When does gambling become problem gambling?

We all know people who gamble but how do we know when gambling has become a problem? One of the main issues with gambling is that it sits on one of those sliding scales of being an acceptable form of sociable entertainment which can develop into a moderate and then severe problem overnight. 

Gambling is supposed to be entertaining and fun, it is a sociable activity and when it is not a problem people generally have clear boundaries about how much time and money they will spend on it. 

Gambling becomes a moderate problem when the gambler starts to chase wins to make up for losses, it includes unplanned over spending of money and increased time spent thinking about and being involved with gambling. Gamblers at this stage will also start concealing the amount of time and money spent. This is the time ideally to seek help to manage gambling habits as there is an increasing loss of control, the goal for help at this time may be to stop or reduce gambling and regain control.

Severe problem gambling is usually preceded by a significant life event, this may be the loss of employment for instance but this is not always the case. These gamblers will be in throws of gambling addiction, jeopardising their relationships with family and friends, they may be severely depressed (although this may not be obvious), they may become involved in crime e.g. spending a partners money without their consent or worse and will be raking up debts.

If you are worried about your gambling or the gambling of someone you love then answering these questions may help:

1) Do I find myself thinking about gambling a lot, thinking about gambling experiences good or bad or thinking of ways to get more money to gamble? If I can’t gamble, do I feel restless or irritable?

2) Do I gamble more often and/or for larger amounts than I used to?

3) Have I tried to control, cut back or stop gambling before but it either worked for a bit before I started again or didn’t work at all?

4) Have I sometimes lied about the amount I have gambled or the number of times I gamble to others? Have I not told others about my losses?

5)  Am I in debt and still gamble?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions it may be time to look for some help and support either to reduce or stop gambling. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Wilmslow SK9 & Macclesfield SK10
Written by Julia Summers, MBACP Friendly Professional Counsellor, Coach & Supervisor
Wilmslow SK9 & Macclesfield SK10

Julia Watson is an experienced counsellor working near Ilkley, Leeds & Bradford. Julia has specific training to help and support problem gamblers and is a GAMCARE counsellor (the UKs leading provider of information, advice and support for problem gamblers). Julia is passionate about all people having access to support and achieving what they want.

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