Recognizing a Gambling Addiction: A Practical Guide to Reclaiming Control
A gambling addiction, in professional jargon also known as pathological/compulsive gambling, is a serious issue which has recently been growing in the UK. It is a complex issue that affects individuals across al demographics. Even the most disciplined can suffer from an addiction. A gambling addiction is rooted in the uncontrollable urge to gamble in a self destructing way. An addiction like this can lead to permanent damage in someone’s life, relationships and financial well-being.
A gambling addiction is known for the inability to resist gambling activities despite the losses. People that suffer from an addiction can get stuck in a vicious cycle where stakes and bets get higher and higher, which leads to affecting the mental health and quality of life.
But how can one become addicted? The temptation to gambling online has become wag bigger since online gambling became possible. Nowadays one can gamble everywhere in both land-based casinos and bookmakers as well as online casinos and bookmakers. In addition, people can get lost in the tempting promise of quick financial winnings combined with the gambling industry’s clever marketing strategies.
Now that the digital age is providing way too easy access to gambling, it has become crucial to recognize and address the underlying psychological, social and economic factors that contributes to the development of a gambling addiction. The consequences of problem gambling extends beyond the individual and affect families, communities and society at large, underscoring the importance of comprehensive efforts to reduce the impact of this widespread problem.
Symptoms and signs of Gambling addiction
With almost all addictions, you can tell over time that someone is addicted. With gambling addiction, this is far from always the case. Sure, it does break you down, but it is mainly mental and not necessarily physical. That is why it is called the ‘hidden illness’. So it is important to be able to recognize the signs of a gambling addiction. This way, you can check on yourself if you think you might be a problem gambler or you can keep an eye on someone close to you to see if they are showing symptoms of gambling addiction.
Recognizing the signs of gambling addiction is the first step towards recovery. Common indicators include an inability to control the urge to gamble, continued gambling despite negative consequences, and neglecting responsibilities due to gambling activities. If you identify with these signs, it’s crucial to seek help and take proactive measures to address the issue.
The symptoms below will give you a pretty good idea of what you might suffer from if you have a gambling addiction. Try to be honest and see if you suffer from one or more of these symptoms yourself or if someone close to you suffers from them.
Symptoms of a Gambling addiction:
- Hiding your gambling activities from others
You might keep your gambling behavior secret or lie, deny and minimize about how much you gamble out of shame or feeling others won’t understand you.
- Not being able to control your gambling behaviour
Do you find it difficult to control your gambling behavior? Are you gambling at times and places when you really shouldn’t be? If you can not stop once you started gambling or if you feel the irresistible need to gamble at places like work, you have signs of problematic gambling behavior.
- Gambling more than you can afford
Are you spending more than you can afford to? You might gamble your last euros knowing that you still have to pay the bills this month, you are gambling money that is actually meant for something else or you borrow money, sell things or even steal things/money so that you can gamble.
- Your gambling behavior affects relationships
Your gambling behavior is causing problems with people close to you, such as colleagues, family members, friends, your partner and/or kids.
- You experience mental problems from gambling
Your gambling behavior is affecting your mental health and causes you stress, depression, suicidal thoughts and/or other mental health conditions.
Busting myths about problem gambling and addiction
There are many misconceptions about problem gambling and addiction, which can be extremely misleading for people who suffer from these afflictions.
Myth no. 1: problem gambling is all relative. If you can afford your habit, there is no problem
This is a very common belief, but the fact is the impact of problem gambling goes beyond money. It can cause breakdowns of trust within significant relationships and erode your sense of self-worth.
Myth no. 2: problem gamblers and addicts use gambling to escape bad things in their lives
While this can be true, some addicts and problem gamblers are otherwise very well adjusted and lead normal lives. Problem play really can spring out of nowhere.
Myth no. 3: you have to gamble frequently to become a problem gambler
You can gamble rarely and be a problem gambler. Losing a month’s salary on one punt can certainly be considered a problem.
Myth no. 4: addicts and problem gamblers are all just superstitious and lose because they play badly/play negative expectation games
Sadly, addicts in particular are often perfectly aware that they’re playing against the odds and will continue to bet and lose on negative expectation games.
At the same time, skilled poker players and sports bettors can develop very serious problems when things don’t go their way. Ultimately, losing a lot of money is losing a lot of money, whether or not you think you know what you’re doing.
Our advise for someone with a gambling addiction:
Are you struggling with a gambling addiction and looking for a way out? You’re not alone. Gambling addiction can have serious consequences on your mental health, finances, and relationships. In this guide, we’ll explore practical steps to help you break free from the grips of gambling addiction and regain control of your life.
We have done some research about gambling addictions and the steps below can be really useful.
Read our short guide on what we think you should do when you are suffering from a gambling addiction:
- Seek Professional Support:
Reaching out to a mental health professional or joining a support group can provide the assistance needed to tackle gambling addiction. Therapy, counseling, and support networks can offer valuable insights and coping strategies to manage the underlying causes of addiction.
- Set Realistic Goals:
Setting achievable goals is essential for overcoming gambling addiction. Start by establishing short-term and long-term objectives, focusing on both financial and personal aspects. Breaking down larger goals into smaller, manageable steps can make the recovery process more attainable.
- Self-Exclusion Programs:
Many casinos and online gambling platforms offer self-exclusion programs, allowing individuals to voluntarily ban themselves from accessing their services. Utilizing these programs can serve as a practical barrier, limiting your exposure to gambling triggers.
- Financial Management:
Take control of your finances by creating a budget and setting spending limits. Consider seeking the assistance of a financial advisor to develop a sustainable financial plan. This can help you regain control over your money and prevent impulsive gambling behavior.
- Replace Gambling with Healthy Activities:
Redirecting your focus towards positive and fulfilling activities can be instrumental in overcoming gambling addiction. Engage in hobbies, exercise, or socialize with friends and family to replace the time spent on gambling with activities that contribute to your overall well-being.
- Build a Support System:
Surround yourself with a strong support system of friends and family who understand your struggle and are willing to provide encouragement. Open communication is crucial in fostering understanding and empathy, creating a foundation for lasting recovery.
Am I a problem gambler or do I have a gambling addiction?
When gambling, it is essential to know your limits and play within your means. Failing to do this can be seriously costly – and not just financially. It is also important to be able to identify the difference between problem gambling and addiction.
Problem gambling VS addiction
The first thing to know about problem gambling and addiction is that they are not the same thing. This is because, while all addicts are problem gamblers, however not all problem gamblers are addicts.
Below, we have explained the difference between problem gambling and addiction:
Problem gambling: All it takes to become a problem gambler is to spend more than you can afford to lose. Put simply, if gambling becomes a problem in your life, for any reason, then you have a gambling problem. This could mean you are anxious about how much you spend, or you feel that your losses are out of control. However, this does not mean you are necessarily an addict.
Addiction: Gambling addiction is a form of behavioural addiction. This means that, unlike drinking, smoking, or drug reliance, it does not stem from chemical stimuli. However, the symptoms and characteristics are very similar to substance addiction. Addiction has nothing to do with the size of your losses; rather, it means you are incapable of regulating your play. Addicts are compelled to gamble, and their habit can rapidly consume their lives.
Okay, I think I have a gambling problem, what should I do?
Well done, recognising your own problem is the first and bravest step towards overcoming your condition. There are things you can do for yourself if you have identified an active gambling problem.
Step 1: seek help.
While we all like to think that we can solve our problems alone this is a problem you really need help with. It is nothing to be ashamed of.
If you are based in the United Kingdom, you can access a free addiction helpline through GamCare, who will recommend how to proceed with treatment. Alternatively, if you are not a UK resident, you can visit Gambling Therapy to locate an addiction specialist near you to learn more.
Step 2: inform your loved ones.
The ones you love are there for you when you are at your lowest. They might have already gotten a little suspicious about your gambling behavior or they might have no idea yet. Either way, it is important that you inform your friends/family about your problem so that they can support you whenever you need.
Step 3: engage with your own recovery.
Seeking advice from specialists is only the beginning. You must also be willing to self-analyse, recognise when your problematic behaviour started and identify your personal ‘triggers’ (feelings, locations or people that cause you to gambling unhealthily). There will be a steep gradient at first and you may find yourself enduring unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, but it is important to persevere. Once you have committed to your recovery, you will begin to see how irrational and damaging your prior behaviour was.
Step 4: staying on the right path.
This might sound easier than it in reality is, but you must try and stay on the right path by staying away from everything that triggers your gambling addiction. Once you have your behavior under control, you must continue to rationalise your actions and commit to better, healthier lifestyle choices:
- Think:take steps to prevent problem behaviour before the opportunity arises. Avoid places where you will be tempted to gamble and find things to distract yourself if gambling enters your mind.
- Money:if you have been an addict, it might be advisable to put somebody else in charge of your money so that you will not be tempted to gamble.
- Keep busy:schedule in a lot of enjoyable activities so that you will not fill your down-time with gambling.
- Talk:whatever has happened in the past, do not be ashamed. Be open and honest about your problems and let the people you trust help you avoid relapses.
- Alcohol or drugs: Deal sensibly with alcohol and/or drugs, since these can blur your boundaries and might trigger you to gamble again.
Our advise if you want to help family/friends deal with a gambling addiction
Dealing with your own addiction is hard enough, but if someone you care about is suffering from an unhealthy gambling habit, tackling with the issue can be harder still. Even with the best intentions, you risk doing more harm than good if you broach the subject in the wrong way, but the following steps should set you on the right path:
- Help yourself first:Don’t blame yourself for somebody else’s problem and don’t be afraid to take any necessary financial or emotional steps to protect yourself.
Seek advice: The charities recommended above can also provide advice that will help you aid another person in the event of a gambling habit. Arm yourself with their knowledge and expertise before proceeding.
- Share the load:In addition to experts, approach friends, family and people you trust for advice and support before tackling the issue at hand.
- Remain calm:Try not to become angry with the problem gambler. They need you to be constant and controlled if you are to be any help.
- Don’t sweep anything under the rug:Do not exclude the problem gambler from everyday life and don’t try to conceal their issues from family or friends. If anything, the attention will help them self-determine towards recovery.
- Do NOT provide financial support:Addicts and problem gamblers are very good at asking for money to fund their habit. It is often not their fault, but you could actually inflict more harm by ‘helping them’ with hand-outs.
- Help them help themselves:Recovery has to be self-motivated. Addicts in particular must really engage with their own condition and make a conscious commitment to change.
Overcoming gambling addiction is a challenging journey, but with determination, support, and strategic planning, it is entirely possible. Remember that seeking professional help is a sign of strength, and every step you take towards recovery brings you closer to a healthier, happier life. Break free from the cycle of gambling addiction and start building a future filled with positive choices and renewed well-being.
* Responsible Gambling: Gambling in a responsible way is really important in order to prevent yourself from getting addicted. That is why we have written an article dedicated to responsible gambling.