Hesitation to Seek Gambling-related Treatment Among Ontario Problem Gamblers

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This study aimed to examine barriers in seeking help for gambling problems.


A random digit dialing telephone survey was conducted among adults in Ontario, Canada. Respondents meeting criteria for possible past year gambling problems were asked an open-ended question on why they might hesitate once they had decided to seek help.


Of 556 eligible respondents, 47% asserted they would not hesitate to seek help. The most frequently identified possible reasons for hesitation were shame, difficulty acknowledging the problem, and treatment-related issues. Younger gamblers and those with higher problem severity, self-perception of a gambling problem, and past treatment experience were more likely to volunteer shame and treatment-related issues. Gamblers with lower problem severity, no self-perception of a gambling problem, and no history of help seeking more frequently said they would not hesitate to seek help. However, among problem/pathological gamblers, 49% did not self-perceive even a moderate gambling problem; they were more likely than self-perceived problem gamblers in this high severity group to predict no hesitation.


In addition to revealing perceived and objective factors that impede help seeking for gambling problems, the identification of possible barriers may indicate, among some disordered gamblers, awareness of gambling problems and consideration given to possible actions. Both tackling barriers and enhancing problem awareness are necessary components of strategies to provide accessible and timely assistance to those with gambling problems.

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