For many Singaporeans, there is a fine line between gambling as a hobby versus gambling because you are addicted. Here are some key signs you should be aware of to make sure your hobby has not become an addiction.

Singapore’s gambling problem

Gambling in Singapore is a national past time for some people with big casinos a fun place to spend an evening in. However due to the addictive nature of gambling it can quickly develop into a gambling addiction that can wreak havoc on the addict’s finances, personal relationships and mental well-being. Despite Singapore only having two casinos, the number of people admitting gambling addictions and seeking help has been on the rise since they opened in 2010. Perhaps this rise in treatment seekers is due to increased accessibility to gaming venues but it could also be because of the Singaporean government starting to raise awareness about gambling habits, addictions and the negative consequences that come with gambling.

Often the first step in overcoming an addiction is admitting to yourself that you have one. Many people around the world gamble for entertainment or as a hobby and this can unwittingly turn into a habit — making it sometimes hard to believe that what you consider normal behaviour is in fact an addiction. How do you tell whether your habits are normal or healthy?

What is a Gambling Addiction?

A gambling addiction is different to a gambling hobby because there is an addictive element to the action whereby negative feelings or consequences associated with the action become greater than the pleasure derived from gambling. Gambling addictions have many similar features with drug addictions such as problems with mental and emotional health, affecting family, friends and work life, and at the extreme even financial ruin and bankruptcy. Gambling addictions are most effectively treated as a process addiction, which addresses the triggers and reasons behind the urge to gamble and reprogrammes the reward system so that over time gambling itself is no longer enjoyable.

Signs you are Addicted to Gambling

There are many different signs of a gambling addiction and sometimes they can be hard to discern both by the gambler and those around him. However, there is a fine line between a hobby and an addiction so if you relate to any of the following points then it is advisable to seek help from a professional immediately before the problem escalates.

Losing control of your money

Do you ever go into a casino with a budget of how much you plan on spending and end up spending much more, or are unable to stop yourself from betting more money once you start playing? The loss of control when it comes to gambling is a big sign that your gambling habits are spiralling into an addiction. In the most extreme cases some addicts are completely unaware of how much they are betting until they leave the casino and report feeling like someone else was controlling them while in the casino.

Gambling is affecting your relationships

Gambling often creates problems with family and friends, and especially within marriages. Staying out late, money disappearing, stress and frequent lying about activities are all common among gambling addicts who are trying to hide their habit from their spouse or family members. Spending less time with your friends, lying to them or cancelling arrangements in order to spend that time gambling is another common sign that you have a an addiction.

Using gambling as an escape

Using gambling to relax, to de-stress or avoid real life problems is a common sign that the habit is becoming harmful. Quick emotional highs can be achieved through gambling but so can emotional lows and in the longer term more stress, anxiety and depression from losing. Gambling is an easy way to escape reality and can allow you to forget worries and focus purely on the moment but it is rarely a healthy escape and often it becomes an activity to avoid facing real problems.

You think about gambling constantly

At work you are planning your next bets or visit to a casino. At home you spend most your free time thinking about accessing the online poker website after your partner has gone to sleep, or when with friends you are preoccupied with thinking about how to find more money to gamble with. Addictions take up a lot of time and mental energy and if you find yourself thinking about gambling almost daily then it is a strong sign you might have an addiction.

How to Treat a Gambling Addiction

Gambling addictions are often best treated by addressing the triggers and urges that the action creates and stopping the actions completely. In Singapore there has been a rise in people being excluded from entering Singapore’s casinos and in 2015 around 233,500 people submitted their own names for exclusion from entering casinos, actively addressing their own gambling habits and addictions. As well as avoiding casinos, Singaporeans have started to admit their gambling problems and seek help. Between 2012 and 2014 there was a reported 2,700 cases for gambling addictions in government funded rehabilitation centres alone, a rise of 60% compared to previous years. This is partly because the Singaporean government has started to raise awareness about the problems related to gambling and encourages seeking help. The Cabin Singapore has an extremely confidential outpatient programme that is focused on gambling addiction and offers individualised and group therapy. They also offer supplementary family consultations to support your whole family. If you are unsure whether you are suffering from a gambling addiction or not then The Cabin also has a quiz with questions to get you thinking about your habits and behaviour related to gambling. It is also good to speak with somebody about your issues for ease of mind or to help you gain clarity on whether you should seek help.