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Gambling addiction

Gambling addiction—also known as pathological gambling, compulsive gambling or gambling disorder—is an impulse-control disorder. If you’re a compulsive gambler, you can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when it has negative consequences for you or your loved ones.

You’ll keep gambling despite the consequences - even when you know that you can’t afford to lose. Problem gambling is any gambling behaviour that disrupts your life.

WHAT IS A GAMBLING ADDICTION?

Perhaps you’ve noticed that your loved one is coming home later at night, with a pocket full of ‘scratchies’? Perhaps there have been an increasing number of unexplained withdrawals from your bank account or an increasing number of visits to the pokies? Perhaps your loved one is irritable, has mood swings, and is defensive when confronted about being out of control with money?

These can all be preliminary signs of gambling addiction.

In our Australian culture various forms of gambling are accepted social activities, and many people can enjoy gambling without any negative consequences or resulting problems. Poker machines, lotto, ‘scratchies’, card games, racing and other forms of betting are forms of gambling prominent in Australia.

Problem gambling is any gambling behaviour that disrupts your life. If you’re obsessing about gambling, feeling a compulsion to gamble, spending increasing amounts of time and money on it, chasing losses to try and turn things around, or gambling despite serious consequences in your life, you likely have a problem with gambling.

Gambling addiction is not something that happens to others on the news – like all addiction, it occurs in secrecy and with denial. Apps on smart phones and tablets create access to live betting websites that bring opportunity and availability every moment of every day.

Gambling impacts the whole family, and it drives a cycle of despair that is difficult to break. Just like substance addiction, people experience compulsive cravings for gambling activities for temporary relief.

SYMPTOMS OF A GAMBLING PROBLEM

It can be hard to know if your gambling is getting out of control.

A common reaction is to minimise, hide or deny problems. Some people will lie to themselves and significant others about how much money is being used for gambling and try to hide debts or disguise how time is being spent gambling.

As the addiction develops, your loved one may continue to gamble in spite of the resulting negative consequences such as significant financial problems, relationship difficulties, or legal issues.

Your relationship with the gambling activities becomes characterised by obsession and compulsion. The obsession refers to the way you think about gambling, the time you spend thinking about when you next have the opportunity to gamble, and planning what you will do, how you will do it etc. The compulsion refers to loss of control over your impulse to gamble, resulting in your continuing to keep gambling even when you have good reasons for stopping.

Symptoms of gambling addiction:

  • Preoccupation with gambling activities
  • An inability to stop gambling whether winning or losing
  • Gambling with increasing amounts of money, or increasing the risk in some way
  • Continuing to gamble despite many decisions to stop
  • Neglecting responsibilities to concentrate on gambling activities
  • Telling lies or hiding the extent of your gambling activities
  • Impatience and conflict with family and friends
  • Financial problems and debt
  • Fantasies of ‘this week’s win’ to overcome last week’s loss and dreams of ‘bigger wins’
  • Wide mood swings
  • Using gambling activities to escape problems or uncomfortable feelings
  • Absenteeism, lateness and poor performance at work
  • Discomfort with thoughts about stopping gambling
  • Belief that life without gambling would be too difficult

If you are secretive about the amount you are gambling, gambling more than you have to spend, racking up large credit card bills or debts, placing bets to chase your losses, gambling to soothe stresses or worries or to ‘escape’ or lying to cover up – then it is likely you have a problem.

Please reach out for support for your gambling addiction.

Do I have a problem with gambling? If any of these signs resonate – you can do this quick gambling test to raise your awareness.

TREATMENT FOR GAMBLING ADDICTION

You may have been on a long journey, full of difficult and painful experiences, to get you to the point that you are reading this page.

If you’re ready to admit you have a problem, you’ve already taken the first step. It takes tremendous courage to face an addiction head on.

In order to stay free from your addiction for the long term, you’ll have to face the underlying problems that may have led to your behaviour. Treatment at South Pacific Private involves group therapy as well as input from an experienced multidisciplinary team. The team will support you and also guide you through a process of awareness to face those problems. Those problems could include depression, unresolved trauma, or any number of mental health concerns.

Treatment for gambling addiction, and the impact it has had on your life and relationships, requires specialist support and is not something to undertake on your own. A feature of the problem is that you will have tried to deal with it on your own for a long time before seeking help, usually with limited success.

Reaching out to talk about the problem with people who specialise in the treatment of gambling problems is the next step. If you would like to speak to someone who understands the challenges of living with addiction we suggest you call the Client Care Team who will offer a free and confidential preliminary conversation, or full assessment if that is your preference.

Take the first step into treatment today. Contact the Client Care Team on 1800 063 332. You can also email info@southpacificprivate.com.au

South Pacific Private is here to help when you or someone you love experiences difficulties with addictions, trauma or with mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety.

MATT: I’m sick of you coming home from work late and drunk. This is the fourth time this week. What’s going on?

SARAH: So what? I had a few drinks.
I don’t have a problem.

MORE STORIES

Find out if you have a problem

The goal of our self-tests is not to provide you with a diagnosis for yourself or for someone you care about. Instead, they are an opportunity for you to better understand how a behaviour might be impacting upon your life or the life of your family. Use these tests to enhance your awareness of what the problem might be. These tests should be answered honestly in order to provide accurate insight and are a chance for you to reflect upon the current situation.

SELF-ASSESSMENTS

Find out if you have a problem.
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