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When Gambling Becomes a Problem

Online gambling concept with chips and money on laptopBy: Steve Gainey, MA, LLP, ADS, CAADC, EAC Clinical Specialist – If you live in Michigan and watch TV or listen to the radio, I’m sure you have noticed the increase in advertisements for online gambling. You may have even seen several advertisements in a row! If you haven’t heard by now, Michigan has changed the laws for online gambling.

Does this mean more ways to gamble will create gambling problems? No more than if a new grocery store opens in your neighborhood that sells alcohol will cause alcohol issues. If a person is going to gamble, they will. The bigger issue is that it can give easier access to someone. However, many people drink, gamble, eat sweets, etc. and do not have a problem with these activities.

So, what happens when gambling DOES become a problem?

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) – “A gambling disorder involves repeated problematic gambling behavior that causes significant problems or distress. It is also called gambling addiction or compulsive gambling.”

For some people, gambling becomes an addiction. They get many of the same effects as someone with alcoholism gets from alcohol. The gambling creates craving for more. This leads to compulsive gambling. As with other addictions, gambling can lead to relationship issues, financial concerns and work problems. Those with problem gambling issues may hide their behavior and lie to family members and others to cover up the issue.

The DMS 5 (a diagnostic tool to diagnosis many disorders), requires that at least four of the following are present during the past year for those struggling with gambling.

  • Need to gamble with increasing amount of money to achieve the desired excitement
  • Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling
  • Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on or stop gambling
  • Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, and/or thinking of ways to get money to gamble)
  • Often gambling when feeling distressed
  • After losing money gambling, often returning to get even (referred to as “chasing one’s losses”)
  • Lying to conceal gambling activity
  • Jeopardizing or losing relationships, job or educational/career opportunity because of gambling
  • Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling

Just as with alcohol, a person with a gambling problem can experience short or long periods when the above symptoms subside, and gambling does not seem to be a problem.

Treatment for a gambling problem or addiction may include an assessment, individual counseling, support groups, and reading material about recovery.

If you or someone you care about have a gambling problem, there are many resources to help.  One resource is the Michigan Problem Gambling hotline: 1-800-270-7117.  Their website also has links to several screening tools.  The National Council on Problem Gambling is also a helpful resource and will link you to where to get help in the state where you reside.  Additionally, your Employee Assistance Program can help. The counseling is confidential and easy to access. Contact EAC at 1-800-227-0905 or email us at info@eaccares.com for more information on this and other topics. We are here to help!

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