Are You a Problem Gambler?

It is worth noting there is plenty of help and support out there for those both concerned about a gambling problem or know of one who may be suffering. Here, we offer you advice from a leading expert within the field and the necessary steps and precautions to take.

Nancy Irwin
Dr Nancy Irwin
Leading Expert

What is a gambling problem and how can I help support someone with one?

If an individual is spending more than they can afford or they are spending more time than usual gambling, it could be time to talk to an expert. A reliable Canadian resource you can turn to is the Responsible Gambling Council (RGC). The RGC are an independent, non-profit agency that dedicate their services and time to help those prevent problem gamblers.

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Early warning signs of a gambling problem

Dr Nancy Irwin shares her opinions on five indicators of someone struggling with problem gambling.

  • Lying: You are hiding your gambling and/or are lying to cover it up. A hallmark trait of any addiction, quite frankly, is keeping it a secret. You've given up enjoying it moderately with others, and feel compelled to engage, knowing others may be concerned. This may be something an individual doesn’t want to hear but is an early sign of problem gambling.

  • Excessive/Obsessive thinking: You find yourself thinking about gambling from the moment you wake up, all the way through the entire day. It is always in the back of your mind. You get "high" with the ritualistic planning, conniving, figuring out when you can be alone or away from those who may catch you in the act and attempt to stop you or just judge you.

  • Cheating on those important to you: You shirk responsibilities, putting your gambling fix ahead of other priorities in life, which could be work or time with loved ones. In the moment of an urge, you pledge your allegiance to gambling before anything else that is important to you.

  • Selfishness: Without knowing, you are spending your savings, or your partners, which will impact others without you thinking about it. You may well try to justify your actions and refuse to see what it’s costing your family, rather than to stop gambling.

  • Irresponsible: You are maxing out your credit cards, which could lead to your credit score plummeting.

Taking action: what measures can an individual do to help themselves?

Cooling off periods, making arrangements with your creditors, setting deposit and withdrawal limits, offering complete transparency with your family about finances, limiting deposit cards, closing accounts, etc., are all excellent techniques. Yet this is superficial if an individual doesn’t address any underlying issues.

It may help if the gambler faces his/her pain that causes this need to "win." Working with a therapist who specializes in addictions, resolving unaddressed trauma, understanding the origins of low self-worth and finding ways to raise it are crucial to maintain financial sobriety.

Gamblers Anonymous is an excellent, free, way to start on this path, and is enough for some folks. Others find it helps in conjunction with psychotherapy. Still others benefit more from SMART Recovery or a life coach. Each path to recovery is unique to the individual.

An individual may well have to expect trial and error in order to find their preferred guidance, but they need to remember that they are worth it. It is also important to create life balance; find meaning and joy in creative pursuits, health and fitness, volunteering, etc. There will be a void when you let go of one habit. Replace it with something that elevates you.

What programs are there to support a problem gambler?

A good starting point we suggest is to go to responsiblegambling.org and explore its many resources to gather as much information around the subject as possible. Whether this is support for yourself or another individual, there is a lot of support out there. If you know of anyone who may be in trouble, there is support out there for everyone.

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