Problem gambling is treatable and is overcome by many people. The most difficult part of the process is being willing to recognize that there is a problem.
For most people gambling can be a recreational activity that they occasionally enjoy and for some it?s a regular part of their life. While an occasional flutter on the pokies or a bet on the Melbourne Cup is enough for many, for about two percent of Australian adults gambling becomes a major problem that causes untold harm to the individual and their family.
Over the past ten years there has been a growing awareness of the devastating effects of problem gambling. In my experience speaking to groups from all walks of life, about two thirds of people have, at some time, known someone with a gambling problem.
There are three important things to look for with problem gambling. The first is that the person will consistently gamble more than they can afford. This will vary depending on their income but the outward sign is never having any money despite a good income. The second important feature is not being able to control or limit their gambling. The person with the problem is the one who is still gambling when the rest of the group has gone home, or is always gambling alone.
The third indicator of problem gambling is a range of impacts on the person?s life. These will often include depression and a loss of self esteem, breakdown of marriages and other close relationships as well as financial crises with creditors taking legal action. In more extreme cases people face criminal charges for stealing or embezzling to support their gambling. The risk of suicide is also a serious danger for people who suffer the devastating effects of problem gambling. The harder they try to gamble their way out of difficulty, the worse things become.
Problem gambling is treatable and is overcome by many people. The most difficult part of the process is being willing to recognize that there is a problem
Mitchell Brown is a Psychologist at Alpha Counselling Services Five Dock & Eastwood