Know when gambling or risk taking is impacting your life and those around you.
What is problem gambling?
Many of us gamble from the time to for fun, or as part of a social activity; on the races, the pokies, lotto, a raffle ticket or even the office footy pool. However, gambling can become a problem when we have difficulties setting limits on the time and money involved. This often leads to financial stress and relationship difficulties. International research suggests that military personnel are more likely to struggle with problem gambling than the general population.
There is emerging evidence that people are more likely to have problems with gambling if they have other mental health problems, such as substance use or depression.
When is gambling a problem?
Gambling may become a problem if you are:
- Struggling to control your impulse to gamble.
- Spending more time or money on gambling than you planned to.
- Lying to people about gambling.
- Thinking gambling will fix your financial problems.
- Struggling to pay your bills.
- Prioritising gambling activities over other enjoyable or important activities such as spending time with friends or family, watching your favourite TV show, or working.
- If your gambling is distressing to your whānau.
- Lying or deceiving others about your gambling.
Take the gambling self-assessment and track how you are going.
If you do start out down the self-help path, do not be disheartened if you are not successful, there are a number of places that dedicate themselves to helping people like yourself conquer problem gambling.
Issues for partners and families
One of the signs that someone has a problem with gambling is that they lie to their friends and family about how much money or time they spend gambling. This can make it hard to know when problem gambling is an issue for someone you love. Some of the clues you might notice are:
- Money – problem gamblers tend to become secretive about money, and become angry when questioned about family finances. You might feel like money is always short for no reason, or be contacted by creditors or receive disconnection notices.
- Emotions – problem gamblers often feel anxious or depressed, become withdrawn, or have mood swings or sudden outbursts of anger.
- Behaviour – problem gamblers often disappear for long periods, or are constantly late without any real excuse. They might start drinking more than usual or become overly defensive about their behaviour.
The relationship and financial difficulties caused by problem gambling are often picked up on by children. You may notice that your child doesn’t want to invite friends over, has trouble sleeping, becomes angry or anxious, has mood swings, or is doing less well in school. It’s important to talk honestly to children about gambling, using language they can understand, and let them know you’re trying to sort things out. Encourage them to talk, and listen carefully to their concerns.
When talking to someone about your concerns about their gambling, it is important to be calm, compassionate and concerned, rather than judgemental or punitive. A range of reactions is possible, including shame, anger, denial, or relief that someone is offering support.
Once a gambling problem is out in the open, family and partners can play a crucial role in helping the someone get treatment and supporting him or her through the recovery process.
It’s also important to look after yourself while supporting a loved one through a gambling problem. Know your limits; decide what you are willing to accept and what you are not. Talk to someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, family member, doctor, counsellor, or a support group.
You may also wish to talk to a financial counsellor, either with or without your partner or family member. Among other things, financial counsellors can help to put measures in place to protect your assets, and ensure that you are not responsible for any further debt your partner, or family member, may acquire. For information or advice contact the Gambling Helpline.
One of the most effective treatments is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This approach recognises that the way we think and act affects the way we feel. Treatment can help you to:
- Identify gambling triggers and manage high-risk situations for gambling
- Address thinking habits that contribute to gambling problems
- Learn strategies to face gambling triggers and urges without acting on them
- Plan other enjoyable activities to do instead of gambling.
Below is a list of internet and other written resources that may help you, together with the treatment recommended by your doctor.
- Safer Gambling Aotearoa. Guidance and support for those who gamble, or those who might be concerned about someone else's gambling.
- Gambling Helpline. You can talk to telephone counsellors for free any time on 0800 654 655, night or day, or you can text them on 8006.
- Problem Gambling Foundation call 0800 664 262.
- The Salvation Army Oasis - Reducing Gambling Harm NZ