Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction, like all addictions, is often linked to other mental health problems. Addiction problems can sometimes start as a way of coping with feelings that you are unable to manage and deal with in another way.

The BBC reported that calls to The National Gambling Helpline were 29,899 in 2017-18, up from 22,875 in 2013-14.

There are many types of gambling addiction, gambling is not restricted to slot machines, playing cards or visiting casinos. Purchasing a lottery ticket, entering a raffle and making a bet with a friend – these are all forms of gambling.

The reasons why people gamble differ. Some people may feel they have such huge financial problems that can only be resolved by gambling what little money they have in the hope of a big win to change their lives. Unfortunately, in reality, what often happens is the person feels that they need to keep gambling to recoup their losses and the cycle continues.

There is another form of gambling where the person is taking the risks to enjoy the emotional highs that come with perilous behaviour. In order to stop the person needs to recognise they have a problem and be willing change.

What causes a gambling addiction?

There can be many causes of a gambling addiction; the desire to make money, the roller-coaster of high emotions, the social status of being considered as a professional gambler and sometimes the exciting and entertaining factors related to the gambling scene.

Even though sometimes they do win, most gamblers don’t and the win rarely covers the amount of money they have already lost. Most gamblers do not even come close to breaking even.

What are the signs of a gambling addiction?

The signs of a gambling addiction can be the same as for any other form of addition but things to look out for include:

  • Feeling the need to be secretive about gambling
  • Experiencing problems controlling the gambling habit
  • Gambling when you cannot afford to
  • Friends and/or family express concerns about your gambling

As with any addiction, it is the overwhelming feeling that you cannot stop. If you feel that you just want to have one more try or thinking about quitting makes you feel anxious, you should think about talking to your GP in the first instance.

Emotional symptoms

There are many different emotional responses to excessive gambling and these can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal feelings

In extreme circumstances, it may even cause the gambler to trying to take their own life. Losing everything to gambling can be totally devastating and leaves the person feeling hopeless.

Physical symptoms

Excessive gambling can cause depression, anxiety and self-harm in some. Therefore, there can be physical indications of a problem including signs of sleep deprivation which may result in a pale complexion, weight gain or weight loss, skin outbreaks such as acne and looking generally unwell.

Effects of a gambling addiction

A gambling problem can often co-exist with other addictions such as alcohol and/or drugs. Sometimes people turn to using excessive amounts of alcohol or illicit drug taking as this can alleviate the anxiety caused by the gambling. Some turn to using substances to self-medicate to reduce the stress levels caused by the gambling lifestyle.

Getting help

In the first instance, you may want to talk to a close friend or family member. It’s always advisable to make an appointment with the GP to discuss what help is available.

The following websites also provide some guidance and support.

Gamblers Anonymous

The site offers various help for the compulsive gambler including a Forum, Chat Room, Literature and a meeting finder

https://www.gamblersanonymous.org.uk/

GamCare

GamCare is the leading national provider of information, advice, support and free treatment for anyone affected by problem gambling.

https://www.gamcare.org.uk/

National Problem Gambling Clinic

The National Problem Gambling Clinic is part of the national system of treatment provision for problem gambling in the UK. The system includes other providers such as GamCare and The Gordon Moody Association.

https://www.cnwl.nhs.uk/cnwl-national-problem-gambling-clinic/

Beating Addictions

Beating Addictions was formed to offer a unique reference point on how to treat and overcome an addiction.

http://www.beatingaddictions.co.uk/aboutoursite.htm

NHS Live Well

NHS resource with links to other organisations and tips for recovery.

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/addiction-what-is-it/