22 Aug 22

Self-assessment quizzes like the PGSI (Problem Gambling Severity Index) can help you identify a problem with gambling before it gets out of control.

signs of a gambling problem

Sometimes it can be difficult to keep track of how much you are spending on gambling and the impact that the loss of money and time has on you. That can make it confusing to see when you’ve crossed the line from fun, socially acceptable betting and pokies-playing into a level of gambling that might be causing you problems. It can be helpful to check in with yourself to find out if your gambling is ‘normal’ or within the limits you can afford. Are you still enjoying it, or is it causing you more trouble than it is worth?

There are some obvious signs that you might be experiencing problems related to gambling. Experiences like having to borrow money to buy food or petrol, being unable to pay the bills, or having arguments with your partner over money, are very clear signs — but you don’t have to wait for things to get to that level. There are early warning signs that might tell you it’s time to think seriously about how much you are spending on gambling.

Do you find yourself making statements like this?

  • “I only lost $50. I can afford that.”
  • “I only had a few bets. It really wasn’t that many.”
  • “I had to keep up with my mates. Betting together is how we have good time.”
  • “If I am in the club, it would feel odd if I didn’t play the pokies.”

These kinds of thoughts or statements don’t necessarily mean you’re deep in the depths of having issues with gambling, but they do show that when you’re spending your money and time gambling you might be experiencing some things you’d rather not. They are early warning signs that show things could get worse if they continue the way they are going. You might want to pay more attention to whether there are better things to do with your money and time.

How a self-assessment of your gambling behaviour can help

Privately, in our down time, we can think about how we are doing and habits that might be affecting our quality of life and the quality of life of those around us. We think back on our experiences and social selves. Maybe we think about what we’re like when we gamble. Are we the person we share on our social feeds? Do we celebrate ourselves the same way when we are gambling than when we’re not gambling?

These can be good, constructive thoughts, but too often when we’re alone with our thoughts they can get out of control and leave us feeling ashamed. Instead of letting your thoughts about gambling spiral out of control, we recommend checking out some self-assessments:

These assessments are globally recognised and can help you count how much you are gambling, rate the impact gambling is having on your health and relationships, and provide some advice on what your next steps could be depending on your score.

How the PGSI self-assessment works

Our self-assessments ask a series of 9 simple questions, mostly asking you to rate how often you have certain experiences on a scale from never to almost daily. You don’t have to write long answers or reveal any personal details to a stranger. The assessment helps to turn your negative experiences into something you can count, and that can make them easier to understand.

In a way, the assessment kind of lets your more rational self speak to your less rational self when gambling. An effective way of using the self-assessments is to take one now, have a think about how you may change your gambling and then come back in 3–4 weeks (‘they’ say it takes 21 days to change a habit) to take another assessment and see if there is any difference.

What’s next? 

If the self-assessment shows you are facing a problem, there are several paths you can take next. When we help people at Gambling Help Online, we try to make it as easy as possible to help them understand where they stand and find the path they want to take. We provide information on gambling, forums where other people are talking about similar issues, and self-help strategies for those doing looking to do the work themselves.

If you’ve realised you want to make a change but you’re not sure how you want to start, a chat is often a good place to start. Our trained gambling counsellors are here to help you find your path — free, confidential, 24/7. Give us a call on 1800 858 858 or chat to us online.

This blog was adapted from one that originally appeared on Counselling Online.

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