Problem Gambling – Where To Seek Help?

Problem gambling, also referred to as gambling addiction, is an addictive behavior where individuals keep on gambling despite the negative consequences on both the individual and the society. While others enjoy gambling as a form of entertainment, for millions of others it is a debilitating problem. The Australian Government estimates the number of people affected by problem gambling each year to be five million. (http://www.problemgambling.gov.au/impact/)

According to a report published by the Productivity Commission, the yearly social cost of gambling addiction is estimated at $4.7 billion. Individually, this addiction has a number of negative effects including depression, relationship problems, job loss, loss of work productivity, and in serious cases, suicide.

How it relates to others?

Certain experts view problem gambling as an impulse control disorder and liken it to several other disorders of the same nature. One of these similar disorder is kleptomania, which describes the uncontrollable impulse to steal items for the purpose of satisfying a strong internal urge.

Individuals suffering from problem gambling have also been found to have a higher chance of experiencing other psychiatric issues such as personality disorder, mood disorder, anxiety disorder and substance use disorder.

Also closely related to problem gambling is substance abuse. The two share certain similarities including a limited overlap in diagnostic criteria. An observation of current gamblers and a look at past records indicate a strong relationship between problem gambling and the harmful abuse of substances such as alcohol.

Another close relation of problem gambling is fraud. Gambling addicts will often resort to fraudulent practices such as embezzling money from their employers, writing bad checks and other illegal acts.

At the family level, problem gambling has been closely associated with an increased occurrence of marital problems, domestic violence and child abuse.

In extreme cases, often resulting from untreated pathological gambling, individuals are highly likely to consider suicide. A study conducted in the emergency department of
The Alfred hospital found that 17 percent of suicidal cases brought to the hospital were linked to problem gambling. (http://www.theage.com.au/national/gambling-linked-to-one-in-five-suicidal-patients-20100420-srri.html) The presence of additional psychiatric problems like mood disorders and substance abuse greatly adds to the suicide risk.

How To Determine If You Might Have a Problem?

Accepting that you have a serious behavioral problem is the first step to successfully combating it. You may already suspect that you might have a gambling problem. To be completely sure, check whether you exhibit several of the following characteristics. If you do, there are several ways you can seek help.

• Gambling has caused problems in your relationship, work and other areas of life.

• You feel guilty regarding your gambling and after every section you get anxious or depressed.

• You hide the true cost of the problem, in terms of money and time, from your family.

• You cannot stop gambling until you run out of money.

• The urge to gamble increases when you experience losses, a phenomenon known as chasing ones losses.

• You have resorted, or tempted to resort to illegal means of getting money to fund the gambling problem.

To get to the point where you accept that you have a problem, you need to be very honest with yourself. This is the only way to realize the seriousness of the issue and seek help.

Possible Treatments

Experts have recommended a number of approaches in treating problem gambling in Australia. They include;

1. Self-help – for moderate cases of problem gambling, a possible treatment approach is self-help. The affected individual uses various resources including self-help workbooks and online materials to move towards overcoming gambling.

2. Motivational interviewing – this is an approach that encourages the individual to recognize and seek to end his or her problem. The therapist involved gets the individual to take on a mindset of positive change and set goals toward the cessation of the addictive behaviour. Therapists have reported a good rate of success using this approach especially when combined with self-help.

3. Individual and group cognitive therapy – This is the same kind of therapy used in many other kinds of addictions. It can be done individually or within a group by a professional therapist.

4. Solution focused brief therapy – this treatment approach is different in that it focuses on identifying the underlying problems and their solutions as quickly as possible. The treatment focuses a great deal on solutions rather than the problems with the aim of stopping gambling addiction as quickly and effectively as possible,

A therapist will determine the right kind of treatment based on the individual. Factors such as age, gender and ethnicity must be considered.

Being Open About It

The more you try to hide the problem, the worse it will get. The consequences will get worse for both you and your family. The moment you realize you have a gambling problem, discuss it with your family and then commit to getting the right treatment. It is nothing to be ashamed about but rather a serious problem to be dealt with quickly.

Where to Seek Help

http://www.gamblinghelponline.org.au/

This website provides 24/7 chat, email and phone counselling for individuals with problem gambling. They also provide professional counsellors with specific training and experience in dealing with problem gambling. You can get counselling face-to-face or online. For severe cases where an individual is dealing with suicidal thoughts or domestic violence, an emergency contact number is provided. The website also contains plenty of information and resources for self-help.

gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au

Here, you can access numerous online materials to help in identifying and overcoming problem gambling. You can also use the website to find a counsellor near you or directly contact a professional counsellor. The website focuses more on the youth, providing a contact list for youth counsellors. You can also find various tools to help in gambling including a gambling calculator and a mobile app to track your progress.

http://www.problemgambling.sa.gov.au/

This website provides a 24/7 gambling helpline that is both free and confidential. There are numerous resources for gamblers and their family and friends including signs of gambling, self diagnosis and where to seek help. Even better, you can read real motivating stories of other people who have struggled with the problem and overcome it. Understanding the problem they faced, the consequences they experienced and their path to recovery will prove immensely helpful in your own struggles.