Almost everyone gambles from time to time. However, gambling can become a problem for some people when they have trouble setting limits on the time and money involved. This often leads to financial stress and relationship difficulties. If you’re worried about your gambling, read on to find out more about gambling problems and how you can get them under control.
Do I have a problem with gambling?
Gambling has become a problem if you have trouble limiting the amount of money or time you spend gambling, and this causes problems for you or the people around you. Problem gamblers struggle to control their gambling impulses, even though gambling is having a negative effect on other areas of their life. a step-by-step approach to help you manage day to day stressors so that they don’t seem so overwhelming Some early warning signs that gambling might be becoming a problem are:
- Going to gambling venues alone and more often
- Staying at gambling venues longer than you intended
- Spending more time on gambling than other favourite pastimes or interests
- Gambling every last dollar
- Thinking about gambling every day
- Trying to win back money you have lost with more gambling
- Reaching the point where you no longer enjoy gambling
- Finding it difficult to stop spending too much money on gambling
- Lying to friends and family about your gambling - how much you have spent or not mentioning it at all
- Feeling depressed and having trouble sleeping because of gambling
- Noticing other areas of your life, such as family and work, are being negatively affected by your gambling.
If you think that gambling might be a problem for you and would like to find out more, visit gamble aware balance and control. You can take a short quiz to find out how risky your gambling is, and use the online calculator to figure out how much you’re really spending on gambling.
Why am I gambling so much?
Problem gambling is slightly more common in veterans than the general population. For example, around 4% of Vietnam veterans  have a significant gambling problem, compared to about 2% of other Australians.  People are more likely to have problems with gambling if they have other mental health problems, like posttraumatic stress disorder or depression. Veterans tend to be at higher risk of these other mental health problems than the general community, so that might help explain why they’re also more prone to developing gambling problems. For more information on mental health problems associated with gambling, and their treatment, click on the links in the text above.
What can I do about it?
If you think you might have a gambling problem and would like to start taking steps to get it under control, some of these strategies might help. For some people, these strategies might be all that is needed. For others, they can be a useful addition to getting professional help.
Increasing your motivation to change
It can be useful to think of the pros and cons of your gambling. As with most things, there will be pluses and minuses associated with your gambling, and it can be important to consider these before making any changes. Writing a list of these plusses and minuses is a really good way to help you see the big picture, and will help motivate you to make changes that last.
If you have decided to change, the first big question is whether to cut down or to stop completely. Goals work best if they are specific, achievable, and can be broken into steps. For example, you might decide to “Reduce my gambling to ten dollars in the pokies once a week. I’ll reduce the amount I gamble each day by $5, until I reach my goal.” Once you’ve set a goal, it can help to write it down as a contract with yourself, and tell other important people in your life what you’ve planned.
Monitoring your gambling
By monitoring your gambling, you will learn more about when, where, and why you gamble. Plus it will help you to keep track of your gambling, including how much money you’re really losing, and will be a good reminder that you need to limit your gambling. It is also a good way to monitor your progress towards your goals.
It is really important to reward yourself for maintaining change and exploring alternatives to gambling. Perhaps with all the money you have saved by cutting back you can treat yourself to something you have been wanting to buy (such as a book) or do (like go out to dinner). Also, it is important to consider alternative POSITIVE activities you could be doing instead of gambling (like visiting a friend or doing some exercise).
Improve your general wellbeing
Sometimes people gamble more than they should when they’re worried about other aspects of their life. The tools in the High Res website and app can help you with strategies to solve problems, build social connections, get more active, change the way you think, keep calm and sleep better. In particular, having more social support, getting better at problem solving and learning to manage unpleasant feelings are really important ways of changing your gambling behaviour. Remember that changing any habit is hard work. Stopping gambling for good might take a few goes; you might have the occasional relapse and start gambling again. Don’t give up! Talk to your doctor or counsellor about what happened, and why, and discuss strategies to avoid relapsing in the same way again.
If you’ve tried all of these strategies but are still having problems with anger, you might benefit from getting additional support.
- A GP is always a good place to start when trying to overcome anger problems, as he or she can manage your general health and make referrals for specialists if necessary.
- This website has information on a range of professional care that is available to current and former serving members.
- Gambling Help provides confidential online, telephone and face-to-face counselling. This service is available 24 hours a day; visit the website or call 1800 011 046.
- Relationships Australia provides counselling and support to problem gamblers and their families. If gambling has affected your relationship visit the website or call 1300 364 277.
Issues for partners and families
One of the signs that someone has a problem with gambling is that they lie to their friends and family about how much money or time they spend gambling. This can make it hard to know when problem gambling is an issue for someone you love. Some of the clues you might notice are:
- Money – problem gamblers tend to become secretive about money, and become angry when questioned about the family’s finances. You might feel like money is always short for no reason, or be contacted by creditors or receive disconnection notices.
- Emotions – problem gamblers often feel anxious or depressed, become withdrawn, or have mood swings or sudden outbursts of anger.
- Behaviour – problem gamblers often disappear for long periods or are constantly late without any real excuse. They might start drinking more than usual or become overly defensive about their behaviour.
The relationship and financial difficulties caused by problem gambling are often picked up on by children. You may notice that your child doesn’t want to invite friends over, has trouble sleeping, becomes angry or anxious, has mood swings, or is doing less well in school. It’s important to talk honestly to children about gambling using language they can understand, and let them know you’re trying to sort things out. Encourage them to talk and listen carefully to their concerns.
Once a gambling problem is out in the open, family and partners can play a crucial role in helping the veteran get treatment and supporting him or her through the recovery process. It’s also important to look after yourself while supporting a loved one through a gambling problem and its treatment. Know your limits; decide what you are willing to accept and what you are not. Talk to someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, family member, GP, counsellor, or a support group. You may also wish to talk to a financial counsellor, either with or without your partner or family member. Among other things, financial counsellors can help to put measures in place to protect your assets and ensure that you are not responsible for any further debt your partner or family member may acquire. For information or advice contact Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 or visit Gambling help online.
 O'Toole, B. I., Marshall, R. P., Gson, D. A., Schureck, R. J., Dobson, M., Ffrench, M., . . . Vennard, J. (1996). The Australian Vietnam veterans health study: III. Psychological health of Australian Vietnam veterans and its relationship to combat. International Journal of Epidemiology, 25, 331-339.
- “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”