5 red flags that indicate you’re a problem gambler and what to do about it
Are you worried that you or someone you love has a gambling problem? Perhaps a friend or family member has tried to convince you that you need to get your betting habits under control.
Sadly, problem gambling can have a devastating and long-lasting impact on the gambler and those they love so this is an issue that must be taken seriously.
If you suspect someone’s gambling is getting out of control, read on to learn about some of the warning signs of problem gambling and what steps you can take to manage and resolve it.
Red Flag 1: A preoccupation with gambling
Gambling disorder is an internationally-recognised mental health disorder. If you find yourself always thinking or talking about gambling, or you’ve tried and failed to reduce your gambling, you may be affected. Like many other addictions, gambling disorder is often accompanied by a loss of interest in other aspects of life. For example, you may fall behind with your work, neglect family or household responsibilities, stop pursuing your hobbies or become distant from loved ones.
Red Flag 2: Gambling more money than you can afford
If you’re using money that you need for basic living expenses like your rent or mortgage payments, food, household bills, loan repayments, clothing or healthcare to place bets, alarm bells should start to ring. Perhaps you find that you’re borrowing money to gamble by dipping into overdrafts or using credit cards to pay for your habit. This is particularly worrying as it can leave you trapped in a cycle of debt.
If you try to excuse or justify the amount of money you spend on betting to yourself or others or the money you spend on betting means you need to borrow more just to meet basic living expenses, you should take steps to control your relationship with gambling and consider seeking help.
Red Flag 3: Lying about or hiding your gambling habits
Are you concealing bank statements from your other half, lying to your family about your whereabouts when you’re going to the bookies or being evasive about your internet use?
You may get angry when you’re pressed too hard about the extent of your habit, but if you’re not telling the truth about your gambling or you’re deliberately trying to hide your betting habits from your family and friends, it’s time to take a serious look at your ability to control this aspect of your life.
Red Flag 4: You need to gamble more to get the same excitement
There was a time when having a little flutter would give you the buzz you craved, but now you find yourself needing to gamble larger amounts or staying at the slot machine or online casino for longer periods of time in order to get the same feeling. If the stakes are getting higher all the time, it may be time to admit that your gambling is spiralling out of control.
Red Flag 5: Gambling to get out of debt
Gambling or chasing losses to get out of financial difficulty isn’t a wise move. In fact, betting in an attempt to escape debt can be a vicious cycle. It can often lead to more borrowing and then to repay what you owe, you may find yourself gambling more. If you’ve been dipping into your overdraft or using a credit card to pay for bets, it’s time to stop, examine your habits and consider taking steps to get things under control.
Steps you can take to resolve problem gambling
In many situations, going ‘cold turkey’ may feel daunting or just seem unnecessary. Fortunately, however, there are a number of other smaller steps you can take to help manage your gambling.
Step 1: Set limits
When trying to get your gambling under control, it’s important to set limits on the amount of time and money you’re spending on your habit. If you’re gambling online, for example, you could add a certain amount to your account and when this money is gone, you stop. You can also set limits on gaming machines in bookmakers on how much and how long you play for. If you can stay within your limits, you might be able to conquer the problem yourself. However, if you struggle it may be a sign that you have an addiction that requires professional help.
Step 2: Take breaks
It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the moment and place ‘just one more bet’ or have ‘just one more go’ on a machine. To avoid things getting out of control, it’s important to step back and have regular breaks. Online gambling companies must offer time-out facilities that allow users to block themselves from gambling for a set amount of time. You can request to be blocked for 24 hours, one week, one month or for any period of time up to six weeks.
Step 3: Use blocking software
In an attempt to manage your gambling, you may have closed one online betting account only to open another just a few days or weeks later when your urges get the better of you. To prevent this from happening, or to at least give you time to stop and think about your decision, you can use blocking software to stop you from accessing gambling websites. You can download blocking software for PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets. Some are available for free, while others charge a fee.
Step 4: Self-exclude
If you think you need to take more drastic measures and want support to stop gambling for at least six months, you can choose to self-exclude. This can be a good way to take a step back and work out what gambling has become for you, particularly if you feel this has become an addiction. Self-exclusion means asking gambling providers to block you from gambling with them for a set period of time. All providers in the UK – both online and offline – must provide this service. You can self-exclude from each company separately or from several operators at the same time.
Step 5: Seek professional help and support
Like any other addiction, it can feel impossible to go it alone when trying to get a gambling problem under control. Without the right support, you might find that you slip back into your old ways, particularly if you haven’t identified your gambling triggers or learned to change the way you think and behave. If you don’t feel able to talk to friends or family, or you think you would benefit from professional advice, there are organisations set up to help you.
Evidence suggests that problem gambling can be treated in the same way as other addictions. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been shown to have particularly good results. Treatment, self-help resources and support groups are available from a range of different organisations, including GamCare, the Gordon Moody Association and Gamblers Anonymous.