ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

Don’t gamble on your mental health

When it comes to gambling, people can sometimes become confused between fun and addiction.  Enjoying gambling doesn’t automatically mean you have a problem—most people go to a casino, play the lottery, or buy scratch-offs at some point in their lives. We all dream of how nice it would be to make it rich quick at the poker table but it’s hard to believe that you could actually make it happen.

So where’s the line? How do you know when a good time is getting out of hand?  Maybe you’ve noticed that you think about gambling a lot, probably more than the others around you. You might be preoccupied with it more frequently than you used to be. You could be spending more and more money on scratch-off tickets. When playing or betting—even if you don’t think you play that often--you might find yourself unable to stop even when you realize its past time to call it quits.   Sometimes people get nervous and start chasing their money.  If you’re down, you might continue betting to try to get back up even though you know it’s not a wise move—or that you’re out of betting money already and are betting with rent money or savings. All of these things are signs of gambling addiction, and they mean you should take a more careful look at your relationship with gambling.

Problem gambling is something that most people think could never apply to them. Gamblers come from all walks of life and the warning signs might be different than what you think. According to The National Council on Problem Gambling (www.ncpgambling.org),  “The essential features are increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, ‘chasing’ losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences. In extreme cases, problem gambling can result in financial ruin, legal problems, loss of career and family, or even suicide.”

If you do decide to go out gambling, here are some tips from choicenotchange.org to help you:

  1. Be honest- It's important that you are honest with yourself about your gambling and the harm it may be causing you or others. This may feel really hard at first but it will help you to move forward in a positive way.
  2. Take note- Some people find keeping a note of how much, how often and who they gamble with helpful as they begin to see patterns about their gambling habits. If you think this would help you, try writing down the time you gamble, the day and date; the place; who you were with; how much cash you were carrying and your net win or loss. Why were you gambling? Did your friends encourage you or were you alone? Were you bored, drunk, angry or stressed?
  3. Budget- In terms of money, set an amount that you can spend on gambling each week and withdraw only that amount. When gambling, take your set amount in cash and leave bank cards at home.
  4. Get help- You may want to talk with a professional or friends and family for support. You can find some resources under “Get Help—Substance Abuse Resources” on the www ifiknew.org website or check out www.jcsbaltimore.org to see our offered therapy services.

While gambling doesn’t have the same health effects as alcohol or other drugs, it can ruin relationships, lead to bankruptcy, and be emotionally damaging to the children of the addict. Realizing that what you thought was a hobby might be an addiction can be scary, but you don’t have to try to tackle it alone. Checking out the resources available is a great first step to regaining precious stability in your life.  Bet on that, instead!

Chris M.