Gambling addiction

Gambling addiction – also known as “problem” or “compulsive” gambling – is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a mental health disorder that compels sufferers to gamble excessive amounts, despite being aware of the detrimental consequences, yet sadly, feeling helpless to stop. Known to be the most expensive addiction on the planet, gambling addiction has often been linked to suicide. This page will guide you through what gambling addiction is, the signs and symptoms, why it develops and more.

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What is gambling?

Gambling is when a person participates in any activity where they wager money (or something of value) on an uncertain outcome. This can range from activities such as casino games and slot machines – like bandits and poker to attending a betting office and hedging a stake on the outcome of a football game or political vote, and more recently, people have round the clock access to gambling, due to the rise of online betting platforms, apps, and games.

Is gambling addictive?

Gambling can be highly addictive, which is why it’s a good idea for recreational gamblers to always be cautious of their gambling habits. Problem gambling often starts out small but can quickly escalate. Gambling is perhaps the most expensive form of behavioural addiction, as there is no financial limit on how much it can cost: gambling addicts have been known to lose, quite literally, everything they own, including family homes, cars, and savings (thus rendering both themselves and their families destitute). This potential impact can create catastrophic consequences for the person gambling and those closest to them.

Signs of gambling addiction

It can be difficult to spot people suffering from gambling addiction as it is often an invisible illness. Many people start gambling for recreational purposes, and some don’t realise they have a problem until it starts to interfere with their everyday life.

Many people dabble in gambling from time to time, some may do it annually during popular events, such as a famous football game. Some may do it occasionally and some may gamble whilst on holiday. What’s more, some individuals gamble as part of a routine hobby and can keep control of their habits. So how do you know if you or a loved one is gambling for fun or has developed a gambling addiction? Take a look and compare the common signs of gambling addiction vs the characteristics of recreational gambling:

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Gambling for fun

  • You gamble amounts that you know you can afford and are not overly tempted to increase the wager.
  • You don’t conceal your gambling, you share openly with others about your gambling habits.
  • Gambling makes you feel neither increasingly better nor drastically worse- whether you win or lose.
  • You don’t think about gambling when you’re not playing e.g., you don’t think about gambling at work or participating in day-to-day activities.
  • You can take long breaks away from gambling without problems.
  • Gambling has not affected your relationships or work-life in any way. You understand your priorities and gambling is not one of them.
  • You’re in control of your gambling budget and you have not fallen into debt or borrowed loans in order to keep up with your habit.
  • You haven’t lost anything of value through gambling.
  • You’ve not committed any crimes to feed your gambling habit.

Gambling addiction signs

  • You need to gamble with increasingly high stakes to experience the same excitement.
  • You’re telling lies to people close to you about the regularity and/or scale of your gambling.
  • You gamble to make yourself feel better.
  • Your thoughts are dominated by gambling even at very inappropriate times.
  • You have tried repeatedly to cut down your gambling or to stop it altogether but are unable to.
  • You’ve lost an important relationship, job, or place in education because of gambling.
  • You feel irritable when you are unable to gamble.
  • You have got yourself into significant debt as a result of your gambling habit.
  • You’ve lost at least one valuable asset (a car, house, family heirloom etc) purely through gambling.
  • You’ve committed a crime or crimes to pay off a gambling debt or to fund future gambling.

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When does gambling become a problem?

If your gambling has started to have a negative impact on various parts of your life – such as your relationships, your work, and your finances – you have likely developed a gambling addiction. The following signs indicate an addiction to gambling.

  • You need to gamble with increasingly high stakes to experience the same excitement.
  • You’re telling lies to people close to you about the regularity and/or scale of your gambling.
  • You gamble to make yourself feel better.
  • Your thoughts are dominated by gambling even at very inappropriate times.
  • You have repeatedly tried to cut down your gambling or to stop it altogether but are unable to.
  • You’ve lost an important relationship, job, or place in education because of gambling.
  • You feel irritable when you are unable to gamble.
  • You have got yourself into significant debt because of your gambling habit.
  • You’ve lost at least one asset of value (a car, house, family heirloom, etc.) purely through gambling.
  • You’ve committed a crime or crimes to pay off a gambling debt or to fund future gambling.

Why do people get addicted to gambling?

Behavioural addictions work in a similar way to other addictions because it stimulates a surge of dopamine in the brain, in the same way that drugs or food do. Often, a gambling addiction begins after a person experiences a sizeable fortune. Naturally, the person will experience a rush of euphoria and will want to re-create that same sense of excitement, thus causing them to crave more of the high, by placing another bet or upping the stakes (gambling higher amounts of money).

Furthermore, when a person experiences a loss, they’re likely to feel spurred on further and take larger and unrestrained risks in order to eventually win (and experience the dopamine surge) again.

Causes of Gambling addiction

There are lots of possible underlying causes that drive people to gambling addiction. Interestingly gambling figures drastically rose during the pandemic, which indicates that people are tempted to gamble when feeling the following:

  • anxious
  • stressed
  • lonely
  • depressed

The consequences of gambling addiction

Like all addictions, the urge to gamble can possess a person so much that they begin to neglect their job, studies, and loved ones.

If their addiction affects their finances, they can become desolate and lose all their personal possessions. This can have a snowball effect on close family members e.g., if a person loses their home via gambling, their children then become homeless.

A gambling addiction can cause devastating harm to relationships and the stress and guilt of addiction can drive a person to self-harm, engage in dangerous substance abuse, and attempt suicide.

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Gambling addiction statistics in the UK

Within the last year, almost one and a half million people in the UK admit to having a gambling problem, and tragically problem gamblers are more likely to commit suicide than those without a gambling addiction. Moreover, around five million Brits have admitted to having been negatively impacted by a loved one’s gambling addiction. It’s not hard to see how gambling, if not contained, can rapidly spread out and wreak havoc on many lives.

The way out of gambling addiction

The most crucial step towards recovery is acceptance. Once you accept that you’re gambling habits are out of your control, you can take the appropriate steps to combat gambling addiction. If you can, try to confide in a trusted loved one- somebody who can support you through your recovery.

The next step is to seek professional help and support. We at Primrose Lodge understand that addictions arise for many different reasons, and everybody has their own unique story that has brought them to this point. We’ve seen many people hit rock bottom from gambling addiction, but we’ve witnessed many people piece their lives back together and live a good quality of life through rehabilitation and recovery.

Our treatment focuses on counselling therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and individual therapy sessions. Our specialist therapists encourage you to explore any underlying emotional and physical issues that trigger addiction. Plus, you will work with your therapists to develop efficient approaches to prevent future gambling.

If you think you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction to gambling, reach out to us today by live chat or telephone, our team of fully trained support staff is here to help with any questions you have.

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Myths about gambling addiction

Gambling isn’t a problem if you can afford it…

Gambling addiction is a disorder that affects the chemical process in a person’s mind. As with many behavioural addictions, gambling can influence a person’s mind so much that they experience anxiety, depression, and suicide. Furthermore, it can cause an addict to neglect their relationships with loved ones.

Gambling typically affects men…

Women are prone to gambling addictions just as much as men, especially with many online apps and games targeting a female audience. Furthermore, women are less likely to seek help due to the stigma that gambling is wrongly associated with a man’s interest.

Having a gambling problem is for those uneducated or weak-minded…

Gambling addiction can affect people of all levels of intelligence and those from various backgrounds. Mental health disorders, such as an addiction to gambling can strike anyone. Stigmas such as this may prevent someone from seeking out the help they urgently need.

Gambling addictions tend to target the older generations…

Gambling addiction doesn’t discriminate and can affect any age group. Studies have shown that almost two million people gamble whilst at university- which indicates it is an activity that absolutely attracts younger adults.

If a loved one builds up debt through gambling, you should pay it off on the condition that they just stop (without help)…

Many gambling addicts are in denial and feel hopeless to stop by themselves even if they have good intentions to do so. You are not only enabling their addiction by paying off their debts, you will likely set yourself up for disappointment and a breakdown in your relationship.

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