Gambling AddictionIn Australia and New Zealand, it’s hard to avoid the Melbourne Cup – the office sweepstakes, the media coverage and the long queues at the TAB.

And, sure, for many people, it’s simply a horse race which galvanises people in two nations into enjoying a sport which normally they wouldn’t care two hoots about.

But the heavy focus on the betting surrounding the race highlights the problems many people have with gambling addiction.

And, according to The Australian Psychology Society’s Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 2015, gambling is becoming an increasingly worrying tool that people are using to relieve stress.

The survey revealed an increase in the number of Australians gambling as a form of stress relief compared to four years ago (20% of those surveyed – up 6%), even though the top cause of their stress was their money problems.

“If they often have severe levels of depression or anxiety, generally what they are doing is turning to addictive behaviours,” Australian Psychological executive director, Professor Lyn Littlefield told AAP.

“Really at the time you are doing it, it blots out what you’re worried about… These behaviours don’t solve them, it’s an escape.”

And when it comes to the Melbourne Cup, that escape is combined with normalised social behaviour making it so much easier to form addictive behaviours.

In New Zealand, punters placed more than $10 million on the race, in Australia that figure soars to more than $150 million. And, of course, contributing to this jackpot for the TAB by having just the one bet a year – just like one cigarette a year – isn’t going to do you any harm.

But the glorification of gambling – specifically the proliferation of online gambling – makes it so much more likely that more problem gamblers will be sucked in to the expensive and damaging cycle of chasing cheap, instant highs.

Online betting agencies use big-ticket events such as the Melbourne Cup and the recent Rugby World Cup for relentless promotion activities. And this can make it even more difficult for those who are already battling against addiction to avoid.

The wall-to-wall coverage makes it difficult to avoid the association of gambling with major sporting events and the social pressure which goes hand-in-hand with events which supposedly bring the country together blurs the lines between an addiction and the social norm.

Councillor Martina Winch, writing in Australia, sums it up nicely when she says that “A common question I get asked is ‘but can I still bet on Melbourne Cup day?’ This confusion and social pressure often triggers a relapse for many clients with a goal of abstinence.”

The reasons people turn to addictive behaviour are many – but the behaviour is only ever a short-term relief from the underlying issue or issues. And what’s more, when the addictive behaviour involves gambling (just like alcohol or drugs), then that behaviour is likely to cause greater stress and problems in the long term.

If you think you, or someone you know, is struggling to give up an addiction and need ongoing support, contact Robert Street Clinic or call us on 09 973 5950. We offer affordable counselling in Auckland, with professionals specialised in addiction treatment.