15 January 2020
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Are You an At-Risk Gambler?

All games of money and chance are risky. Even though most people remain social gamblers, no one is safe from developing problematic or excessive behaviours. According to your habits, you will be able to identify yourself within one or another of these categories :

  1. Social Gambler: Gambling does not cause any problems. You only gamble to have fun. It therefore represents a recreational activity. If it remains like this, then it is a good sign.
  2. At-risk Gambler: Gambling causes some problems and may be the reason for some of the quarrels with your loved ones. Do you feel guilty and at times depressed? Does your gambling often lead to large expenses and debts? There is still time to remedy the situation and avoid the negative impacts it may have on your life and the lives of your loved ones. Do not wait until several aspects of your life are affected by this gambling problem.
  3. Excessive Gambler: Do your gambling behaviours lead to negative consequences in many aspects of your life? Is your gambling obsession about to shatter your relationship? Are you indebted to the point of sometimes living in poverty? Do you feel anxious or think you may be depressed? Do you have suicidal thoughts? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, we are there to support, inform and guide you towards specialized help. Please call Gambling: Help and Referral at 1-800-461-0140. One of our counselors will listen and guide you.

If one of your loved ones exhibits behaviours corresponding to the previous categories, we can also support and refer you towards appropriate resources. Addiction to gambling does not only affect the gambler, but his or her loved ones as well. You are not alone: Call us.

From mere entertainment to deep despair

Social gambler, at-risk gambler or excessive gambler, the primary motivation remains the same: these people start gambling for mere entertainment. For the majority of them, the game will remain a game, whereas for a certain percentage, it could take on worrying proportions. With this in mind, we can identify the four phases prone to lead to a gambling addiction. Fortunately, a gambler with addictive behaviours can, at any moment, become aware of his or her habits and work on them to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Which phase
do you find yourself in?

  1. Social Phase: Do you perceive gambling as secondary without significant appeal? Does it allow you to simply break routine and socialize? Is it a way for you to do something thrilling? Do you view gambling as a form of entertainment or a pastime for when you are bored? In this phase, the balance in your life has not yet been compromised.
  2. Winning Phase: In this phase, gambling is fun and the excitement is at its peak. Have you recently won either a big or a small amount of money? Do you consider yourself a « winner » ? If you feel like you have power and control over the game, it may be a sign that addiction is gradually taking over. Take a breath here because even though you are discovering gambling and are enchanted by it, it may start to have personal meaning for you. Have you ever gambled more than you intended to try to chase losses without being concerned? Do you see gambling as a solution to make «easy money»? It is possible that you do not yet see your gambling habits as problematic. However, it may now be a good idea to question yourself .
  3. Losing Phase: Is there a huge shift presently happening with your gambling? Is it no longer fun to gamble and are you isolating yourself? Has lying become a habit? Are you losing a lot of money and are you regularly borrowing to recoup losses? Is the hope of winning and reliving the initial excitement motivating you to gamble? Are you feeling optimistic and convinced that your «luck» will return? If you believe you will end up winning because you have invested too much to stop, that is an erroneous belief. (Link to Erroneous Beliefs article) Chance never discriminates. You have surely entered the vicious cycle that is a gambling addiction. It is now time to contact a resource able to help you.
  4. Desperation Phase: If you are feeling desperate, maybe gambling has become an addiction. Has your self-esteem severely taken a hit? Even if you have won at times, it remains a losing game since you have already gambled a lot of money. Have you realized that it is no longer possible to win back your money? Do you feel a lot more tired? Has your anxiety increased? Are you always angry? Have depression and suicidal thoughts manifested themselves? Have the warning sirens gone off? Are you now aware that you cannot continue like this and that you have a serious gambling problem? Do not desperately try to recoup your losses. Solutions do exist to help you

It does not only happen to others

Becoming addicted to gambling happens when you least expect it in an insidious fashion. You start by developing behaviours that seem harmless and before you know it, you are knee deep in addiction. The darkest phase of an addiction can occur quicker that we think.

If you are the loved one of someone with a gambling addiction, do not hesitate to ask for support.


Shaffer, Hall and Vander Bilt, 1999

Inspired by the Three Phases of Gambling by psychiatrist Robert Cluster: Custer, R.L. 1980. The Profile of Pathological Gamblers. Washington, DC: National Foundation for Study and Treatment of Pathological Gambling.

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