Know the signs of problem gambling

When a person continues to gamble, despite the fact it is causing financial, marital, family, legal, employment, social, or school difficulties, it is a problem.
Last week’s article depicted an example of how a woman’s gambling behaviour destroyed many aspects of her life, as well as those of others.
That was a true story. She would not have stopped if she had not been forced to. No one in this woman’s life knew that she gambled.
Gambling is described, simply, as playing a game of chance for stakes. It occurs in many forms, such as lotteries, break-open tickets, casinos, sports betting, horse track betting, Bingo, table games, and the stock market.
Pathological gambling is a progressive disease that is devastating to the gambler, as well as everyone who he or she has a significant relationship with.
The American Psychiatric Association identifies pathological gambling as a “disorder of impulse control.” It is an illness that is chronic and progressive. But it also can be diagnosed and treated.
According to Robert L. Custer, M.D., there are three phases identified in the progression of gambling addiction:
•The winning phase
This occurs when gamblers experience a big win, or a series of wins, that causes them to feel (unreasonable) optimism that their winning will continue.
•The losing phase
During this phase, gamblers will brag about their wins, start gambling alone, think more about gambling, and borrow money legally or illegally. They may start lying to family and friends and become more irritable, restless, and withdrawn.
Home life becomes unhappy and they are unable to pay off debts. Gamblers begin to “chase” their losses, believing they must return as soon as possible to win back their losses.
•The desperation phase
During this phase there is a marked increase in the time spent gambling. This is accompanied by remorse, blaming others, and alienating family and friends.
Eventually, the gamblers may engage in illegal acts to finance their gambling.
They may experience hopelessness, suicidal thoughts and attempts, arrests, divorce, alcohol and/or other drug abuse, or an emotional breakdown.
< *c>Signs to look for
There are some signs you can look for that can indicate if someone is having gambling problems:
•preoccupation with gambling or a game;
•spending increased amounts of money;
•losing time at work/school;
•lying or stealing in order to continue gambling; and/or
•only talking about the wins, ignoring the losses
It’s important to remember that problem gambling is easy to hide from others because there are no outward signs.
If the gambler is aware they are experiencing problems, they may increase their effort to hide the negative consequences of their play, therefore even close family or friends may not be aware of problems until they’ve reached a critical point.
< *c>Statistics
•Recent studies report more than half of the adult population in Canada gambles on occasion.
Of that number, only about five percent will develop problems with gambling, however, that amounts to about one million Canadians.
•68 percent of all Ontario adults are lottery players; they’ve played before and plan to again.
•Since opening, the Thunder Bay Charity Casino has averaged more than 2,900 visitors daily.
If you like to gamble remember to:
•Set and keep realistic time and money limits;
•Gamble with money that you can afford to lose;
•Keep the balance between gambling and your other leisure activities;
Don’t always play alone;
•Learn about the game before you play; and
•Remember to keep your priorities (what comes first? Work? Family? Gambling?)
Some of the above information was obtained from Gambling Addiction Services, Thunder Bay, and The Addiction Recovery Organization.
For more information, contact the Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-888-230-3505.

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