Gambling addiction is a serious problem in the UK with an estimated 0.5% of the population having a gambling addiction (around 246,000 people), and 2.2 million more either problem gamblers or at risk of forming an addiction. Gambling websites have become big business in recent years and, as such, there has been a marked increase in the number of individuals going on to develop gambling addictions.
What is gambling addiction?
Gambling addiction is a behavioural or ‘process’ disorder, referring to the compulsive need to gamble despite being aware of the serious consequences. This is often an uncontrollable urge and is very difficult to quit without professional help.
Gambling addiction can develop very gradually, or it can happen suddenly after a big win or loss. It is often associated with other mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders.
Signs and symptoms of gambling addiction
Gambling addiction is a serious issue that can have devastating effects on many aspects of your life. It is important to know what to look out for and get the treatment you need if you spot any of these signs and symptoms.
Some of the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction include:
- A preoccupation with gambling
- Betting more money than you can afford to lose
- Feeling anxious or irritable when you try to stop gambling
- Lying to family and friends about your gambling habits
- Trying to conceal how much money you are spending on gambling
- Stealing money or borrowing money to gamble
- Missing work or school to gamble
- Neglecting your family or friends in order to gamble
- Inability to control your gambling and being unable to resist placing a bet
- Chasing losses and attempting to recoup lost money
If you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, then it is important to seek help as soon as possible. You don’t have to wait until rock bottom to get the help you need – our team at Sanctuary Lodge can assist you in overcoming your issues around gambling.
Who is at risk of developing gambling addiction?
While gambling addiction can impact anyone, there are certain risk factors that can contribute to the likelihood of this developing. These can include:
- Mental health issues: those suffering from mental health issues may use gambling as a way to escape, or as a way to chase the thrill or happiness associated with winning.
- Age: young people are more at risk of developing an addiction to gambling, especially if they are under 24 years old. This is because the brain is still developing and decision-making ability hasn’t fully formed.
- Gender: men are at a higher risk of developing a gambling addiction due to a higher potential for risk-taking and sensation-seeking.
- Personality characteristics: individuals who are highly competitive or get bored easily are more likely to progress to gambling addiction. Excessive shyness and worrying can also be contributing factors.
- Stress: individuals might gamble as a way to manage stress, for example, relationship or financial stress, or as a result of a traumatic incident.
- Experiencing an early win: those who win big early on are likely to continue chasing the initial thrill they experienced.
- Being unemployed or low income: the promise of big wins can entice those with little funds.
- Easy access to gambling: having a betting shop nearby or an online app on your phone puts you at a higher risk of developing a gambling addiction.
If you are in any of these groups, then it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction so that you take steps to avoid an addiction developing.
How is gambling addiction treated?
Gambling addiction is treated in much the same way as other types of addiction, such as alcohol or drug addiction. The first step is to admit that you have a problem and to seek help from a qualified professional.
There are many different types of treatment available for gambling addiction, but the most effective is inpatient rehab. While this might seem like an extreme measure, rehab is the most effective form of gambling addiction treatment that can help you to change your thinking patterns and behaviours associated with gambling.
Spending time in a gambling addiction treatment centre removes you from the stress of day-to-day life and away from potential triggers, meaning you are much less likely to relapse. During this time, you will take part in a number of different therapies, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), solution-focused therapy, group therapy and mindfulness-based therapies.
Aftercare is another important step in gambling addiction recovery. Joining a local support group and continuing to talk with your therapist will help you to stay on the right path.
Toughest challenges in overcoming a gambling addiction
Unfortunately overcoming a gambling addiction is incredibly tough, and you will be faced with a number of challenges along the way. Preparing yourself for the following challenges is key to helping you conquer them.
Facing the damage gambling addiction has caused to relationships
Admitting to the hurt you’ve caused family members is without a doubt one of the hardest obstacles you will face during gambling addiction treatment. Feelings of guilt, shame and anger can be overwhelming, but with the help of family therapy, you can repair and rebuild the trust that may have been lost and begin to heal.
Dealing with financial damage
One of the toughest challenges in overcoming a gambling addiction is dealing with the financial consequences. This can include debt, bankruptcy and losing your home. While it may seem impossible to escape from the hole you have dug, there is help available and with time, you can get your finances back on track.
Learning how to deal with triggers is a huge part of overcoming gambling addiction. A trigger can be anything that makes you want to gamble, such as walking past a casino or seeing an advert for a new online betting app. Gambling addiction treatment will help you to identify your triggers and form a plan to prevent relapse.
Learning how to deal with emotions without gambling
For many people with a gambling addiction, gambling is a way of numbing negative emotions such as anxiety, sadness or boredom. Learning how to deal with these emotions without resorting to gambling is a key part of gambling addiction treatment. This can be difficult at first, but with the help of a therapist and support group, you can develop healthy coping mechanisms that don’t involve gambling.
Today, gambling opportunities present themselves at every turn, so it is vital that those with a gambling addiction learn coping strategies to help them steer clear. With professional help from counsellors and therapists, you can identify the cause of your addictive behaviour and learn ways to avoid a return to gambling in the future.
Sanctuary Lodge is a leading provider of gambling addiction treatment in the UK and can help you to take back control of your life, regain your freedom and finally feel happy again.