Myths & Misconceptions

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Fact
Problem gamblers might gamble every day, or they might gamble infrequently. Gambling becomes a problem when it causes psychological, financial, emotional, or other harm. If gambling is disrupting the lives of the gambler or the people around them, then they have a gambling problem.
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Most of the time, problem gamblers have a favorite form of gambling that is the source of their problems. Some gamblers will participate in secondary forms of gambling, but in most cases, these secondary sources are not as problematic.
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Financial problems are only one symptom of problem gambling. Whenever gambling interferes with a person's ability to act according to their values, it's a problem. Too much time spent gambling may mean less time spent with loved ones or at work, and this can cause damage to important relationships.
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While problem gambling looks like irresponsible behavior, many people with long histories of responsible behavior are vulnerable to developing a gambling problem. Gambling problems may happen to people of all different backgrounds, ages, and circumstances.
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According to surveys in the United States and Canada, about 10% to 15% of young people have experienced gambling related problems, and between 1% and 6% of these respondants may satisfy criteria for pathological gambling. Children of problem gamblers are at a higher risk of developing problems such as alcohol and drug use, problem gambling, depression, and eating disorders.
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Problem gamblers rationalize their behavior in a variety of ways, including blaming others. This is one way that individuals with a gambling problem avoid responsibility for their actions.
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Money problems are a contributing factor to the end of relationships, but in many cases, the non-gambling partner who ends the relationship points to dishonesty and a lack of trust as the main reason.
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While the parents of a problem gambler likely feel hurt and guilty, they are not to blame for their child's gambling behavior.
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Paying off a gambler's debt may look like the right thing to do. This and other "quick fix" solutions are attractive, but taking care of a gambler's debts may actually make the problem worse by enabling their problem gambling habits to continue.
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Unlike other common addictions such as alcohol and drug use, it's relatively easy for a problem gambler to hide symptoms of their addiction. For this reason, problem gambling is sometimes called the hidden addiction. Often, the person with the gambling problem doesn't recognize their own problem as they engage in self denial. That's why it's important to learn about the signs of problem gambling, and if you recognize a problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER for help.