Gambling Addiction - what is it

By  Gamblers Help     |    Updated: 9th June, 2021    |    7 min read

What is problem gambling?

Problem gambling is when betting starts to create trouble in your life, such as debt, relationship problems, job loss, stress or depression, or it gets in the way of other responsibilities in your life.

These problems arise because gambling can be addictive – it can become a habit that you find hard to control, even though you know it’s causing you and your family harm.

What is gambling addiction?

The word ‘addiction’ gets casually thrown around, especially on social media. People even joke about being an ‘addict’.

But ‘addiction’ is a clinical term. That means it’s a diagnosis that can only be made by a healthcare professional who would follow up with a treatment plan.

We advise against using an internet survey to diagnose yourself as an ‘addict’.

But if you’re asking a question about addiction, it shows that you’re worried about your gambling. Perhaps you think of your gambling as a problem you’re not sure how to solve.

Have I got a gambling problem?

It’s sometimes hard to know if your gambling is getting out of hand. A common reaction is to minimise it or deny that it’s causing harm. Some people may hide their gambling or start to lie about how much time and money they are spending on it.

You might say to yourself, “I enjoy this, it’s just my way of relaxing…”, “I’ll stop when I have the next big win…”, “It makes me forget my worries…” or “I can stop whenever I want”. These are all forms of denial.

Perhaps you are:

  • kept awake at night thinking about gambling
  • feeling you’re out of control
  • building up debts you can’t pay
  • betting more than you can afford
  • feeling you can’t talk to anyone about your gambling
  • hiding evidence of your gambling activity.

If you’re worried about your gambling, you’re not alone. People from all walks of life – from sports stars to people you pass every day on the street – sometimes struggle with the time and money they spend gambling.

Check your gambling

Head to gamblershelp.com.au website and they have a quick checklist you can complete to check your gambling.

Why do I gamble?

There are four main reasons why people gamble:

For social reasons – This may be because it’s what a group of friends do when they get together, or because it makes a social gathering more enjoyable.

For financial reasons – to win money, because someone enjoys thinking about what they would do if they won a jackpot, or because winning would change someone’s lifestyle.

For entertainment reasons – because they like the feeling, to get that rush or “high”, or because it makes them feel good.

For coping reasons – for someone to forget their worries, because they feel more self-confident, or because it helps when they are feeling nervous or depressed.

While people can feel motivated by more than one of the reasons above, being aware of why you gamble can be very helpful if you want to change.

Head to gamblershelp.com.au website and they have a quick checklist you can complete to check your gambling.

The effects of gambling

When you think of the effects of gambling, certain things spring to mind. Like financial worries, relationship difficulties and other serious issues.

But you might not be aware of the emotional effects of gambling, which many people experience no matter how much or how often they bet. These effects start off small and often build up, causing stress in our lives.

But they don’t have to. Because if you understand what’s causing stress, you can take the pressure off yourself or help a loved one do the same.

Emotional stress from gambling

Gambling is all about emotions. There’s the fun of winning, the enjoyment of socialising or the familiar routine of some downtime on the pokies.

But there are other emotions too, like stress, regret and a little guilt, which most people feel at some point even if only briefly. It’s easy to forget about this side of gambling but these feelings often build up, even if you’re not gambling very much or very often.

And from there, you can find yourself feeling a little down – often without knowing why. You might be short tempered, easily annoyed or simply stressed. Suddenly, you’re feeling the effects of gambling.

It might not happen straight away, which is probably why many people don’t understand the negative effects of gambling. But it’s worth being aware that gambling is not all about the money. It’s about how it can make you feel and act.

Is my gambling affecting me?

Gambling can affect how you feel, no matter how much or how often you do it. Is that true for you or someone you care about? These checklists may help you answer that question.

  • I celebrate when I win but keep quiet when I lose
  • I think about gambling when I’m not doing it
  • I sometimes feel guilty after gambling
  • I’ve put off doing or buying other things so I can gamble
  • I’ve spent more than intended
  • I’ve snapped at family members or friends over little things
  • I’ve had trouble concentrating at work
  • I sometimes feel regret after gambling
  • I’ve found it difficult to unwind or sleep
  • I’ve been drinking or smoking more than usual
  • On a night out, I miss out on other activities because I overspend on gambling

If any of these are true for you, you could be feeling the effects of gambling. While this doesn’t mean you have a problem, it does mean that when you’re feeling stressed or down, gambling could be the reason.

By keeping this in mind, you can be more aware of the effects of gambling and be more mindful of your gambling choices.

Signs of harm from gambling

Long before it looks like a problem, gambling can be causing harm.

Harm from gambling isn’t just about losing money. Gambling can affect self-esteem, relationships, physical and mental health, work performance and social life. It can harm not only the person who gambles but also family, friends, workplaces and communities. Here are some signs of gambling harm you can look for.

Initial signs of harm:

  • having less time or money to spend on recreation and family
  • reduced savings
  • increased consumption of alcohol
  • feelings of guilt or regret

Advanced signs of harm:

  • relationship conflict
  • reduced work or study performance
  • financial difficulties
  • anger
  • feelings of shame and hopelessness

If left un-checked, these harms can escalate or lead to more severe harms.

Get help and support

Every year Gambler’s Help assists thousands of Victorians with free and confidential advice 24/7. We help people with gambling problems as well as those close to them who are affected by their gambling.

There are many ways to get help – choose the support that suits you. On the phone or online. You name the method, we’re here to help.

What is counselling and how does it work?

Gambler’s Help counsellors provide a safe place for you to feel like you are being heard. During COVID19 isolation, free and confidential counselling services remain available over the phone or online. These sessions are also available to the family and friends of those who gamble.

In this video, therapeutic counsellor, Jake Newstadt dispels some common fears and explains what really happens when you receive counselling through Gambler’s Help.

Also check the related topics:  

Managing Money Money

Factsheet provided by Gamblers Help


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