Gambling is a hobby and pastime that is loved by people worldwide and has been played for thousands of years. For the vast majority of people, gambling is fun and they have no problem with enjoying some slots, casino games or sports betting. However, this is not the case for everyone, and some players may find that they struggle to or cannot control their gambling habits at all. This can then go from a fun game to having a massively detrimental effect on a person’s life and family and friends as they compulsively try to chase losses.
Below, you can find more information about what gambling addiction is, what the signs of gambling addiction are, how you can prevent it and resources and organisations that can help you stop and recover from a gambling addiction.
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What is a Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction is a mental health condition where the addict may suffer from an impulse control disorder. Like other addictions, addicts cannot stop gambling even when it is having a detrimental effect on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Gambling addictions come in different levels of intensity and seriousness, and it is best to deal with signs of a gambling problem as early as possible.
There are three common forms of impulsive gambling including:
- Compulsive gambling – compulsive gambling occurs when the person keeps playing and does not care about the consequences if they win or lose. This personality type will always be looking for more opportunities to gamble, even if they know their budget and bankroll does not allow for it
- Problem Gambling – problem gambling is not as severe as compulsive gambling, but their gambling habits are not 100% under control. This form of addiction still affects their day to day life as they lie to family and friends about their gambling habits and continue to try and chase losses
- Binge Gambling – this is another form of gambling addiction that only appears during specific periods or at certain times. This type of addict may look as though they are in control for most of the time as they can go weeks or months without displaying symptoms. They show symptoms when they do start betting
No matter what stage you are at of gambling addiction, it is important to reach out as soon as possible to get the help you need.
Signs of a Gambling Addiction
Many symptoms can be a sign of gambling addiction. If you or a loved one are displaying any of the following symptoms, you may need to seek help:
- Lying to friends and family about your gambling habits and money lost
- Putting your career, relationship and other opportunities at risk due to gambling
- Having an uncontrollable urge to gamble and always thinking about
- Gambling when feeling depressed, stressed, helpless or anxious
- Constantly increasing the amount you gamble to chase the thrill of the game
- Being irritable when not gambling
- Chasing your loses
- Turning to others to help with money problems caused by gambling
- Repeatedly trying and failing to stop gambling
This is a selection of symptoms to look for in problem gamblers, but many addicts are also very good at hiding when they have a problem. You should always seek professional help to get an accurate diagnosis, and this could be from a therapist or a psychiatrist. Often, a gambling addiction stems from other mental illnesses, and there could be another underlying factor that is driving the problem gambling. A professional will be able to help you worth through these problems.
How to Get Help for a Gambling Addiction
The first step to getting help for gambling addiction is to acknowledge that you have a problem. This could be admitting that you feel your gambling has become a serious issue or friends and family members saying this.
If you feel yourself falling into a gambling addiction, ways in which you can get help include:
- Confiding in a trusted family member or friend about your problem
- Look for other healthy ways to socialise and hobbies that can distract you from gambling
- Stop gambling for an extended period by using the tools at online gambling sites such as self-exclusion
- Think about how you will feel afterwards each time you want to gamble
Resources and Support Groups for People with a Gambling Addiction
If you need help to treat gambling addiction, whether for yourself or a loved one, there are many resources that can assist you. It is best to try a range of options to see which one works best as you may require a range of methods. Here in the UK, the NHS is a fantastic resource and can refer you to many organisations, including:
- GamCare – this is an industry-funded charity offering counselling and advice for problem gamblers. You can reach their helpline on 0808 8020 133
- The National Centre for Behavioural Addictions – this centre houses both the National Problem Gambling Clinic and the National Centre for Gaming Disorders. Those aged 16 or over can be referred to this clinic for help with complex problems relating to gambling
- Gordon Moody Association – this is a charity dedicated to helping people rebuild their lives from gambling addiction through residential courses. Call 01384 241 292 or email [email protected] to get in touch
- Gamblers Anonymous UK – this organisation runs local support groups using the 12 step programme similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. They also provide support for family and friends of problem gamblers
Do not hesitate to contact these organisations if you feel you need help with a gambling addiction.
Ways to Stop Problem Gambling Behaviours
There are various ways in which those with problem gambling behaviours can stop and be rehabilitated. Like any other form of addiction, there is no one size fits all, so you may have to consider trying different treatments to see which one works best for you. Some of the most common gambling addiction treatments include:
Therapy and Counselling
One of the most common forms of gambling addiction treatment is therapy and counselling. Trained professionals can help with counselling, and this has a very high success rate in improving behaviours that lead to gambling addiction. Generally, the treatment will be psychotherapy. Many believe that this form of treatment is so successful because psychotherapy helps to resolve any underlying issues that could be the root cause of the gambling problem. Working through addicts’ mental health issues can help prevent a return to problem gambling over the long term.
Gambling Addiction Organisations
Many great organisations help those suffering from gambling addiction, and when this is combined with therapy, it can have a big impact on peoples’ recovery. You can find the full list of resources and support groups above, but one of the most helpful in the UK is GamCare which offers free information, support and counselling for problem gamblers. They will help those recovering by letting them express the challenges they have faced and their experience with problem gambling with others who have been in similar situations. Even if you are not ready yet to seek therapy and counselling, contacting a gambling addiction organisation is a great first step.
There are no specific medical treatments that stop problem gambling, but some can be used in certain situations to help reduce a person’s urge to gamble. This can include anti-depressants and anti-seizure medication.
The Benefits of Quitting an Unhealthy Habit
Whether it is gambling or any other unhealthy habit such as shopping too much, eating too much and so on, the benefits of quitting are usually very similar. Some of the benefits you are likely to experience by quitting an unhealthy habit include:
- Mental health – any addiction will have a severe impact on a person’s mental health as it will put you under a lot of stress dealing with the fallout of your actions. This has to be taken seriously as it can ultimately lead to depression or even suicide. Resolving an addiction can free you of most mental health worries and bring peace and calm to a previously stressful life
- Finances – one of the most significant impacts an unhealthy habit can have is the effect on your finances. You can end up in major financial difficulties, particularly from a gambling problem. This could lead to losing your home, bankruptcy, legal issues and poverty. Kicking an unhealthy habit means you can avoid this and spend that money in other more beneficial areas of your life
- Relationships – when you combine the finances and mental health consequences of an unhealthy habit, it is easy to see how this could make the relationships in your life suffer too. Not only could does the addict suffer, but so do close family and friends. Breaking the cycle of an unhealthy habit means you can strengthen these relationships and keep loved ones in your life
Do you think you could be suffering from a gambling addiction? Do not wait any longer, and get in touch today with one of the resources listed above. They will be able to diagnose you and put you in touch with people to speak to and organisations that can help you on your journey to breaking your gambling addiction.