What is Problem Gambling?

Problem Gambling is an addiction similar to alcohol, drugs, overeating or other addictive behaviour.
It can and does affect people of all gender, age, income, education, and ethnic backgrounds.

Problem gambling is defined as:
"Gambling behaviour that creates negative consequences for the gambler, others in his or her social network, or for the community."

Since the introduction of electronic gaming devices (Video Lottery Terminals and slot machines) and the changes to casino gambling (i.e. extended hours, types of game) in the early to mid 1990's, incidences of problem gambling have increased in Alberta.

Signs of Problem Gambling

* Feelings of guilt about gambling
* Lying about or hiding evidence to cover-up gambling
* Gambling to escape personal problems
* Betting more than intended or can afford to lose
* Increasing gambling frequency and amount of time spent gambling
* Chasing gambling losses
* Borrowing money or selling items to get money to gamble
* People criticizing gambling behaviour
* Personal or financial difficulties caused by gambling
* Relationships with family, friends and/or employer jeopardized because of gambling
* Feeling irritable or moody when not gambling
* Feeling stressed-out or unable to sleep because of gambling
* Putting gambling before other important life events (family, social or business functions)

Effects of a Gambling Problem

The adverse effects of problem gambling influence more than just the individual gambler.   Research indicates that problem gambling impacts as many as 15 individuals in the gamblers immediate community i.e. family members, friends, employers, and the community as a whole.

For the Individual

  • Mental health issues -depression, anxiety, reduced self-worth, suicidal thoughts, increased alcohol or drug use, etc.
  • Poor Physical health -insomnia, headaches, upset stomach, etc.
  • Lack of Self-care-poor nutrition, problems with sleeping, poor personal hygiene, etc.
  • Social problems – argumentative, strained relationships, alienation, separation, divorce, physical or mental abuse, etc.
  • Financial- loss of income, inability to pay bills, increased debt, bankruptcy, etc.
  • Legal problems – arrests, incarceration (e.g., due to theft, fraud), etc.
  • Issuea at School or in the Workplace - absenteeism, poor grades, decreased productivity, etc.

 For The Family:

  • Being manipulated - into lending money to the person with a gambling problem
  • Financial crisis - a huge financial burden is often put on the family members, sometimes leading to ongoing debt and property loss
  • Lying - covering up and making excuses for the gambler's behaviour
  • Mental and emotional health disorders - such as high levels of anxiety, depression, sadness, anger, resentment, embarrassment, exhaustion and self-doubt
  • Physical health problems - insomnia, ulcers, digestive problems, headaches, and other stress-related health conditions
  • Loss of Self-esteem - feelings of helplessness, being overwhelmed, insecurity and even feeling as though they are responsible for the gambling problem
  • Role imbalance - such as children taking care of the parents, parents overprotecting their children, partners performing all of the household tasks that were previously shared and a lack of sexual and emotional intimacy between partners
  • Verbal or physical abuse - which can lead to arguments, strained relationships, alienation, separation, divorce, loneliness and isolation
  • Poor self-care - sometimes family members are so focused on the person with a gambling problem; they may neglect themselves and their needs

 For friends and co-workers:

  • Being manipulated - into lending money to the person with a gambling problem
  • Lying - covering up and making excuses for the gambler's behaviour
  • Verbal and physical abuse - which can lead to arguments and strained relationships
  • Financial problems - money lent is often not repaid
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