Problem Gambling: Fact or Fiction Posted On

Sometimes what you don’t know can hurt you. Ignorance isn’t always bliss and there are times when acting (or not acting) on bad information can prevent you from identifying a serious problem.

This is certainly the case with understanding the signs of problem gambling.

There are a number of common myths around problem gambling that are important for us to debunk. It is by separating fact from fiction that we can help keep ourselves and our loves ones safe from a potential problem gambling situation.

FICTION: Having a gambling problem means you gamble every day.

Did you know that a gambling addiction is not defined by the frequency at which someone gambles, but the impact gambling has on his or her life? It’s true.

To be diagnosed as a pathological gambler, an individual must meet five of the ten diagnostic criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association:

  • The individual thinks constantly about gambling
  • The individual increases bets to sustain gambling thrill
  • The individual exhibits agitation when cutting back
  • The individual gambles as an escape
  • The individual chases losses
  • The individual lies to conceal
  • The individual jeopardizes significant relationships
  • The individual relies on financial bailout
  • The individual fails in effort(s) to control or stop gambling

It’s important to note that none of the criteria above relate to the frequency of gambling, but the impact the compulsion to gamble has on a person’s life.

FICTION: I don’t need to talk to my child about gambling.

Whether it’s betting on his or her favorite sports team at lunch, a game of cards on the school bus or a family member giving a child a lottery ticket as a birthday gift – children are exposed to gambling opportunities on a regular basis. A recent article from Time magazine wondered if something as innocent as a trip to Chuck E. Cheese wasn’t enough to glorify the act of gambling in an impressionable mind. With all these gambling messages reaching your child its important parents take the time to educate kids and teens about gambling, problem gambling and how to stay safe.

We talk to kids about safe sex, texting and driving, the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and other hot button issues. Don’t forget to educate them on the consequences of gambling, as well.

FICTION: Problem gambling isn’t a serious addiction like drug or alcohol addictions. If people want to stop, they will.

For most people gambling is a social activity. It’s a form of entertainment and something they do in conjunction with other pastimes, like watching a sporting event or partaking in a weekend card game with friends. But for people with a problem gambling addiction, it’s much more. Gambling becomes a compulsion and something they can’t just stop. They’re driven to gamble just as an alcoholic is driven to drink or a drug addict is driven to find drugs. When left untreated, problem gambling can have the same dangerous consequences as other addictions. Just because there aren’t physical symptoms associated with gambling, doesn’t make the addiction any less serious.

FICTION: Only rich adults who have a lot of free time and money excessively gamble.

Problem gambling affects men, women and adolescents of all ages, ethnicities and income levels. It does not discriminate. Anyone who gambles can develop problems if they are not aware of the risks and do not gamble responsibly. When gambling behavior interferes with finances, relationships and the workplace, it is a sign of a serious problem.

FICTION: The consequences of problem gambling are always obvious to people outside the household.

Problem gambling is referred to as the “hidden addiction” as it has few recognizable symptoms. There are no physical marks, no ingested substances and problem gamblers can go a long time before they or anyone else recognizes a problem. While the consequences may be harder to spot, they are just as serious. Problem gambling can lead to a loss of relationships and possessions, depression, employment and even thoughts of suicide. Over time, gambling alters the person’s mood and the gambler keeps repeating the behavior attempting to achieve that same effect. This creates an increased craving for gambling that grows in intensity and frequency.

FICTION: Gambling can’t be treated.

Problem gambling issues are faced by hundreds of thousands of New York State residents every year, but they can be treated. If you believe your gambling is harming you, or you know someone who is being negatively affected by gambling, there are many agencies and organizations that can help. Our New York State Gambling Support directory can help you find the help nearest to you. Or, you can reach out help through the HOPEline: 1-877-8-HOPENY.

By debunking common myths around problem gambling we can help refocus the conversation and make it easier for everyone to spot problem gambling addictions and seek help when needed.