Addiction to gambling is linked to a range of serious personal and social harms such as depression and suicide, bankruptcy, family breakup, domestic abuse, assault, fraud, theft, and even homelessness. These effects can be devastating to the individual as well as their friends, family, workplace or community. That is why the Canada Safety Council considers gambling addiction a community safety and crime prevention issue.
People with gambling problems may cover up or lie when asked where they have been, or where money has gone. This makes problem gambling hard to identify. Families often know something is wrong but not what is wrong.
You could be living or working with a compulsive gambler and not know it until the problems are out of control. Its crucial to recognize the signs and know how to get help.
People who gamble excessively fear their loved ones will find them out, says Robert Murray, Manager of CAMHs Problem Gambling Project. This drives them deeper into hiding and further into debt. They hope against hope a big win will end their problems.
CAMH has devised a simple checklist for the public to take a look at to help determine whether a family member or colleague has a gambling problem. The more clues you see, the more likely that gambling is a problem needing to be addressed:
Is your family member or colleague often late for work or school?
Are they gone for long unexplained periods?
Do they neglect responsibilities, and make excuses?
Have they withdrawn from family and friends?
Do they have mood swings and sudden outbursts of anger?
Is there less money available, even though income has not changed?
Is money missing from the house or from bank accounts?
Are they secretive and bad tempered about money?
Do they have money conflicts with others?
Do they talk about gambling all the time?
Do they lie about gambling?
Counseling is the first step to regaining control of the problems that gambling has caused, and is the best way to find a long-term solution. Free treatment, including counseling, is available to anyone affected by gambling, including family members. A list of gambling help lines across Canada is available at: www.ccsa.ca ; search for gambling help lines.