Problem Gambling

 Gambling Counselling Sydney CBD & St Leonards – Gambling is a popular recreational activity involving people of all ages, gender and socio-economic classes. Forms of gambling include casino gambling (e.g., roulette, black jack), pari-mutuels (e.g. horse races, greyhounds), gaming machines, lotteries and internet gambling.

Reasons that may explain why people gamble include: to escape from painful life circumstances, demonstrating self worth, rebelling, trying to beat the odds, finding relief from boredom, passing time, having fun, modulating negative mood states and finding social acceptance.

Research has shown that 70 to 90% of adults gamble sometime in their lives, but fewer people become problem or pathological gamblers. People’s motivation to carry on gambling despite persistent losses differentiates “social” or “no problem” gamblers from problem gamblers and pathological gamblers. 

 Gambling addiction is a progressive condition. In most people it begins slowly and grows until the gambler loses control. Researchers have identified the progression of gambling as including three phases: the winning phase, the losing phase and the desperation phase. Most problem or pathological gamblers pass through these phases. Individuals who win at gambling during their early stages of gambling involvement will be more likely to continue gambling and experience difficulties related to their gambling involvement.

The Winning Phase

Gamblers experience frequent winning which leaves them with unreasonable optimism that their winning will continue and an attitude that gambling is an easy and quick way of “earning” additional income. This phase contributes to an increasing commitment to gamble, as gamblers feel excited when gambling and increase the amounts of their bets.

The Losing Phase

The longer one gambles, the greater the likelihood of losing. During this phase, gamblers tend to gamble alone, experience prolonged losing episodes, and their home life starts to be effected. They think only of gambling and become more irritable, restless and withdrawn. They begin to chase their losses, believing they must return to gambling as soon as possible to win back their losses. They tend to bet increasing amounts in a belief that higher stakes will yield higher returns in order to recoup losses.Repeated losses pull the gambler further and further behind and usually results in accumulating debts.They gamble their income, savings, or money from investments. They are unable to pay off debts, which leads them to borrow money or start lying to people with whom they have a significant relationship to cover up their losses and hide the extent of the problem.

The Desperation Phase

This phase occurs when gambling becomes an obsession. During this phase, there is a marked increase in time and money spent on gambling. The gambler begins to lose time from work, and becomes isolated from friends and family, and avoids any social occasions that conflict with gambling opportunities. As legal borrowing means are exhausted, the gamblers may borrow illegally or engage in other illegal acts such as stealing money and selling valuables which do not belong to them to finance their gambling. Gamblers may rationalise this illegal behaviour by asserting that they will repay what they have obtained by illegal means when they start winning again. During this phase, gamblers may lose their employment and their relationships. They often experience feelings of hopelessness, suicidal ideation or emotional breakdown.

Do you have a problem with gambling?

• Have you experienced financial, family, or employment difficulties related to  your gambling?

• Are you pre-occupied with gambling?

• Do you gamble more than you intended to?

• Have you felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble?

• Have you been told that you have a gambling problem, regardless of whether or not you thought it was true?

• Have you felt like you would like to stop betting money or gambling but you didn’t think you could?  

• Have you ever borrowed from someone and not paid them back as a result of your gambling?

If you have answered yes to any of the above and would like to talk to someone about your gambling, please call Amicus Counselling and Clinical Psychological Services on 1 800 AMICUS (1 800 264 287) for an appointment.