This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
What do we mean by this?
Say you’ve gone to the races with your mates. You’ve had a great day; the sun was shining, you’ve had a few drinks and shared a few laughs. You’ve also had a few bets, and after the last race of the day, you’ve lost $150.
Take a moment to think about how you feel? Do you feel comfortable with how much you lost in the context of an enjoyable day out with your friends? Perhaps you feel regret, or maybe you feel guilty?
After losing money gambling, a lot of people can regret their actions or feel guilty, regardless of how much money they’ve spent. But does this mean that you have a gambling problem? It depends on what you do next.
At the end of the day
Some of your friends are ready to head home, while others want to head out for dinner and a few more drinks. Do you:
- Join your friends for dinner?
- Go home to rest after a long day?
- Stay at the races to keep betting?
- Join your friends for dinner but continue betting on your phone?
Answering yes to option A or B means that you are able to exercise control over your gambling.
Answering yes to option C or D may indicate that your gambling is out of balance with other activities in your life. Perhaps you could do with some support to put some limits in place.
While most people feel guilty and regret losing their money after gambling, the majority quickly forget about it and move on with their lives. But problem gamblers cannot. They are driven to try and win back their losses, and often end up losing far more money.
What was your motivation?
Still not sure how you feel about your gambling? Let’s take a look at your motivation for going to the races. Was it to:
- Enjoy spending time with your friends?
- Have a fun day out?
- Win money?
- Take your mind off other problems in your life?
Answering yes to either A or B means that you may gamble for a bit of entertainment and to be social. If you gamble for these reasons, it’s likely you know your limits and are gambling responsibly.
Answering yes to either C or D indicates that you may not understand the risks of gambling or may use gambling as an unhealthy coping mechanism. Getting support for this may be useful.
Many people enjoy betting on the races during the Spring Carnival to have a bit of fun and to be social. While almost all people who gamble are hoping to win money, most people realise that they will probably lose and are comfortable with that. If you are not comfortable with losing money, or have unrealistic expectations about winning, you are more likely to feel regret or guilt when you lose. If you gamble to avoid your problems, or out of boredom or loneliness, gambling will, at best, only temporarily distract you from these problems.
What was your game plan?
Still not sure how to feel about your gambling? Let’s take a look at what your plan was for the day. Keeping in mind that you have lost $150, did you originally:
- Set yourself a limit of $150?
- Set yourself a limit of $50?
If you answered A, you were able to exercise control over your gambling and risked a manageable amount of money.
If you answered B, you may have trouble limiting the amount of money that you gamble. This could lead to adverse consequences for you and getting support may be helpful.
While most people who go to the races will lose money, many have an idea beforehand about how much they are willing to lose. When they reach that amount, they stop betting. However, problem gamblers generally do not have the self-control to stop at this point and often end up losing more than they can afford to.
If any of these behaviours sound familiar, you may have a problem with gambling or be at risk of developing a problem at a later stage. Either way, rest assured that help is available. You do not need to be at crisis point before reaching out for help.
Getting help is as easy as visiting the Gambling Help website to access self-assessment tools and advice, or if you would like to talk to someone call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 to speak with a trained counsellor. This service is free, confidential and available 24/7 anywhere in Australia.
Alternatively, having a chat with a trusted friend or family member about your gambling concerns can also help and may greatly reduce the likelihood of you developing a problem.
Remember, whatever your limits are, help is available anytime.