and don’t expect that your friend is able to stop right away. Gambling is a compulsive behaviour, so it’s hard to stop for a lot of reasons. Remember to be supportive while they try to make a huge change in their life.

For more information and for problem gambling resources: Gamble Aware has a confidential hotline with people who can give you advice. You can call them on 1800 753 753. You can also contact Problem Gambling Ireland for more information on problem gambling.

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

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Published February 25th, 2013
Last updated February 14th, 2017
Tags gambling online addiction
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