Myths & Facts about Gambling Addiction and Problem Gambling
Myth: You have to gamble every day to be a problem gambler.
Fact: A problem gambler may gamble frequently or infrequently. Gambling is a problem if it causes problems.
Myth: Problem gambling is not really a problem if the gambler can afford it.
Fact: Problems caused by excessive gambling are not just financial. Too much time spent on gambling can lead to relationship breakdown and loss of important friendships.
Myth: Partners of problem gamblers often drive problem gamblers to gamble.
Fact: Problem gamblers often rationalize their behavior. Blaming others is one way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, including what is needed to overcome the issue.
Myth: If a problem gambler builds up a debt, you should help them take care of it.
Fact: Quick-fix solutions may appear to be the right thing to do. However, bailing the gambler out of debt may actually make matters worse by enabling gambling issues to continue.
Relieving Unpleasant and Overwhelming Feelings Without Gambling
Unpleasant feelings such as stress, depression, loneliness, fear and anxiety can trigger compulsive gambling or make it worse. After a stressful day at work or after an argument with your spouse or coworker, an evening at the track or the casino can seem like a fun, exciting way to unwind. But there are healthier and far less expensive ways to keep unpleasant feelings in check. These may include exercising, meditating, using sensory relaxation techniques and practicing breathing exercises.
For many people, an important aspect of quitting gambling is to find alternate ways to handle these difficult feelings without gambling. Even when gambling is no longer a part of your life, the painful and unpleasant feelings that may have prompted you to gamble in the past will still remain. It’s worth spending time thinking about the different ways you intend to deal with stressful situations and the daily irritations that would normally trigger you to start gambling.
Do I Have a Gambling Problem?
You may have a gambling problem if you:
• Feel the need to be secretive about your gambling. You might gamble in secret or lie about how much you gamble, feeling others won’t understand or that you will surprise them with a big win.
• Have trouble controlling your gambling. Once you start gambling, can you walk away? Or are you compelled to gamble until you’ve spent your last dollar, upping your bets in a bid to win lost money back?
• Gamble even when you don’t have the money. A red flag is when you are getting more and more desperate to recoup your losses. You may gamble until you’ve spent your last dollar, and then move on to money you don’t have – money to pay bills, credit cards or things for your children. You may feel pushed to borrow, sell or even steal things for gambling money. It’s a vicious cycle. You may sincerely believe that gambling more money is the only way to win lost money back. But it only puts you further and further in the hole.
• Family and friends are worried about you. Denial keeps problem gambling going. If friends and family are worried, listen to them carefully. Take a hard look at how gambling is affecting your life. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help.
Treatment for Problem Gambling
Every gambler is unique and needs a recovery program tailored specifically to him or her. What works for one gambler won’t necessarily work for you. The biggest step in treatment is realizing you have a problem with gambling. It takes tremendous strength and courage to own up to this, especially if you have lost a lot of money and strained or broken relationships along the way. Don’t despair and don’t try to go it alone. Many others have been in your shoes and have been able to break the habit.
National Council on Problem Gambling, (800) 522-4700
Gamblers Anonymous, (888) 424-3577
For additional assistance with personal or work concerns, contact Agnesian HealthCare’s Work and Wellness Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at (800) 458-8183.