When does a person start to gamble excessively? How do we know if gambling behaviours are problematic or at risk of becoming so?
This is not an easy question to answer. There are no clear boundaries between a gambler who is in control of his or her game and one who is losing it. However, there are clues that seem to be good predictors of a gambling problem. In isolation, a clue does not mean much. However, the accumulation of these clues should lead a player to make a more serious assessment of the risks of continuing to gamble.
10 Indices of Problem Gambling
Discover the indices of problem gambling, derived from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
Preoccupation or Obsession with Gambling
Gambling is becoming an increasingly important part of the gambler’s life. He or she thinks about it constantly, whether preparing for future bets or gambling sessions. They brood over their losses, imagining the possibilities of recovering them. With social networks, he eventually exchanges with other players who feed his obsession. This “centring” of thought and activities on gambling is done to the detriment of other areas of life (family, friends, leisure activities, etc.).
The player increases his stakes. The excitement of the beginning with small bets no longer works. To get that thrill back, the player increases the stakes. This is not unlike the phenomenon of tolerance observed for products such as cocaine or cannabis. The body gets used to the effects of a drug and the user has to increase the doses to find the desired effects.
Inability to Cut Down or Stop Gambling
Many gamblers sincerely promise to stop or cut down but return to gambling in a rush. This can leave the gambler feeling out of control, often with shame, guilt and anger. Excuses become more frequent and for those close to the gambler, the trust may be shaken.
It is difficult for the gambler to resist the impulse to gamble, and this can lead to stress, anxiety, irritability and impatience. This may be accompanied by dizziness, stomach ache or headache. Once in a play situation, the tension is released.
Playing becomes a way for the player to calm down, to soothe unpleasant sensations. Indeed, when bored or after an argument, the temptation is great to calm the “game” of emotions. The game becomes a short-acting antidepressant; all attention is focused on the game.
The Desire to Remake Oneself
The stubborn gambler is determined to win back his money by returning to the game more often or by increasing the stakes. The longer he persists in gambling, the greater the losses, making the desire to win back the money more intense. This is known as “chasing” the money.
In order to get money from the people around him and to gain their understanding, a gambler in trouble must sooner or later justify his lateness, his absences, his need or his lack of money. Lying stories become an effective and common way to achieve this goal.
The aggravation of a gambling problem sometimes leads a gambler to take illegal means to get the money and to gamble. Although there is guilt, it is relative, as the person is confident that he or she will get the money back and if necessary pay back what he or she has borrowed. Often the relative only learns about the fraud when there is an investigation or conviction.
Loss of an Important Relationship or Job
Gambling behaviour can jeopardize important relationships. Lies, conflicts and gambling problems can even lead to permanent breakdowns: friends no longer talk to each other, couples break up, children rebel, etc. The professional sphere can also be affected: absences, loss of performance, serious faults, etc.
Turning to Others to Avoid Financial Disaster
In order to get out of the difficult situations in which he has become entangled, a player may turn to others. First of all, he or she exhausts the resources of those around him or her (selling the car or furniture, overloading the credit cards, taking out a loan, etc.). He may also turn to loan sharks, which is not without its difficulties when they demand their money.