Under normal circumstances, gambling is a fun activity, meant to entertain and excite the 2.1 million players in the UK, who currently enjoy some bingo, lottery, sports betting or casino games. However, at times, and for some currently 350,000 people, gambling has turned into their biggest nightmare. Problem gambling can be more severe than alcohol intake or drug abuse, and when underaged youngsters are involved, the problem is even more critical.
As only 1% of those suffering from gambling problems actually get professional help, it is fair to say that early detection and intervention, by family and friends, is The key to healthy gaming. Recognizing the early signs of compulsive gambling in you or someone dear to you will make a huge difference in the lives of everyone involved!
How To Spot Gambling Problems
Disguised as a simple passion for specific types of casino games, lotteries or sports like football, almost anything can be wrapped up and disguised as a normal weekend hobby, hiding the full nature of the persons gaming habits. People who are about to turn into compulsive gamblers, or who have already crossed that bridge, will do everything in their power to dissimulate when confronted.
In fact, confronting and interrogating a problem gambler is one of the things you are strongly advised against by experts in the field. Instead, you should keep an eye on the following financial and behavioural changes and directly contact a help line when spotted:
- they cannot focus when in class/at work and often “disappear” for no reason during family gatherings
- they are having a hard time when they should stop gambling, intensified when they are on a losing streak as they start to “chase” winnings
- they constantly bring up gambling and it seems that the topic is capturing all of their thoughts OR the complete opposite, they try to behave like they don’t know what you are talking about
- they are acting suspicious and sneaky like they are hiding something
- they borrow money and are always broke, have been caught taking money from the piggy bank, a joint bank account or your own purse or wallet, and eventually often search for, and sign up for, quick online mortgages
- they never come clean about their gambling losses
- they are showing signs of anxiety, depression, mood swings, lack of sleep
These are just a few of the most obvious signs that you would normally see in someone who is gambling too much or whose gambling has gotten out of control.
Don’t Be Afraid to Intervene
Someone who is in the risk zone of gambling addiction will have a difficult time staying away from casinos, lotteries and other forms of gambling. Even in the early stages of gambling problems, the individual will need professional advice, support and help to get out. If left alone, the gambling will start to affect more areas of the gamblers life with risk of losing money, job, friends and family. To get out of a risk behaviour alone is extremely difficult and when gambling is done at a young age, the problem becomes even more severe.
What To Do?
If you suspect someone in your family, work or friend might be showing signs of unhealthy gambling, you should immediately seek support and get advice on how to proceed.
The Gamblers Anonymous website provides you with a self-test you can take on behalf of your friend or relative to further determine the addiction. To get your friend, who denies having any problems with gambling to visit sites like Gamblers Anonymous can be difficult, but there are less stressful alternatives. If you see your friend gambles online, it can be a good opportunity to sit down and convince your friend to do the self-assessment test together on one of those sites. Even if your friend claims he doesn't gamble online, you can still do the test as,it is available directly on the homepages of any licenced online casinos and betting sites, open to everyone, not only account holders.
If this is done regularly and at an early stage, the chances are good your friend will be able to turn around his gaming habits before they turn into a problem.
You should prompt your adult friend to one of the confidential hotlines that are available for gambling addicts all across the UK, or personally get in touch with one of these services on behalf of your underaged son or daughter, if this is the case.
- Gaming addiction support groups and helplines will provide you with the advice and guidance you will need. You will also get to talk to friends and relatives of other gambling addicts and share your experiences for growth.
- You should also make sure all gaming accounts are being closed, online or offline. This must be done with reference to “gambling addiction” in order to prevent them from simply reopen their accounts as soon as you look the other way. Keep in mind compulsive players will often times open several accounts under different names and addresses, so you might have a hard time tracking down each and every one of them. Closing them down will also require some effort, but it's a struggle worth fighting for the helpline professionals will be able to advise on best practice. .
- Attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings together and have them open up to you gradually. It's a slow process that will prove to give results in the long term.
- Learn how to accept the problem and face it together and show your unlimited support and willingness to help. Do not judge or interrogate; it's a real addiction just like drug or alcohol addictions and it should be treated accordingly.
Call GamCare 0808 8020 133