Gambling addiction, gambling disorder, or compulsive gambling is a behavioral addiction which is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to keep indulging in gambling activities, such as putting a bet on sports, buying scratch cards, engaging in roulette, poker, or slots in a casino, at the track, or online. It is an impulse-control disorder where people continue to gamble despite being up or down, broke or flushed, or even when all the odds are against them. This behavioral addiction also means that addicted people are willing to risk something of immense value in the hope of getting something better than that.
Of course, gambling can be performed without being totally out of control. For example, people usually indulge in gambling to relax or have fun with family, friends, and colleagues. However, it quickly goes from a fun, harmless diversion to an unhealthy obsession with severe consequences.
With regard to that, gambling problems can strain people’s relationships, create problems at work, and lead to financial disaster due to the constant spending of money. And if left untreated, it can negatively impact their physical health and cause mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, migraine, and distress. Feelings of dependency, helplessness, and even suicidal thoughts are common in people with gambling addiction.
In addition, gambling continued to rise globally over the last few years. For example, 24.5 million people in England were found to have gambled in 2018. On the other hand, according to a prevalence study by YouGov in 2020, 2.7% of people in Great Britain were considered problem gamblers. And eventually, it has become a significant public health concern. However, there are plenty of things like receiving gambling addiction treatment and addiction counselling that addicts can do to overcome the problem, repair relationships and finances, and finally, regain control of life.
Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction symptoms are hard to conceal and may display the following behaviours, such as:
- Failing to control your gambling
- Obsessing over gambling
- Lying about your gambling habit
- Selling possessions to gamble
- Gambling to feel better about life
- Avoiding work or other commitments to gamble
- Feeling guilty after a gambling session
- Stealing money to gamble
- Taking bigger and bigger risks while gambling
- Fail to deposit bills and expenses and using the money for gambling
As a result of these symptoms, they may also experience the following consequences, such as:
- Loss of house, car, job, or other possessions
- Disintegrating relationships or friendships
Gambling Addiction Treatment
Though gambling addiction poses severe threats to an individual’s personal and professional life, it can be managed using the right gambling addiction treatment plans. They only need to learn how to balance a healthy relationship with money. Because occasional gambling can lead to a relapse, it is significant to quit the habit. Also, gambling addiction is treated with similar addiction treatment methods, including:
Inpatient Rehabilitation Program
Inpatient rehab is a 24/7 facility where patients are required to stay for a set amount of time. This program is most beneficial for those who need a structured routine or those who find it challenging to stay away from casinos or other gambling venues without help. Also, this gambling addiction treatment program runs for anywhere between 30 days to an entire year.
Outpatient Rehabilitation Program
The outpatient treatment program is another common form of treatment that people with gambling addictions prefer. In outpatient treatment, patients can live at home and attend addiction counselling sessions by visiting the facilities. It is an excellent option for people who don’t want to put their life on hold.
Gamblers Anonymous or other 12-step programs are a helpful breakthrough in gambling addiction treatment. For people who cannot afford expensive or intensive rehabilitation programmes, the 12-step programs are useful. Similar to alcoholics anonymous, GA helps patients build a support network. It allows patients to meet other recovered gambling addicts or those in recovery one or more times per week.
Psychotherapy or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
One primary reason for developing gambling addiction may be rooted in more profound emotional and avoidance issues. Hence, in addition to group counselling and support sessions, one-on-one therapy may also help. Indulging in private addiction counselling sessions with the therapist will help patients discover any underlying issues in order to change self-destructive thoughts and patterns. Addiction counselling will help patients open up and address all their problems.
In severe cases of gambling addiction where underlying mental health conditions might be the root cause, medications can help. For example, antidepressants may be prescribed by doctors to ease anxiety and depression symptoms.
The hardest part of the recovery process for gambling addiction is managing the cash flow. To help with this, patients should try turning over their financial responsibilities to a trusted source, parents or spouse. They should also avoid places triggering the urge to gamble, such as casinos or sporting events.
Like other behavioural addictions, compulsive gambling also needs the courage to stop. Unfortunately, most people won’t admit that they have a gambling addiction due to embarrassment or the fact that many people gamble without developing an addiction. However, overcoming this shame or embarrassment can be your first and significant step toward recovery.
To help with this, gambling addiction treatment methods, including one-on-one addiction counselling, medication, and lifestyle changes, can help. Because if left untreated, gambling addiction can impact everything in your life, from personal and professional relationships and physical and mental health to serious financial issues and social reputation. Effective treatment plans can help you avoid these consequences and mend your relationships through recovery.