When it Gets Too Much – Address Your Gambling Addiction Fearlessly
Gambling is a financially and emotional rewarding experience for many of us. It is an enjoyable component of our life, that thing we indulge in as a hobby or as an income-earning opportunity. If you are a regular on our site or any other online gambling site, you could be one of three people:
- A punter who likes to spend a few minutes or a couple of hours each day or week trying his/her luck at his/her preferred casino games. You set aside a fixed amount of money to wager and make sure you never over-spend.
- You are so excited by the idea of winning a big progressive or random jackpot that keeping track of your outgoings ceases to be a priority. When you have a problem controlling your gambling 'expenses', you fall into the 'problem gambling' category.
- It has become difficult for you to control your gambling impulses to the point where an online casino is the most influential entity in your life, above your family, friends and job. You are in the high alert 'gambling addiction' zone, which you must flee before it consumes you.
Problem gambling versus gambling addiction
Though there is a tendency to interchange the terms 'problem gambling' and 'gambling addiction', they need to be imagined as a sequence of behaviours where addiction is an extreme response whereas problem gambling – though still concerning – does not contribute to problems in every area of your life.
The term 'addiction' itself now has broader definition. Previously, it was understood entirely in the context of physiological tolerance and withdrawal effects. Today, clinicians and researchers use the term to describe a disorder where the individual becomes preoccupied/obsessed with a behaviour that may first provide the desired effect but eventually leads to long-term disadvantages that outweigh the short-term benefits.
Some of the words or terms associated with any form of addiction include binging, fantasy and arousal. If you are suffering from gambling addiction, you could be repeatedly spending a great amount of your time either engaging in the activity or thinking about it.
When affected by an addiction disorder, you lose the ability to choose whether to halt or continue the behaviour. In other words, you experience a loss of control and are in no position to predict when you will be overcome by the urge, how long it will go on, and when it will stop.
Self-diagnosing addiction to gambling
How can you step back and determine whether or not you are a compulsive gambler with an addiction problem? Here are some helpful tips:
- You think about the activity ALL THE TIME, from strategising how to wager at future games to figuring out ways to get money to fund your gambling goals. While it is natural to plan your gambling pursuits ahead of time, doing this exclusively, relentlessly and perpetually is a sign of addiction.
- You are secretive about your gambling activities because it seems to be taking precedence over all other priorities. You sneak out to play at web cafes and lie about where you've been gone for hours on end. You feel that your loved ones won't understand you or may judge you, so it is best not to involve them and continue gambling clandestinely.
- You are unable to tame your gambling impulses. When the desire to gamble sets in, time and money become irrelevant concepts. You are physically present, mentally absent because your mind is consumed with slots and table games. You gamble away your rent and grocery money, and may even reach into your savings to play that next game.
- Following on from the point above, addiction can be confirmed if you fail to cutback on your behaviour despite making multiple attempts.
- Your family members and friends are worried that your gambling behaviour is leading you down a dark path. They may try to advise you, chide you, perhaps even stage an intervention. Ideally, you should hear them out and with their help, try to modify your behaviour. Unfortunately, very few gamblers are able to curb their impulses without having to quit gambling altogether after being guided by their family and friends. Gambling hotlines are more effective in helping compulsive gamblers come to terms with their addiction and self-manage or seek out expert assistance.
- Statistics reveal high rates of gambling addiction among individuals with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you experience a high level of stress or anxiety on a daily basis, it could explain your dependency on gambling.
Problem gambling and gambling addiction in the UK – Facts and Figures
According to a Guardian news report, problem gambling in the UK costs the government up to £1.2 billion annually. The industry contributes £2.6 billion to the exchequer every year. Given the situation, there have been calls to implement strategies to deal with the problem in a manner similar to other public health issues such as alcohol and drug addiction.
A research report written by London-based think tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) for leading responsible gambling charity GambleAware found that up to 1.1 per cent of the country's population has a gambling problem. The report identified certain risk categories:
- People in the age group of 16 to 24 years, while least likely to gamble, have a greater likelihood of developing an addiction.
- Men are up to five times more likely to become compulsive gamblers compared to women.
- Gamblers in the lowest income category are least likely to gamble but at the highest risk of developing a gambling addiction disorder.
The 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey sheds lights on some important addiction and problem gambling statistics:
- Problem gamblers are more likely to be younger males who are also current cigarette smokers.
- Problem gamblers are more likely to have parents who gambled previously and faced problems with their addictive behaviour.
- As far as participation is concerned, the National Lottery is the most popular gambling activity in Britain. Participation in online games, football pools and gambling on fixed odds betting terminals has also increased.
It is heartening to note that bookmakers have jumped in to address problem gambling and addiction. Literally all issue an advice on compulsive and risky behaviour. Player awareness systems have become a common means of restraining addiction to fixed-odds betting terminals. These systems automatically spot signs of problem gambling by examining factors such as the frequency at which a player wagers and the size of his/her bets. When players are identified as being 'at risk', they are sent messages that warn them about the dangers of gambling addiction or encourage them to take a break.
Players also have the option to ask operators to block them from gambling, presumably during a period of frenzied activity and emotional turmoil – when they have either been warned or advised – in what is known as 'self-exclusion'. The efforts on the part of online gambling companies are encouraging, and it is comforting to know that some players are proactive about managing their gambling behaviours. However, it would be short-sighted to believe that gambling addiction will be resolved through interventions by operators from time to time, or it can be entirely managed by the affected individual. Most forms of severe addiction require counselling, the sooner the better. When gambling becomes the centre of your universe and you start putting other areas of your life at risk, seeking out qualified assistance becomes critical.
The basics of gambling responsibly
Ideally, responsible gambling should be on your radar even before you create your account at an online casino. By giving yourself an ultimatum and getting into a healthy mindset that allows you to enjoy the experience to the maximum without going overboard with your behaviour, addiction won't set in at all.
Elements of responsible gambling:
- Responsible gamblers are aware that the house holds greater odds of winning than the player. By accepting that Lady Luck may not smile on you every time you play, you can adopt a cautious approach of pre-setting time and money limits.
- Responsible gambling is never a continuous event, rather, an activity with limitation as far as both duration and frequency are concerned. If you find yourself gambling non-stop on some days, take a walk outside or plan your upcoming days thoughtfully by allocating a limited time to online gambling and intentionally setting up a schedule where you meet people or indulge in some other hobby.
- Players who gamble responsibly inevitably set a loss limit. Like the stop loss in the stock market, a loss limit will indicate that you need to get out immediately or you may end up depleting your entire budget on a string of successive losses.
- Most gamblers don't depend on gaming and gambling websites to put food on the table. It is never their only means of gainful 'employment'. Very few actually go on to make thousands or millions, but they still have a back-up plan to avoid getting bankrupt or falling prey to addiction.
- Suffice to say that responsible gamblers don't drink alcohol or do drugs when gambling. This is a deadly trifecta that requires immediate attention and resolution.
Some ways to keep a tab on your gambling behaviour:
- Calculate how much you can afford to spend at an online casino and strictly stick to that amount. It helps to visualise how much you had to work to make that money.
- Use a debit card instead of a credit card to be cognisant of the proportion of your income you're spending on gambling.
- Make it a goal to never borrow money to gamble. This can set-off a different kind of problem and harm your relationships within your social circle.
- Identify high-risk situations where gambling must be avoided at all costs. That is, when you are feeling depressed, lonely, stressed out OR you want to impress someone you love by demonstrating your luck or skill at online gambling.
- Keep a cool head. There is no point in chasing losses. It is also advisable not to get too excited when on a winning streak as there are chances that it may get the better of you. Stay pragmatic through wins and losses.
- Take a break from gambling from time to time. When you've had a bad day, just call it quits. Remind yourself not to get emotional – this can help you across other aspects of your life as well. One tip from us here would be to start practising mindfulness, a technique that makes you aware of your feelings in the moment as they are occurring, and allows you to manage signs of anxiety early on so you don't succumb to them.
Don't underestimate the power of gambling helplines
Regardless of how old you are, sometimes you just need a non-judgemental friend to give you guidance when you're confused or dejected. This is the premise on which gambling addiction helplines are structured, with the difference being that trained counsellors offer information, support and counselling in a confidential, sensitive environment.
Gambling helplines offer free and impartial advice. You can discuss your issues at length over the phone and – based on an understanding of the extent and nature of your addiction – the helpline may refer you to specialist agencies that provide long-term help.
You can also explore other options such as moderated chatrooms where previously addicted gamblers share their insights or interact with people facing a similar situation. Another option is face-to-face counselling online via live chat or in-person sessions.
The biggest benefit of gambling helplines is that they offer immediate support. All you have to do is pick up the phone and share your thoughts. We encourage you to be candid about your addiction as complete anonymity is assured. Helplines are legally bound to protect callers' privacy; calls may only be recorded for purposes of quality assurance. Helplines are also obligated not to discriminate on the basis of gender, age, faith or sexuality.
Get out of the vicious cycle of addiction and restore your confidence. Dial a helpline number today and also think about sharing your struggles with your family or close friends.