Millions of us love a flutter every now and then. It could be a couple of pounds spent on the Lottery once a week, it could be a bit more on the horses, it could be that we love the slot machines (and there are plenty of them to love). But for some, gambling is addictive. The thrill of winning isn’t tempered by the disappointment of losing, and instead of giving up when the going is good, those who have a gambling problem just continue to pour money into the slots, throw it onto the poker table, lose it on the horses or the dogs or the football or whatever else it is that they like to gamble on.
For most of us gambling is fun. For some of us gambling is dangerous. And when it gets like that and is no longer a once in a while, few pounds kind of a past time…
How do we know when to stop?
The first sign is perhaps the most obvious – you just can’t stop doing it. The people who gamble only for fun, because they like it and not because they’ve lost a load of money that they’re trying to get back, or because they feel a need to gamble, can stop at any time. They know when to fold, to put it in context. But someone with a gambling problem can’t do that. Even if they are spending more money than they can comfortably lose (and even if they really are losing that money), even if they are choosing gambling over being with their families – or at their jobs – it’s impossible to walk away from the table. Or the slot machine. And with the advent of online gambling, the problem can become even worse. More time. More money. All of it gone in an instant. So although it may sound strange, and nigh on impossible, when you can’t stop gambling, it’s time to stop gambling. It’s time to seek help.
Losing More Money Than You Can Afford
And that problem of spending more money than you can lose is another sign that it’s time to stop. People who gamble ‘normally’ use money that they can spare and no more. That’s your lot, that’s it. Once they run out, even if they haven’t won a penny, they can stop whatever game it is they’re playing and go home. They won’t even think about it. Gamblers with a problem will think about it. They’ll think about it so much that it will eat away at them and cause them sleepless nights and worse. They’ll use money that has been set aside for other things such as a holiday, school fees, the utility bills… the rent or mortgage. They’ll put gambling above everything and everyone else. And then, when that money runs out, they’ll borrow. They’ll borrow and then they’ll gamble that away too. If that’s you, it’s time to stop gambling.
If gambling isn’t just a source of entertainment but a way to escape the problems and anxieties of life, then it’s time to stop. Using gambling as a crutch to help with reality is never going to help – it’s just going to make things worse. It’s time to stop.
Another sign that it’s time to stop gambling is that you spend larger and larger amounts of money each time. There is no thrill anymore in a £1 bet, a £5 bet, a £100 bet… It has to be bigger than before in order to give you the same feelings that you used to get with pocket change. That’s a problem. That is a sure sign of addiction.
Finally, if gambling is affecting you physically and emotionally, it’s time to stop. It should only ever be used as a form of entertainment, and entertainment should never hurt or cause upset. It’s meant to be fun. As soon as it stops being fun, it becomes a problem. Especially if it is causing you to become irritable (either because you’ve lost money or because you haven’t had your gambling ‘fix’), lower your ambitions, making you feel remorseful, and making you feel like a failure – which leads to further gambling.
How To Stop
All of these signs suggest it is time to stop gambling. But how? It’s hard. And you’ll most likely need help to do it. The first step is admitting the problem in the first place – that way you can let others in and let them help you. Getting a support network around you (that could include visiting Gamblers Anonymous) will work wonders and immediately make you feel better about it all. But you must also resist temptation, and this is where it starts to get more difficult. Remove the sources of financing – give someone else control over your money – and that will help. But it is also essential that you stay away from casinos and race tracks and any other place where gambling occurs. It is, as they say, for your own good.