This is the quick little notice I hear on the multitude of ads that appear on all forms of media, enticing me to bet on horses or the footy. But when does gambling step over the line of “responsibly”, and become a problem?
There is a saying that Aussies would bet on two flies climbing a wall – and it might be true! Gambling can be social, it can bring people together, it brings out a sense of anticipation and the feeling of winning can be second to none. But when does the fun and games end and the potential need for psychologist intervention begin?
When Gambling Becomes a Problem
The answer is going to be different for each individual, but gambling irresponsibly usually occurs when it begins to have a negative effect on that individual. For example:
- Spending more on gambling than they should (not having money to hang out with friends, pay bills or using a credit card that they can’t realistically pay back). This can lead to an over reliance on the next big win to fix the situation, leading to rash decisions.
- Not being as social as usual. This is usually because there isn’t money to go shopping, go to the pub, or buy a concert ticket as it has been spent on gambling – or they are prioritising their time playing poker machines, going to the racetrack, or watching sport on TV, over wanting to hang out with friends. This can lead into a spiral of engaging in gambling to feel connected to something, as other fun and enjoyable activities cease.
- Borrowing money from family or friends that they can’t pay back. This can lead to conflict with others, loss of friendships and/or feelings of shame and guilt.
- Engaging in criminal behaviour such as fraud (using work’s petty cash, duplicating expenses, claiming overtime, not reporting income to Centrelink) or stealing (money out of partner/parents/friends’ wallets, shoplifting to obtain refunds or groceries because they can’t afford any).
Increasingly Easy Access
Gambling has become increasingly easier to access – no longer do we have to go to the TAB or a casino, we can now place bets on a smart phone on virtually any event world wide, all while we go about our daily activities; or we can play virtual poker for real money from the couch.
This means that the image of a “problem gambler” being a down and out person betting their last dollars at a race track, or a person sitting at a poker machine for hours on end, are not truly representative of who may be at risk of gambling seriously affecting their lives. It can affect people of all ages, backgrounds and income brackets. There are no set markers that I can say to watch out for to identify a friend or family member that may be engaging in problematic gambling, but you can watch out for people who seem to be isolating themselves from others, not being able to afford items that they used to be able to afford easily, or lying about how they spent money or borrowing money.
How Can a Psychologist Help?
Speaking with a psychologist can help the individual understand how they came to be in the situation (reliance on gambling), as well as help t identify how to change the behaviour. They may assist with identifying and treating any underlying mental health symptoms or illness that may be contributing to the excessive gambling, or that have arisen due to the effects of gambling. Psychological intervention can help equip the individual with the skills to manage, address and repair any interpersonal issues such as conflict in relationships that have arisen from gambling.
Family and friends of people who are gambling may also benefit from psychological support – to learn how to cope with the destruction that might be going on in their lives, and how to set boundaries so they are no longer hurt by the problem gambler.
Author: Laura Fleming, BA, BSc, Grad Dip Psych, M Psych (Forensic).
Laura Fleming is a psychologist who has provided treatment and assessment reports for clients across the life span, although she has a special interest in adolescents and young adults. Her goal as a Forensic Psychologist is to assist her clients to gain an understanding of why this is occurring currently in respect to their life story, and to help them to develop goals to live a full life.
To make an appointment with Forensic Psychologist Laura Fleming, try Online Booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.