Unhealthy Gambling – How and Where to Draw the Line

No responsible authority involved in any aspect of the industry should shy away from the issue of problem gambling. The simple fact of the matter is that gambling addiction and generally unhealthy gambling habits can and do affect men and women of all ages worldwide.

What many fail to realise is that by overlooking or ignoring the subject, you actually contribute to the problem. It’s only by bringing what can often be a difficult subject out into the open that it can be discussed and addressed responsibly.

Unsurprisingly, one of the most common and important questions regarding unhealthy gambling is that of where to draw the line. At what point does gambling become unhealthy, and when should action be taken?

As we’re all inherently different, it can be difficult to pinpoint specific rules that apply to everyone. Nevertheless, any indication of the following warning signs should be interpreted as an indication that advice and support must be sought:

  1. Preoccupation with Gambling
    First up, there’s a big difference between being interested in gambling and developing an unhealthy obsession. Addicts often find themselves preoccupied with gambling to such an extent they cannot focus on anything else. Gambling is the only thing they care about and the only thing they think about during their waking hours. It’s also typical for those in such situations to get little to no enjoyment out of gambling whatsoever.
  2. Unable to Stop Gambling
    The definition of addiction is the inability to stop doing something you know to be harmful. If you find yourself in a position where you’ve tried to quit a rather advanced gambling habit and consistently failed to do so, you could have an issue that warrants professional support. If you’ve identified you may have a problem, that’s the single most important step in the process. Nevertheless, you may need professional advice to help you successfully quit, or at least cut down on your gambling.
  3. Ignoring the Consequences
    It’s not uncommon for more advanced gambling problems to cause a variety of issues in other areas of life. Family problems, relationship problems, financial difficulties and so on – all of which may take something of a backseat to gambling. For those involved, it can be difficult to both acknowledge and accept such issues where they occur. Where detected however, they typically indicate gambling habits that have spiralled out of control.
  4. Withdrawal Symptoms
    All types of addiction have the potential to cause those concerned to suffer withdrawal symptoms, if the activity or substance in question is removed from the equation. Gambling addiction is no exception to the rule, often leading to feelings of depression, anxiety and restlessness during times when gambling activities are inaccessible. This immediately suggests that the individual in question is no longer gambling because they want to, but because they need to. Hence, the importance of organising a professional consultation cannot be overstated.
  5. Allowing Health to Suffer
    Many of those who develop gambling problems unknowingly allow their general health and wellbeing to suffer as a result. One of the most common examples of which being going without sleep for prolonged periods of time, or only sleeping for short periods to allow more time for gambling. Even if it becomes glaringly obvious that their health is suffering, they may be unwilling or even unable to accept or acknowledge it. Often detected and pointed out by friends and family members, these are the kinds of warning signs that should never be overlooked.
  6. Gambling with Other People’s Money
    One of the few things every responsible gambler worldwide agrees on is the importance of never gambling with other people’s money. This includes not only borrowing money from other people, but also using credit facilities like loans, overdraft and credit cards to gamble. This is a sure-fire recipe for disaster and suggests that the individual in question may have lost control over their habits. To gamble with other people’s money is to confirm a loss of common-sense reasoning, while at the same time suggesting you have no money left of your own to gamble with. In both instances, continuing to gamble by such means could have catastrophic consequences.
  7. Denying There Is a Problem
    Denial typically becomes an issue when the subject is raised by friends or family members. For obvious reasons, it can be extremely difficult to accept and admit that you have a gambling problem. Nevertheless, it’s not until the problem is acknowledged that anything can be done to address it. The problem is that in many instances, problem gamblers genuinely do not believe their gambling habits are harmful, or indeed any real cause for concern.
  8. Chasing Losses
    Last but not least, it isn’t particularly uncommon for gamblers at all levels to occasionally lose sight of common sense and attempt to recoup their losses. However, those with more severe gambling problems may do so to such an extent that they end up in the kind of losing streak they cannot get out of. Anxiety results in increasingly poor decision-making and the problem becomes progressively worse. Chasing losses from time to time doesn’t necessarily confirm a gambling addiction. However, a lifestyle that revolves primarily around chasing losses indicates there is an issue that warrants immediate attention.

Seeking Help, Staying Safe
As far as the experts are concerned, there’s no time too early to speak to a professional if you have even the slightest concerns regarding your gambling habits. At the earliest possible juncture, free advice and support can be provided by the following three authorities, recommended by the NHS.

Gordon Moody Association

The Gordon Moody Association offers residential courses for men and women who have problems with gambling.


GamCare offers free information, support and counselling for problem gamblers in the UK.

Gamblers Anonymous UK

Gamblers Anonymous UK runs local support groups that use the same 12-step approach to recovery from addiction as Alcoholics Anonymous.

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