Problem gambling can be difficult in more ways than one. Aside from constantly dealing with feelings like anxiety, depression, and loss of control, there are many who feel stigmatized and judged for their condition.
In fact, many people living with a problem with gambling say the stigma they face can be harder to deal with than the illness itself. That’s according to Dr. Jamie Wiebe, a speaker at the 2021 National Council on Problem Gambling Conference.
Dr. Wiebe also shared data that reveals that those who struggle with a problem with gambling are often viewed as weak, self-centered, selfish, and irresponsible. As a result, many people struggle in silence.
So how can society shift perspectives when it comes to problem gambling to support those who might be afraid of coming forward to seek help? Below are a few ways you can actively help to destigmatize problem gambling.
Shift your language. When people reframe how they talk about those who struggle with a problem with gambling, they can make the conversation a more tolerant and accepting one. Not talking about those who gamble in a negative or judgmental way also can help people feel safer to openly identify as someone who struggles with problem gambling. It is important to remember that while you might not struggle with a problem with gambling, someone else could and they deserve to be treated with the same level of respect as someone with any other mental health condition.
Understand the difference between problem gambling and responsible gambling. Studies show that people associate problem gambling with responsible gambling when, in reality, they are two very different sides of the same coin. Problem gambling is the inability to stop gambling despite a sincere desire to quit.
Signs of problem gambling can include:
- Spending a great amount of time and money gambling
- Being restless or irritable when not gambling
- Hiding bills and unpaid debts
Responsible gambling, on the other hand, is someone who gambles for fun and in a safe manner. They know not to chase their losses and understand that betting more doesn’t increase their chances of winning, among other behaviors. To learn more about the difference between responsible and problem gambling, visit the education page.
For those who might be struggling with a problem with gambling, BeforeYouBet.org provides education resources, a quiz that gauges the at-risk levels for problem gambling, and more. Ohioans can also access the free, 24/7 helpline today by calling 1-800-589-9966 or by texting 4HOPE to 741741.