Is gambling a problem?

Tumbling dice on gambling road sign

Problem gambling is, in many respects, a hidden disorder and many people with the disorder never receive formal treatment for it.  Paradoxically however, psychologist treatments have been shown to be effective for problem gamblers with good and durable resolution and good acceptance by patients once engaged with it.  Further, many problem gamblers have comorbid psychological disorders.  Thus, the pressing issue is effetive case finding in order that appropriate referrals and treatment may be implemented.

What then is the best way to detect problem gambling?  The state government, in conjunction with the Australian Medical Association is incorporating a standard screener into health checks.  Patients will be asked 'have you or anyone in your family an issue with gambling?'.  This simple approach can unblock a reluctance to discuss an important and distressing issue to enable the appropriate referral to take place.  This is a commendable initiative and one that could and should be incorporated into Australian general practice more broadly.  When there is any evidence of psychological distress or disorder, such screening for problem gambling is strongly recommended and indicated.  Problem gambling is an easily missed condition.  There are effective and durable psychological treatments, including Cognitive Behaviour. Therapy and motivational interviewing for problem gambling and all General Practitioners should screen and refer identified cases for psychological treatment.

At any one time, 1% of the adult Australian population satisfy the clinical criteria for problem gambling, a further 4% are at a significant risk.  Problem gambling frequently presents with other serious mental health conditions.  There are several guidelines from the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Medical Association that recommend General Practitioner involvement in screening for problem gambling.  Simple one-item tools are available for that purpose.  General Practitioner screening and referral for problem gambling addresses the currently very low rates of treatment.  Effective and durable psychological treatments are available for the treatment of problem gambling including cognitive behaviour therapy and motivational interviewing.

If you believe you suffer from problem gambling or simply wish to discuss any related issue, arrange a time to consult one of our General Practitioners.  Book online, or phone 9650 4284.