What is Problem Gambling?
Problem gambling, also known as ludomania, gambling addiction and compulsive gambling presents itself as an uncontrollable compulsion to gamble despite ongoing negative consequences or a desire to stop. The harm which is caused by this gambling is not strictly limited to the gambler themselves, and can extend to the gamblers friends, family or other close ones. In its most severe cases problem gambling can actually be viewed as a clinical problem, should the gambler meet the right criteria. This is a common disorder all over the world which has an immense personal and social cost to both the affected individuals and society at large.
In the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), psychologists have noted that many sufferers exhibit similarities to those with substance addictions. This is helpful in that by identifying this commonality those in the field have managed to increase the effectiveness of their treatment plans, on both side of the issue.
While there is a vocal group who claim that gambling addiction only appears in certain types of games, such as pokies, professionals have determined that any act which follows the general rules of gambling can have an addicting effect.
Fortunately for those suffering from this type of addiction, and for those who have somebody close who is affected, there are many organisations set up to identify when gambling becomes a problem, and lead those afflicted to the necessary help.
How to know if you have a problem
Quantifying and understanding whether you or someone close to you has a problem can be difficult without the right type of help. People tend to under-represent their own addictions, while friends and those close to the affected can both under and over-represent the present dangers.
How, then, can we tell if we or someone close to us has a problem? Thankfully there are many websites and organisations devoted to helping those with problem gambling, most of which can be extremely helpful in some way or another.
The official Gamblers Anonymous website, run out of Los Angeles USA, has an entire section dedicated to 20 questions which can help the user determine whether or not they might have a problem.
For a link to this simple questionnaire you can follow this link here.
The questions included within this form include those such as:
- Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?
- Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?
- Have you ever sold anything in order to finance gambling?
Once the user has clicked either yes or no for all of these options they will be then give some advice and links which prove extremely helpful. For a website more focused on an international reach users can click here to visit, or they can follow this link for the Australian Lifeline link. The Lifeline Australia link also contains details on fact sheets and coping kits, all of which can be extremely helpful in dealing with the issue.
While understanding that you have a problem is an enormous and often very difficult first step, it is only that – a step. From here it's best to go out and seek help. While many of those who suffer from the problem may be inclined to try to tackle the problem themselves it should be noted that success rates rise sharply when this is attempted with outside help, and with a proper support structure.
Each country tends to have its own system in place for problem gambling support. In this case, since we are an Australian website, we will link examples from Australia. If you are in another country a quick and easy way to find the relevant help is by a google search for local problem gambling help, which should direct you to a local page.
For Australian users there are a few links here to the previously mentioned Lifeline site which can prove very helpful. The first is the service finder which can be found here. On this page users from Australia can enter their location data, after which the system will search for the closest available free or low cost health and community centers. These often offer direct help for those who wish to take advantage of their knowledgeable staff and programs.
For those feeling a desperate direct problem rising this section might be more useful. Here the user can chat with staff between the hours of 7pm and 4pm (Sydney Time) for short term support.
For other chat lines Australian users can click here. This section gives links to a couple of other help lines, one of which runs 24 hours a day. The helpful responders on the other end of the line can help talk things through in the short term, and can aid in recommending more long-term actions and treatment for problem gambling.
What about Self Exclusion?
There are tools, for those interested, which work to block access from a computer to gambling websites, much in the same way porn blockers work on minors. There are many different versions of this software available, with Betfilter, Gamban and Gamblock being popular tools within this market. If these programs are too expensive then you can try free programs such as K9 Web Protection. When it comes to blocking off these websites there are a great variety of general website blocking tools which can be found for free with a little google searching and can be modified easily to block off gambling websites.
In many cases these can also be installed on mobile devices in order to protect both the home computer and secondary device access.
Finally we have the blocking tools which are included on many popular gambling websites themselves. While this may only be useful if players have a specific favourite website which they stick to, in this case these programs work perfectly. The problem is that not all gambling websites have the manpower or social interest to create such sections, so there a lot of gambling websites which are not covered. In our casino reviews we tend to list whether or not the casino includes such an area in the Other Services section of our reviews.
There is a lot of shame and stigma attached to addiction of any form. It is important to know that compassion and understanding are infinitely more important and effective for treating addiction than snide or underhanded remarks, or judgments. Problem gambling is something which lives best in the dark, unannounced and unaddressed.
Bringing such topics into the light, to share your problems or the problems of those you care about is to help everyone involved. It might not be easy, and it may not quick, but ultimately only by addressing these issues rather than ignoring them can we make any real degree of progress.
Remember: Firm but compassionate, tolerant but not enabling. The path to well-being is often wrought with missteps and mistakes, but it is only by walking this path that we can truly help ourselves and the people who we care about.