March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. It is a time to recognize that gambling is a behavior that, for most people, is recreational and non-problematic, yet can be problematic for others. The reasons why people gamble vary. For example, certain people partake because it provides a social outlet to meet with loved ones and friends, while others participate because it is a fun way to have a little excitement and win money along the way. In other cases, individuals frequent because it serves as an escape or a distraction from everyday life. Most gamblers start out as recreational bettors, as no one anticipates it will become problematic.
When gamblers are unable to control their actions, it is because they are powerless over the addiction. Gambling disorder is a behavioral addiction that creates an uncontrollable urge to continue the destructive behavior despite adverse consequences. In recognition of March as National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, the following sheds light on the magnitude of difficulties problem gamblers and loved ones commonly experience. However, it is necessary to first acknowledge that gambling becomes a problem when it negatively impacts any aspect of a person’s life.
- Relationships/Familial – Often when people are experiencing problems due to gambling it impacts upon their relationships with others closest to them (e.g., loved ones and friends) and can result in separation, divorce, child/domestic abuse, and neglect, among other things.
- Workplace/Employment – Compulsive gamblers do not typically realize how the addiction is interfering in their daily lives. Gambling problems in the workplace result in the loss of productivity, theft/embezzlement, employee turnover, unemployment, legal difficulties, and related complications.
- Financial – Money fuels a gambling addiction and problem gamblers will go to any extreme to gain access to keep the action going and/or to pay off gambling related debts. Financial difficulties lead to credit problems, legal issues, bankruptcies, homelessness, and other significant challenges.
- Legal – When times become desperate, problem gamblers will seek any avenue they can to relieve the pressures caused by gambling. When this occurs, many turn to crime as a last resort, which results in individual and family impacts, and pending on the circumstances, also affects the legal, criminal justice and correctional systems.
- Physical/Mental Health – Frequently, compulsive gamblers will experience an array of physical and emotional difficulties but fail to realize they are related to gambling. Examples include anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, cardiovascular problems, and sleeplessness, which burden individuals, families, the health care system, governments, and insurance companies, who furnish social service supports, unemployment benefits, treatment services, and/or other resources.
- Regulatory/Oversight Costs – Policymakers and regulators have an obligation to put provisions in place to assure that gambling operators are adhering to rules and regulations while implementing adequate protections for consumers.
The good news is recovery from a gambling problem is possible for those who seek help. To learn more about Problem Gambling Awareness Month visit problemgamblingawarenessmonth.org. For help healing one day at a time, contact the Confidential and Multilingual HelpLine by phone, 888-ADMIT-IT (888-236-4848), text (321-978-0555), email (email@example.com), live chat (gamblinghelp.org), use the 888-ADMIT-IT App (https://landing.appypie.com/888-admit-it), or reach out on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.