By Nico Strydom
Often gambling addiction is not taken seriously enough, but it can have devastating consequences.
“It seems there is a false conviction that gambling addiction does not really exist or isn’t serious enough to justify intervention. However, this could not be further from the truth,” says Dr Mike West, a psychiatrist at Akeso Milnerton.
For many people gambling is innocent fun, but it is essential to be aware of the warning signs of gambling addiction. “When people start losing control over their gambling habits, it can be just as addictive and destructive as drug abuse.”
According to West, people who become obsessive about gambling often cannot acknowledge that they have lost control. “It is often driven by the futile hope of a ‘big win’ to pay off gambling debt or to try and win back money that was intended for other purposes, such as a home loan, but was spent on gambling instead.”
People who gamble on a regular basis should reflect on their relationship with this pastime, says West. According to him, there are seven questions to consider that might be possible warning signs to identify a gambling addiction:
- Do you hide the extent of your gambling habits?
- Do you gamble to escape from your problems?
- Are you beginning to gamble increasing amounts in an effort to make up for losses or to obtain excitement from it?
- Do you feel irritated or even depressed when you aren’t gambling?
- Do you yearn to go gambling or do you think about it often?
- Have you experienced problems at your workplace due to gambling?
- Does gambling affect your relationships with family and friends negatively?
“As soon as an individual becomes addicted to gambling, it becomes increasingly difficult to relinquish this addictive behaviour without professional support. The characteristics of gambling addiction are almost identical to those of drug addiction. Although no longer enjoyable, and despite psychological problems linked to their addiction, people in this situation cannot or will not stop themselves from continuing to gamble.”
According to West, gambling addiction is often accompanied by other mental health problems or substance dependence and a gambling problem is only detected when searching for another condition.
Therapy for gambling addiction can, among others, include counselling, psychotherapy and medication, if necessary.
For help or more particulars about gambling addiction, visit the National Responsible Gambling Programme (NRGP) website at https://responsiblegambling.org.za/ or phone
0800 006 008.