Does the 'ching ching' of the jackpot machine striking gold give you an unrivalled rush, or do you always leave the betting shop desperate for more? Sounds like your gambling may be getting out of control.
Keeping it fun
Not all gambling gets out of hand - it can be (and often is) a fun pastime that you choose to take part in when the mood takes you. Stick to the following 'rules' and you should be able to keep it in perspective:
- Be aware of age restrictions: jackpot machines and higher pay-out cash machines are restricted to over-18s. It is also illegal for under-18s to bet in a shop, gamble in a casino or play bingo in a bingo club. Pools, lottery and scratch cards are restricted to those aged 16 and over.
- Remember, gambling costs money. It is a form of entertainment rather than investment, and the house always wins more than you do;
- Set a strict time and money limit before you start. If you find you can't stick to it, talk to a friend - not being able to stick to limits is the first sign of addiction.
- Quit while you are ahead;
- Don't play unless you can afford to lose the money you are spending;
- If gambling is your only or main interest, you probably have a gambling problem. The best thing to do is to talk to your friends or family about it as gambling problems can develop into serious difficulties.
When it gets out of hand
You love gambling and think you've got it under control, but you don't want it to get out of hand. Sometimes it's difficult to assess just how much you are involved in a situation until it's too late. Try answering the following questions honestly. If you answer 'yes' to more than one question, chances are, gambling may be a problem:
- Have I ever lied about my gambling or lied to get money for it?
- Do I spend more than I can afford on gambling?
- When I lose money, do I want to gamble more to win back my losses?
- Is gambling an escape from the stress and worries in my life?
- Have I ever missed school, college or work to gamble?
- Do I think about gambling when I should be doing other things?
Dealing with it
It's too late for good advice - you've broken all the rules and your habit has spiralled out of control. It's an easy place to end up, but remember that it's not impossible to sort your problems out. Be honest with yourself and others and stop running away from the problem. Whether your gambling has lead to deceit, debt, relationship difficulties or criminal activities, face up to it now and stop it going any further. The problem won't go away on its own, and although talking about it may be difficult, it's the only way to make things right.
Talk to someone you trust. If you can't talk to friends or family, counselling provides a safe, confidential environment for you to explore the reasons why you gamble and why it's got so out of hand. Alternatively, helplines, chatrooms and other online forums like TheSite.org's discussion boards are often favoured because you can talk confidentially to people with similar problems who understand your actions and the problems they have caused.
Take little steps:
- Look for patterns in your behaviour. Do you gamble when you are bored, stressed or under pressure?
- Mark each day that you don't gamble on a calendar so you can see your achievements;Record your feelings in a diary;
- Ask a friend to manage your money for an agreed amount of time, and then review whether you are ready to take back your financial responsibilities when this time is up;
- Be prepared for withdrawal symptoms. Although you are not physically abusing your body, you may still experience depression, shakes and palpitations.
Helping a gambler
When gambling gets out of hand it can destroy relationships in the same way as alcohol or drug dependency. It is estimated that gambling addiction can affect up to 13 people linked to the gambler - so if you think someone you know has a problem, don't shove it under the carpet and hope that it will go away, deal with it now.
Remember that gambling can become a serious problem, and like any other addiction, gamblers can't 'just give up'. Keep encouraging them to stop, but bear in mind that the decision has to come from them, and they could lie to you (and themselves) about their habit. Even if they don't believe they have a problem, make them aware that you think they do, but leave the responsibility for the gambling and its consequences with them. Most importantly, make sure they know that you still love them, even if you have to make a tough decision such as asking them to leave home for a while.
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