Addiction to scratching games: Our advice

Do you or someone you know have a gambling problem? It is possible to be addicted to scratch games. Explore the warning signs and symptoms and learn how to stop.

What is gambling addiction and compulsive gambling?

Gambling problems can affect anyone, regardless of background. Your gambling can go from a fun, harmless diversion to an unhealthy obsession with serious consequences. A gambling problem can damage your relationships, interfere with work and lead to financial disaster. You may even do things you never thought you would do, such as accumulating huge debts or even stealing money to gamble.

Gambling addiction – also called pathological gambling, compulsive gambling or gambling disorder – is an impulse control disorder. If you are a compulsive gambler, you cannot control your gambling urges, even if they have negative consequences for you or your loved ones. You will gamble, whether you are high or low, broke or on the hunt, and you will continue to gamble regardless of the consequences, even if you know the odds are against you or that you cannot afford to lose.

Of course, you can also have a gambling problem without being completely out of control. Problem gambling is any gambling behaviour that disrupts your life. If you are preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses or gambling despite the serious consequences it has in your life, you have a gambling problem.

A gambling addiction or problem gambling is often associated with other behavioural or mood disorders. Many problem gamblers also have substance abuse problems, unmanaged ADHD, stress, depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. To overcome your gambling problems, you will also need to address these and any other underlying causes.

Even if you feel powerless to stop gambling, there are many things you can do to overcome the problem, repair your relationships and finances, and finally regain control of your life.

Signs and symptoms of addiction to scratching games

Addiction to scratching games is sometimes referred to as a « hidden disease » because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms as there are for drug or alcohol addiction. In addition, problem gamblers usually deny or minimize the problem, even to themselves. However, you can have a gambling problem if you :

  • You feel the need to keep your gambling habits a secret. You may gamble secretly or lie about your gambling habits, thinking that others won’t understand or that you will surprise them with a big win. 
  • You find it hard to control your gambling. Once you start gambling, can you leave? Or are you forced to gamble until you have spent your last euro, increasing your bets to try to win back the money you have lost? 
  • Play even if you have no money. You can play until you have spent your last euro, then move on to the money you don’t have to pay your bills, credit cards or things for your children. You may feel pressured to borrow, sell or even steal things to play for money. 
  • Make your family and friends worry about you. Denial keeps problem gambling going. If your friends and family are worried, listen to them carefully. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Many older gamblers are reluctant to ask their adult children for help if they have gambled away their inheritance, but it’s never too late to make changes for the better.


Self-help for scratch gambling probles

The biggest step in overcoming a gambling addiction is to realise that you have a problem. It takes a lot of strength and courage to admit it, especially if you have lost a lot of money and have had strained or broken relationships along the way. Don’t despair, and don’t try to go it alone. Many others have been in your shoes and have been able to break the habit and rebuild their lives. You too can do this.

Learn how to relieve unpleasant feelings in a healthier way. Do you play when you feel lonely or bored? Or after a stressful day at work or after an argument with your spouse? Gambling can be a way to soothe unpleasant emotions, relax or socialize. But there are healthier and more effective ways to manage your moods and relieve boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t play, pursuing new hobbies or practicing relaxation techniques.

  • Strengthen your support network. It’s hard to fight an addiction without support, so join your friends and family. If your support network is limited, there are ways to make new friends without having to go to casinos or play online. Try getting in touch with co-workers, joining a sports team or book club, enrolling in an education course or volunteering for a good cause.
  • Join a support group. This is a multi-step recovery program modelled on Alcoholics Anonymous. A key part of the program is finding a sponsor, a former gambler who has experienced freedom from addiction and who can provide invaluable advice and support.
  • Seek help for underlying mood disorders. Depression, stress, addiction or anxiety can both trigger gambling problems and be aggravated by problem gambling. Even when gambling is no longer part of your life, these problems will continue, so it is important to treat them. 

How to help someone stop scratch gambling

You may have spent a lot of time and energy trying to stop your loved one from playing or covering up for them. At the same time, you may be angry at your loved one for starting to play again and be tired of trying to continue the charade. Your loved one may have borrowed or even stolen money and not be able to pay it back. He or she may have sold family property or accumulated huge debts on joint credit cards.

If problem and compulsive gamblers need the support of family and friends to help them in their fight to stop gambling, the decision to stop should be theirs. Even if you want to, and even if you see the effects, you cannot force someone to stop gambling. However, you can encourage them to seek help, support them in their efforts, protect yourself and take any discussion about suicide seriously.

4 tips for family members :

  • Start by helping yourself. You have the right to protect yourself emotionally and financially. Don’t blame yourself for the gambler’s problems or let his or her addiction dominate your life. Ignoring your own needs can be a recipe for burnout.
  • Don’t go it alone. It can seem so overwhelming to deal with a loved one’s gambling addiction that it may seem easier to rationalize requests « one last time ». Or you may feel ashamed, feeling as if you are the only one with these kinds of problems. When you ask for help, you will find that many families have faced this problem.
  • Set limits on how much money you can handle. To keep the gambler responsible and to avoid a relapse, consider taking charge of the family finances. However, this does not mean that you are responsible for micromanaging the problem gambler’s gambling urges. Your first responsibility is to make sure that your own finances and credit are not threatened.
  • Think about how you are going to handle requests for money. Problem gamblers often become very good at asking for money, directly or indirectly.
    They may use pleas, manipulation or even threats to get it. Practice is needed to make sure that you do not allow your loved one to become addicted to gambling.

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