According to the Texas Council on Problem and Compulsive Gambling, "problem gambling" is an early stage of the disease, characterized by personal and relationship problems related to gambling. "Compulsive gambling" is the advanced stage and involves behavior that is out of control.
- If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, we would encourage you to consider your potential for "problem gambling."
- If you answered "yes" to 3 or more of these questions, you are involved in "problem gambling."
- If you answered "yes" to 7 or more, you may be a compulsive gambler.
Alternatives to Gambling
For many people, anxiety, depression, or other emotions can trigger gambling urges. Gambling may seem like an easy or fun way to relieve stress, but there are many alternatives that are not associated with negative consequences. Exercise, deep breathing, and meditation can all be helpful in managing these feelings. Relaxation exercises are another great way to lessen anxiety. Check out the section of this website for some simple ways to get started on developing these skills.
What if a Friend has a Gambling Problem?
One of the hardest things about helping people with gambling problems is that they are very likely to deny they have any problem even when it's obvious to people around them. "It's no problem for me. I can quit any time I want." "It's not a big deal. I can cover my debts." "When I'm hot, I win back even more than I've lost." "My friends all bet on college football--it's just for fun."
If you think a friend has a gambling problem, show your concern. Don't avoid the topic. Do avoid lectures and verbal attacks. Don't continue the conversation if you begin to feel impatient or angry. You may encounter defensiveness and denial. Don't take this personally, but make it clear you're concerned and tell the person how his or her gambling behavior affects you. You may have to set limits with the person. Don't be persuaded into excusing, justifying, overlooking, enabling or participating in the person's self-defeating behaviors. Helping a friend pay a debt may seem to temporarily alleviate the problem, but it can actually perpetuate the problem by contributing to a feeling of invincibility that some gamblers develop.
If the person agrees that he or she has a problem, try to:
- Remain supportive and reinforce even small efforts toward change.
- Be prepared for some steps backward as a normal part of the recovery process.
- Help the person make contact with recovering gamblers and organizations like Gamblers Anonymous.
- Encourage activities that are not related to gambling, and curb your own gambling behaviors.
- Educate yourself about problem and compulsive gambling.
Where Can I Find Help?
24-hour Confidential National Helpline: 1-800-522-4700
Consult this site for a list of meetings worldwide. Contact them at 213-386-8789 for more information.
The Austin Chapter of GA will be able to tell you where and when meetings are held locally: 512-860-2958.
Call 512-471-3515 for information on setting up an appointment with a counselor.
CMHC also offers the CMHC Crisis Line: dial 512-471-CALL for a telephone counselor.
A website with additional information on problem and compulsive gambling.
Born to Lose: Memoirs of a Compulsive Gambler by Bill Lee
The compelling autobiography of a man who struggled with gambling in many forms before learning to understand his addiction.
A website with information on a twelve-step program for problem gamblers' spouses, family members, or close friends.
Your First Step to Change is an interactive website to help you gauge the impacts of gambling behavior and consider how to change it.