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Gambling 101


The Effects of Gambling

Why Cant I Just Stop?

  • How did this happen? I cant believe all the trouble I'm in.
  • If I stop gambling now, Ill have to admit I'm a total loser. There's no way I can pay back all the money I owe.
  • If I had the money to invest, I'm sure my luck would change. I just need one more win.
  • Even if I had another win, I'd probably just lose it again.
  • I can't face this mess alone, but I'm too embarrassed to ask for help.
  • I should be able to solve my own problems. How could I be so stupid?
  • I never thought it would get this bad.

Do these statements sound familiar? Most people with gambling problems say they lost control over how much time and money they spend gambling. Meanwhile, they ignored other responsibilities. They knew they had problems, but only gambling seemed important.

Many people who gamble excessively have mixed feelings about gambling. They know they are causing problems for the people they love. They may become anxious and unhappy, and often hate themselves. But the urge to gamble seems too great to resist. They feel they cant give up on all the time, money and emotion they have put into gambling. They cant accept that they will never win back what they have lost. Some people still believe their system will pay off, their luck will change or they are due to win. Others believe that continuing to gamble is the only way out of a situation they are ashamed about.

Other people promise to quit, but cant. They fear their loved ones will find them out. This drives them deeper into hiding and further into debt. They keep hoping a big win will end their problems. Once in a while they may win, which keeps their hope alive until the losses mount up again. If they quit now, they will feel like a loser. They will have to face all the problems gambling has caused.

If you are like most people who gamble excessively, you may have tried to cut down or stop many times. It is hard to change your gambling on your own. Counselling can help you find long-term solutions to your problems.

Are you wondering if you need help? Fill out this questionnaire and find out! Do You Need Help? Quiz 

Risks and Rewards of Gambling

Many people have mixed feelings about gambling. You may not want to give up gambling. At the same time, you may see it is causing you harm. Mixed feelings like these can be very confusing. Through counselling, you can assess your situation and consider ways to restore balance.

Gambling rewards and risks

You may have mixed feelings about gambling. Perhaps you recognize yourself in statements on both sides of this list:

Rewards

I gamble because:

  • I love the thrill of playing.
  • I know a big payout could solve all my problems.
  • Gambling is my only shot at becoming a millionaire.
  • I feel important when I win. I love being able to treat my family and friends.
  • I have a sure system. It's just a matter of time before I win again.
  • When I am on, I can make money fast and easily.
  • Gambling lets me forget my problems and pain for a while.
  • Gambling is the one thing in my life that is just for me. When I gamble, I'm in control.
  • Gambling gets me out of the house. I feel safe and welcome.
  • All my friends gamble.

Risks

I'm thinking about getting help because:

  • My partner is threatening to leave me if I don't stop.
  • We fight all the time about my gambling.
  • I'm tired of sneaking around, lying and hiding my losses.
  • My reputation has been hurt.
  • Creditors are hassling me. I'm looking at bankruptcy.
  • Gambling is all I ever think about. It has taken over my life.
  • I've stopped caring about things that should be important to me.
  • I've borrowed money from so many people. I feel ashamed to face them.
  • I'm afraid I'll lose my job because I'm always so distracted.
  • My health is suffering.
  • I don't even enjoy gambling most of the time.
  • I feel like such a loser. Sometimes I hate myself so much I want to end it all.

Impact on Families

Gambling problems hurt families in many ways:

Money problems: When family members learn that savings, property or belongings have been lost, it can make them feel scared, angry and betrayed.

Emotional problems and isolation: Gambling problems cause strong feelings among family members, which make it harder to solve problems. Many partners of those with gambling problems do not want to be emotionally or physically close with the person who has hurt them. Family members may avoid other people, because they feel ashamed. This makes it hard to get love and support.

Physical and mental health: The stress of gambling problems sometimes causes health problems, for both the person who gambles and the family. This can include anxiety, depression and stress-related problems such as poor sleep, ulcers, bowel problems, headaches and muscle pains.

Burnout: Many families under stress have trouble coping. One member may try to keep things in control by taking on more tasks. This can lead to burnout. Family members often forget to take care of themselves or to have fun.

Impact on children: When a parent or caregiver has a gambling problem, children can feel forgotten, depressed and angry. They may believe they caused the problem and that if they are good, the problem will stop. Children may believe they must take sides between their parents. They may stop trusting a parent who makes promises he or she doesn't keep. Some children may try to draw attention away from the parent with the gambling problem by misbehaving.

Physical and emotional abuse: Family violence is more common when families are in crisis. Gambling problems can lead to physical or emotional abuse of a partner, elder parent or child. If this is happening in your family, get help right away (see Chapter 5).

Anxiety and Depression

Many people who gamble excessively feel stressed, anxious and depressed. This can make sleeping, thinking and solving problems more difficult.

If you have some of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, making your day-to-day life difficult, you may have chronic depression:

  • You have lost interest in usual activities.
  • You feel depressed, down in the dumps or irritable.
  • Your sleep has changed (e.g., you have problems falling asleep or staying asleep, or you sleep too much).
  • Your appetite has changed. You have lost or gained weight.
  • You feel helpless, hopeless or despairing.
  • It is hard to think and to remember things, and your thoughts seem slower.
  • You go over and over guilty feelings. You cant stop thinking about problems.
  • You have lost interest in sex.
  • You feel physically tired, slow and heavy; or you feel restless and jumpy.
  • You feel angry.
  • You think about suicide.

If you have any of these difficulties, speak to your family doctor or other health care professional (a gambling counsellor can also make sure you get the help you need). Tell him or her about your gambling problems too. Treatment may include medications and/or counselling and other support.

Suicide Risk

Rates of suicide are higher for people who gamble excessively, and for their family members. The people most likely to attempt suicide are those who also have mental health problems (like depression) or who heavily use alcohol or other drugs. People who have threatened suicide or hurt themselves in the past are also more at risk. If you feel suicidal or are making plans to end your life, get help right away. You don't have to deal with your problems alone. For more advice, see the box on this page.

What to do if you Feel Suicidal

If you are thinking about ending your life:

  • Get to your local emergency department immediately.
  • Remove any means for ending your life (e.g., firearms, medications).
  • Let your family or a friend know how you are feeling.
  • Call the local Distress Centre for support and information.
  • Let your doctor know what is going on, including your gambling.
  • Do not drink alcohol or take other drugs as it will make matters worse.
  • Contact the Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline (1 888 230-3505) and arrange to see a counsellor as soon as possible.
  • You can usually be seen within days.
  • Talk to someone you trust, such as a friend or spiritual advisor.

Are you wondering if you need help? Fill out this questionnaire and find out! Do You Need Help? Quiz 

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