Problem gambling can strain your relationships, interfere with responsibilities at home and work, and lead to financial catastrophe. You may even do things you never thought you would, like stealing to get money to gamble or take money meant for your children. You may think you can’t stop, but problem gambling and gambling addiction are treatable. If you’re ready to admit you have a problem and seek help, you can overcome your gambling problem and regain control of your life.

Understanding gambling addiction and problem gambling

Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones. Gambling is all they can think about and all they want to do, no matter the consequences. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they’re up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Even when they know the odds are against them, even when they can’t afford to lose, people with a gambling addiction can’t “stay off the bet.”

Gamblers can have a problem, however, without being totally out of control. Problem gambling is any gambling behavior that disrupts your life. If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences, you have a gambling problem.

John’s wife has just served him divorce papers. “I don’t know how she can be so selfish”, he says. “Sure I spend a lot of time at the casino, but I am doing it for our family. She doesn’t understand that there are ups and downs in poker. So finances have been a little tight. I just need a little time to get it back. I know how to work the table.” He loves games of skill and action, especially poker, but also can’t stay away from sports betting. “I just get such a rush from a good game. Everyone is pitting their skills against you, and if you bet big you win big”.

After her husband and children are fast asleep, Amy spends hours in front of the computer gambling online. “It’s my time to zone out and escape. Everyone puts so much pressure on me during the day. The time passes so quickly, I look up and hours have gone by.” The family is behind on bills and has been getting threatening calls from collectors on past debts. “I honestly don’t know where the money is going. I really don’t spend that much”. However, her angry husband has found the online gambling losses add up to hundreds of dollars a month. One month it was three thousand dollars.

Myths & Facts about Gambling Addiction and Problem Gambling

MYTH: You have to gamble everyday to be a problem gambler.

FACT: A problem gambler may gamble frequently or infrequently. Gambling is a problem if it causes problems.

MYTH: Problem gambling is not really a problem if the gambler can afford it.

FACT: Problems caused by excessive gambling are not just financial. Too much time spent on gambling can lead to relationship breakdown and loss of important friendships.

MYTH: Partners of problem gamblers often drive problem gamblers to gamble.

FACT: Problem gamblers often rationalize their behavior. Blaming others is one way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, including what is needed to overcome the problem.

MYTH: If a problem gambler builds up a debt, you should help them take care of it.

FACT: Quick fix solutions may appear to be the right thing to do. However, bailing the gambler out of debt may actually make matters worse by enabling gambling problems to continue.

Chris Lobsinger’s Problem Gambling