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Problem Gambling

While it could be fun when you win, gambling responsibly is essential to keep you from mismanaging your money, hurting yourself, and loving ones emotionally and financially.

According to statistics, 7.3% of 18-24-year-olds in Canada have a gambling problem, and an estimated 6% of the total population of gamblers in Canada are gambling addicts.

For some reason, players still treat problem gambling with levity. You may want to ask: what exactly is this gambling addiction?

Well, It is a situation when a person keeps gambling on impulse even when the habit disrupts several aspects of the person’s life. A person with a gambling problem will stake his or her hard-earned money and time on a bet, even when the consequences of losing can be catastrophic.

Problem Gambling Statistics

According to research, 2% of the total population of Canadian gamblers have admitted having a gambling problem. The same study shows that 15% of these gamblers didn’t feel they have.

Whether they admit it or not, gambling addiction signs are quite clear, and many people are victims.

These signs include:

  • Choosing to gamble over other enjoyable activities
  • Missing or being late to appointments due to gambling
  • Unpaid bills because money for payment was spent on gambling
  • Lack of socializing with friends due to gambling
  • Mood swings
  • Bored when doing things other than gambling

According to the Gambling Institute of Ontario, dependence on gambling is common among 3.2% of Canadians.

Problem Gambling Severity Index

The Problem Gambling Severity Index is a nine-item standard that is commonly used in weighing the extent of a gambling problem in the overall population.

There are four main types of gamblers. However, problem gamblers are the only category of gamblers who passed through a validity check when the standard was developed.

This is quite questionable because 95% of Canadian gamblers belong to at least one of the other three gamblers’ categories.

Causes

Ideally, people gamble for one primary reason, to win more than they wagered. However, there are many other sub-reasons for why people gamble.

It is essential to point out that there is no specific reason people gamble or become addicted to it, as reasons vary by individual.

Research has shown that a good number of people who are taking medication for Parkinson’s disease tended to develop impulse-control disorders such as impulse-buying, sexual behaviours, and of course, compulsive gambling.

The theory regarding the link between the medication for Parkinson’s and the above-listed behaviours involves the heightened dopamine activity in the human brain.

Bipolar disorder could be another cause of compulsive gambling. Extravagant spending is typical among gamblers, prompting them to gamble with excessive amounts of money.

Biological vulnerabilities and a person’s thought process can also cause gambling addiction. Medical conditions like schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder may also play a role in it. Cocaine and alcohol dependency can also trigger the urge to gamble compulsively.

Some research suggests that people with low serotonin levels in the brain are more prone to develop pathological gambling habits than those with high serotonin levels.

Signs and Symptoms of a Gambling Problem

There are several signs with which you can tell someone has a gambling problem. Below are the significant signs of a gambling problem.

Emotional Signs

People with gambling problems don’t tend to handle their emotions very well. In a situation where losses pile up, they become overly aggressive and upset, even at things that don’t necessarily warrant such emotional display.

Behavioural Signs

A pathological gambler may exhibit specific attitudinal patterns that weren’t always their normal behaviour.

For instance, a gambling addict may become unusually tensed or nervous while waiting for the outcome of a bet. They could also start spending more time alone, probably with their phones, as they await their bets’ results.

Financial Signs

A person addicted to gambling will struggle financially. This is because they stake money meant for something else on a bet. If they lose the bet, they will be prompted to risk higher amounts in a bid to win back the money lost from the previous bets.

If they keep losing, then the cycle will continue.

Pathological gambling can also cause a person to begin borrowing or stealing money.

Health Signs

A gambling addiction can lead to a lack of sleep, panic, nervousness, and anxiety.

Sometimes gambling addicts pay little attention to their appetites, hence eat less than required or eat unhealthy food altogether.

Now that you know the signs of problem gambling, the next thing would be the symptoms exhibited by addicted gamblers.

The symptoms of a gambling problem may include one or more of the following:

  • Showing interest in several gambling platforms
  • Gambling just to feel good
  • Gambling when you don’t have a current need for money
  • Skipping work, events, or family visits for the sake of gambling
  • Stealing money from loved ones to gamble
  • They sell personal items to gamble.
  • Wagering high sums of money
  • Using money meant for other commitments to gamble.

Diagnosis

To properly diagnose a gambling disorder, four of the following behaviours must be evident in a person for at least a year:

  • The urge to stake higher sums of money
  • Restlessness when trying to stop gambling
  • Several failed attempts to stop gambling
  • Continuous thoughts or discussions about gambling experiences from the past (most likely winnings)
  • Gambling each time the person is distressed
  • Repeated gambling after a loss to win back the money
  • Lying to loved ones to hide gambling habits
  • Having one’s work or personal relationship negatively affected because of gambling
  • Dependency on others for money due to gambling

A person with a gambling disorder can have periods whereby some symptoms will subside. During this period, gambling may not seem like a problem anymore, but at this time, stronger symptoms may be in their developmental stages.

Addiction Development

Gambling addiction is not developed overnight. It takes time to develop, most likely between one to 3 years.

There are also four (4) stages of addiction development. We discover them below.

1. Winning Phase

This is the phase when the gambler enjoys some winnings and begins to see gambling as a profitable venture.

During this phase, the person would become more confident and optimistic, which would prompt him or her to wager larger amounts of money.

2. Losing Phase

This is the phase where the gambler begins to incur losses on bets.

During this stage, they start lying to cover up their habits and borrow money from friends or family members to continue gambling, with hopes of winning big and paying back.

3. Desperation Phase

This is when the gambler remains on a losing streak and cannot pay back the money borrowed. At this point, they begin to find several ways out of the situation they have found themselves in.

If things do not go as planned, they may begin to face depression and develop suicidal thoughts.

4. Hopeless Phase

This is the most dangerous phase for an addicted gambler. Here, the consequences of their gambling problems begin to pan out. Emotional breakdown, substance abuse, alcohol dependency, and even divorce can all occur as a result.

Statistics have shown that about 20% of gambling addicts in this phase once tried to kill themselves.

Triggers

As hard as it may be to believe, many people who become gambling addicts are usually responsible members of society, from talented young folks to trained professionals. No one is left out.

Situations that could cause a person to develop a gambling addiction include the following:

  • Stress from work
  • Trauma
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive use of alcohol or drug abuse
  • Loneliness
  • Peer pressure or influence

According to studies, a person who is addicted to one thing is very likely to pick up another addiction.

This means people dependent on illicit drugs or alcohol (and there are many of them) also tend to develop a gambling addiction.

Research has shown that using certain prescription drugs can also increase the person’s chances of becoming a compulsive gambler.

Nonetheless, not everyone who gambles is addicted to other substances. There are still healthy, addiction-free gamblers.

Below are some of the most common compulsive gambling triggers.

  • Personality disorders, including anxiety and depression
  • Addiction to alcohol
  • Addiction to illicit drugs
  • Use of clinical antipsychotic drugs

How to Stay Safe?

Gambling only becomes a problem when a person makes it one. Thankfully, you can take steps to ensure you don’t fall into the trap of pathological gambling.



Follow these tips to gamble more responsibly:

  • Look at gambling as fun, not as a means of earning money. If you occasionally gamble for the sake of the thrill, then you’d be better off than a person that actively risks because he or she sees it as a way to make money.
  • Only wager an amount you can afford to lose. Do not place bets with sums of money you cannot afford to lose, primarily if the funds in question were meant for something more substantial.
  • Do not chase losses. Chasing losses can prompt a gambler to wager higher amounts to win back money. If you lose a bet, it would be best to forget about it and try your luck some other day.
  • Don’t gamble when your emotions are running high or are intoxicated.

Only gamble when you have a clear head. If you bet when you’re drunk or upset, you will make poor decisions and might stake more than you can afford to lose.

Canada’s First National Lower Risk Gambling Guidelines

This proposes an argument for low-risk gambling guidelines by the Canadian Center On Substance Use And Addiction and the methods that will be used to develop them.

The guidelines are expected to be beneficial, not just to gamblers, but regulators, policymakers, and operators. They were affected in 2020 and are expected to help curb gambling addiction in Canada. Although this could mean operators in the market may earn less, it would also mean that there would be a significant reduction in the number of gambling addicts in the country.

Treatment

Early treatment is vital to protect a person showing gambling addiction symptoms from becoming more indulged in the habit over time.

There is no special treatment for gambling addiction. Treatment will depend on the individual’s unique situation and how deep he or she has gone into gambling. Gambling addiction can be treated by learning the importance of money and what it means.

If an addicted gambler is convinced that the money used for gambling would fare better if it were saved or invested, they would begin to see the uses of money differently.

After this realization, the next step would be to stop gambling completely. Staying away from gambler friends will also help.

The addicted gambler should stop watching sports games that may prompt them to place bets.

Lastly, enrolling in a recovery program can also help a gambling addict develop resistance to impulse gambling.

Self Help Tools

There are self-help tools you can employ to curb gambling addiction.

  • Monitor Your Gambling Urges. You can monitor your gambling urges by continually reminding yourself of the setbacks gambling addiction has caused you in the past.

There are also web tools you can use to keep track of how often you gamble.

  • Mobile App. There are several mobile apps available on Android and iOS that you can use to curb your gambling interest.

These apps were developed by world-class psychologists and psychiatrists and are made to block access to all gambling sites on your phone.

  • Community Forum. Being part of a community forum, you can communicate with others who are battling gambling problems and those trying to help them.

In the forum, members can discuss their progress and encourage one another to quit.

  • Self Help for Those Who Gamble. If you’re a problem gambler, there are interactive tools you could use to reduce your gambling frequency or drop the habit entirely.
  • Self Help for Family & Friends. If you have a loved one hooked on gambling, there are interactive mobile tools you can use to figure out why they gamble and learn tips that you can use to curb the habit.

Problem Gambling Helplines

There are several gambling helplines in Canada you can call if you or a loved one is suffering from a severe gambling problem.

These helplines cater to many regions. Take a look at the table below to see which caters best to your area.

Province Problem Gambling Phone Helpline
Alberta 1-866-461-1259
British Columbia 1-888-795-6111
Quebec 1-800-461-0140
Manitoba 1-800-463-1554
Newfoundland 1-888-899-4357
New Brunswick 1-800-461-1234
Northwest Territories 1-800-661-0844
Yukon 1-866-456-3838
Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut 1-800-265-3333
Nova Scotia 1-888-347-8888
Ontario ConnexOntario 1-866-531-2600
Prince Edward Island 1-855-255-4255
Saskatchewan 1-800-306-6789

Residential Treatment

When it seems all your efforts at helping a loved one overcome their gambling problem are fruitless, the next best option would be to check him or her into a rehabilitation center.

People prefer rehab centers for many reasons. These include:

  • They are confident in the abilities of rehab professionals.
  • The professionals are dedicated to monitoring their patients’ progress, unlike a busy family member who may not have the time due to work and other engagements.
  • In a rehab center, the patient will have no access to gambling platforms.
  • Progress and changes in behaviour are recorded in residential treatment.

The amount of time it would take for residential treatment to work varies by individuals. This is because all levels of addiction are not the same.

Generally, those seeking gambling addiction treatment can enroll in a 30-day program, 60-day program, or a 90-day program.

Tips for Family Members

Family members can help their loved ones overcome their gambling issues by following the tips below.

  • Talking to Them. Having a heartfelt conversation with your loved one about his or her gambling habits can help them have a re-think.

Let them know that their gambling addiction is causing so much crisis in your home, both emotionally and financially.

  • Indulge Them in Something Else. After talking to them about the cons of excessive gambling, you can look for another healthy pass-time to indulge them in. It could be learning a new skill such as sewing or graphic design.

If they manage to pick an interest, they may begin to withdraw from gambling.

  • Taking Them to Rehab. If you don’t know how to help someone with a gambling problem, taking them to a rehabilitation center may be the only choice you have.

First, you have to understand why rehab is right for them, and they must express a genuine desire to stop gambling. If not, they will get back to the habit once the rehabilitation term has elapsed.

Myths and Facts About Gambling Problems

There are several myths surrounding gambling; however, not all of them are facts.

Myth 1: A problem gambler plays every day.

Fact 1: They may gamble two to three days in a week or even less. But what makes their gambling problem is the negative consequences their gambling has in their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Myth 2: Problem gamblers bet on any platform and at any opportunity.

Fact 2: Not necessarily. Some problem gamblers are particular about the type of platform or sport they bet on.

Myth 3: If the gambler can afford it, then it isn’t a problem gambling

Fact 3: While losing money is one of the most significant downsides to gambling, it isn’t the only one. If gambling hurts the relationship you have with your loved ones, then it is a problem gambling. Whether you can afford the losses or not.

Conclusion

Statistics have shown that about 6% of the gambling population in Canada are problem gamblers.

A problem gambler is one who keeps gambling even when the act disrupts several essential aspects of their lives. These include work, family, finances, and social relationships.

Symptoms of problematic gambling include stealing money, missing work, or other engagements, selling belongings, lying, anxiety, and increased stress levels.

Reasons people pick up the habit include peer influence, alcohol use, illicit substances, and even varying mental conditions.

There are self-help methods one can employ to treat gambling problems. These include using mobile monitoring apps and joining forums and communities.

Certain myths try to soften the truth about problematic gambling. But the fact remains that as long as a person’s gambling habits have adverse effects on the person’s life, it is inappropriate. And when it is problematic, it should be checked too.

FAQ

Is Problem Gambling a Mental Illness?

No, it is not. However, it can be developed as a result of a mental illness.

Is Problem Gambling Hereditary?

No, it is not. Habits are not genetically transferred.

What Is Problem Gambling Definition?

Problem gambling is defined as a condition where a person’s gambling habits negatively affect one or more areas of a person’s life. These areas may be work, family, finances, and health, and relationships.

What is Self Exclusion?

It is a policy aimed at curbing the issue of problem gambling.

Individuals trying to break the habit can ask a casino or a betting platform to add their names to a self-exclusion list.

How to Stop a Gambling Problem?

You can ask that your name be added to a self-exclusion list, use self-help tools, call a gambling addiction helpline, or check yourself into a rehab center.

It must first start with a personal decision to quit gambling.

How to Know If You Have a Gambling Problem?

You can tell you have a gambling problem if you begin doing one or more of the following:

  • Stealing money and other valuables to gamble
  • Selling your belongings to gamble.
  • Spending too much time gambling
  • Missing work or other activities because you’re gambling
  • Wagering an excessive amount of funds you can’t afford to lose.

We trust the information provided here has been helpful. Good riddance to problem gambling!