Are you worried that you or someone close to you is addicted to gambling? If so, help is at hand. Here we tell you all you need to know about gambling addiction: the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction, the impact that gambling addiction has on the individual and loved ones, an understanding of why individuals get addicted to gambling, why it is classed as a recognised illness of the mind, why gambling addicts can’t stop even he or she wants to, and more importantly how to access the support and treatment that you or a family member may be in desperate need of.

At Addiction Helper, we take gambling addiction as seriously as we do any other addiction; the effects can be just as damaging. Addiction does not require a substance to be involved in order for it to develop and progress. Gambling addiction is what is known as a process addiction. This means that the individual affected, becomes addicted to an activity, person or ‘thing’ (as opposed to alcohol or drugs). Other examples of process addictions are Sex and Love addiction, Pornography addiction, Co-dependency and Internet addiction. All can be just as devastating and carry serious consequences for the individual concerned and for their loved ones also.

If you or a loved one have a problem or addiction to gambling, please call us now or talk to us via LIVE CHAT for immediate help and advice!

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What Is Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction or compulsive gambling, is a process addiction and an impulse-control disorder. In today’s age of online gambling communities, gambling addiction is becoming increasingly more and more common. Someone who is a compulsive gambler, will not be able to control the urge to gamble. Even when their debts are high and their personal relationships under great strain, they will still gamble, regardless of the possible consequences.

Gambling addiction can take on many forms; whether it be casinos, horseracing or scratch cards, for example; it is the preparation, ritual, anticipation and hope that the individual becomes addicted to. There are many ways to gamble and in today’s society, you can even gamble without leaving the comfort of your own home. An individual that is addicted to gambling will usually have one method that they prefer to stick to, whilst others will literally gamble on anything.

It is not just the individual who is affected by gambling addiction that suffers; their family and loved ones also suffer. It has a far reaching ripple effect; friends, employers, work colleagues and associates can also be gravely affected if the gamblers addiction enters their lives in anyway shape or form. Someone who is a compulsive gambler will go to great lengths to find the money to support their addiction. This can mean stealing from family and friends, taking out loans they are unable to repay, not paying necessary utility bills, re-mortgaging property or selling property, fraudulent activity and other criminal activity. A gambling addict lives in constant fear and dread of being found out. They will do all they can to cover up their addiction with a trail of lies, deceit, secrecy and manipulation. Once a gambling addiction has reached this stage, they have lost all control over their compulsion to gamble, their addiction is in control of them. They are compelled to gamble even when it comes at great cost and loss.

Understand that if you have a loved one who has a gambling addiction, which you are dealing with someone who is very unwell – mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They are not in control of their thoughts, emotions, compulsions or subsequent actions; no amount of begging, pleading or reprimanding them will stop or alter their behaviour. Professional help and treatment is required in order to help them to overcome their addiction.

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Understanding Gambling Addiction and Its Effects on the Brain

Compulsive gamblers are unable to control the urge to gamble, the addiction takes over the individual’s life and eventually destroys it slowly but surely. It is not the actual addictivity that is the problem, but the individual’s addiction to the chemicals that the brain releases whilst participating in the activity. For someone with a gambling addiction, the brain’s “happy” chemical dopamine floods the brain during the preparation of a gamble and the anticipation of a win. There is also a huge increase in production of adrenaline and serotonin. If the outcome is favourable, yet more dopamine is released, producing feelings of excitement and euphoria within the individual. The effects are only temporary and after they have worn off, the dopamine levels crash severely, leaving the individual feeling, anxious, depressed, ill at ease, restless and discontent. These feelings are only relieved by once again indulging in the behaviour that produces the influx of rewarding chemicals in the brain. The brain craves it, and so they are compelled to engage in the activity, that for them produces it in the most abundance.

Gambling Addiction and Dopamine

Dopamine is the naturally occurring organic chemical in the brain that regulates emotions and produces feelings of happiness, contentment and ease. In high levels it produces feelings of euphoria; it is this feeling that gambling addicts crave, which is the same with any process addiction. The more they indulge in the addiction, the more tolerant they become to the levels of dopamine produced; so to gain the same euphoric effects they take bigger and bigger risks. Over time, the brain’s neurological pathways alter to feed the addiction. Once this has happened, they then become hardwired to seek dopamine through the activity that for them produces the most feelings of euphoria. They literally become powerless over their thoughts, obsessions, compulsions and actions.

Addiction is a progressive illness of the brain and is recognised by Public Health England as a “chronic relapsing brain disease”. The image below, demonstrates how the brain is flooded with dopamine with the hope and anticipation of a win. If the outcome is favourable, this is further cemented in the brain with even more dopamine being released – producing feelings of intense excitement and euphoria, it becomes all-consuming in their mind. Gambling Addicts are addicted to the preparation process, placing the gamble, the anticipation and hope of a win and if the outcome is favourable.

Gambling becomes a real problem when the addiction takes over a person’s life, relationships and finances. If you or someone you know has an addiction to gambling that is out of control, it is important to seek immediate help. Even in the early stages of addiction, where there is still some form of control exercised, a lot of pain, misery and damage can be prevented with an early intervention and treatment from experienced professionals.

Please call us today or chat to us LIVE online to find out more about the treatment options available

What Is Pathological Gambling?

When a gambling addiction has reached a certain stage in its progression, whereby the individual is compelled to gamble even when they want to stop and have suffered negative consequences as a result, this is what is medically referred to as “Pathological Gambling”. When gambling has reached this stage, it is very unlikely that the individual will be able to stop of their own accord. This is very much a real disorder of the brain and often requires intensive clinical and psychological intervention and treatment, in order for the individual to make a full recovery. Without the correct treatment, they are compelled to carry on in their destructive behaviours, taking bigger and bigger risks and accumulating more serious negative consequences as a result.

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Sadly for some, the pain, secrecy, deceit and despair are too much to bare and they become deeply depressed and anxious; they may even consider taking their own life as the only way out of the living hell they have become trapped in.

Gambling Statistics in the UK

The Gambling Commission produced the infographics below for the UK; the first is taken from data from four quarterly online surveys conducted during 2015, totalling 8,000 interviews.

97 % of online gamblers, gamble in the comfort of their own home, with 50 % using a tablet or mobile phone device to place a gamble. It further identifies that half of gamblers who use mobile devices to place bets are within the 25-34 year old age bracket. Over time, since the introduction of online gambling, the industry has changed and grown immensely. This is due to the fact that individuals can literally gamble anywhere, at any time, with the use of a device connected to the internet. Gambling online or over the phone has also made it so more accessible and easier to hide from others; as opposed to disappearing for hours at a time down to the local bookmakers, slot machines, casinos or bingo halls.

Currently in the UK, it is estimated that around 350,000 people are suffering from a gambling addiction. This number has vastly increased in recent years, mainly due to the increase in methods now available to enable gambling 24/7 and the huge number of individuals experiencing economical and financial difficulties associated with the global recession. In recent years, over 7 billion pounds is spent on gambling!

The most alarming fact of all is this: according to the NHS, only 5 % of those classed a “problem gamblers” actually seek help for their addiction, with only 1% actually accessing treatment and support.

The second infographic, also released by the Gambling Commission, shows that the age bracket of 45-54 year olds are the most likely to gamble, representing 54% of the 4,000 telephone interviews conducted. 45% of all respondents said that they had gambled in the past 4 weeks, giving an indication of how common gambling is in today’s society.

gambing commission 1 infographic

gambing commission 2 infographic

What Are the Signs, Symptoms and Risks of Gambling?

Gambling addiction is very much a secretive illness, as there are no obvious physical effects unlike an addiction to drugs or alcohol. The main outward symptom of compulsive gambling is on the addict’s finances and even the finances of those they are close with. They continue to gamble, no matter how broke or flush they are. Gambling addicts become preoccupied with gambling and will place it in front of their close personal relationships with family and friends, their responsibilities, their mental and emotional health, their physical health which they start to neglect, and their own moral code of conduct (i.e. not stealing, lying or cheating). They may stay out all night at a casino or stay up all night on their computer. They may start stealing to pay for their addiction. Gambling addiction can have a devastating effect the family. In the worst case scenario, a compulsive gambler may consider – or commit – suicide as a result of gambling-induced debts and the fear, guilt and shame that they bring.

With a gambling addiction, there are some definite signs and symptoms to look out for that would indicate that you or a loved one have a problem with gambling:

  • Increased risk taking with gambling
  • Loss of interest in other things such as family, work, hobbies and a social life
  • Low self-esteem and self-worth
  • Feelings of depression, anxiety, paranoia and panic
  • Chasing the belief that a big win will resolve everything
  • Lying to others or blaming others to cover up gambling
  • Borrowing money and not being able to repay it
  • Stealing money from family, friends or employers
  • Manipulating and lying to family and friends to lend or give money
  • Preoccupation and obsession with gambling
  • Financial affairs suffer greatly and are neglected
  • Hiding financial statements and bills from family and partners
  • Unable to face the consequences of gambling and denial of the truth
  • Continuing to gamble despite mounting debts and consequences
  • Feelings of guilt, remorse, regret and shame after gambling
  • Becoming increasingly isolated and lonely
  • Unable to explain large losses of money or coming up with elaborate stories to hide the truth
  • Defensive and angry or avoidant when challenged
  • Feelings of hopelessness and desperation
  • Suicidal thoughts and ideation
  • Unable to stop gambling or control destructive behaviours, even though there is a great desire to stop
  • Feelings of intense fear and anxiety of being found out
  • Mood swings, from euphoria and elation to severe depression, anxiety and resentment
  • Insomnia and weight loss through worry and anxiety
  • Becoming increasingly secretive and detached from loved ones
  • Selling household items and criminal activity to fund gambling
  • Being irritable, moody, aggressive or restless if unable to, or is prevented from gambling

Experiencing any of the above symptoms can be indicative of a very serious compulsion disorder and addiction. If this is the case, it is imperative that you or they seek professional help immediately. Delaying treatment for any addiction, including gambling, can lead to life-threatening consequences through severe pathological deterioration.

If you or a loved one are suffering from a gambling addiction, or are still unsure and need further help, please do call and speak to one of our friendly Addiction Treatment Experts over the phone, or via LIVE CHAT now.

What Methods Are Used?

There are many ways in which an individual can gamble. With someone who suffers from a gambling addiction, regardless of the pathway they choose, it always leads to the same negative consequences for the individual gambler and their family. Some will satisfy their compulsion by literally gambling on anything and using a multitude of gambling related activities as an outlet. Others will stick to one preferred method of gambling.

Common forms of gambling include:

  • Horse and Dog racing betting
  • Bingo
  • Online gambling and telephone betting
  • Slot machines
  • Casinos
  • Gaming involving money
  • Lottery
  • Scratch Cards
  • Playing Card games
  • Amusement Arcades
  • Sports betting
  • Telephone gambling
  • Smartphone apps which include many games where you can gamble
  • Online gambling

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Treating Gambling Addiction

There are a number of evidenced based treatments that have proven to be successful in treating someone suffering from an addiction to gambling. Ideally, before treatment commences, the individual should detox from gambling and have a period free from any kind of gambling related activity. This means complete abstinence. For an individual to abstain from an activity that their brain compels them to engage in, this sometimes means removing them from temptation and the means to be able to gamble for a period of time, at least until the intense cravings subside. During the detoxification period, the individual is likely to feel restless, irritable, and anxious, on edge and experience intense cravings to gamble. For some, this is an impossible task to manage alone and they require intensive support to get through this period of detoxification and abstinence. Some prefer the safety of a private rehab clinic, which is able to treat those suffering with a process addiction.

Others may enlist the help of friends and family. Once they have stopped gambling, intensive rehabilitation therapy can then be of maximum benefit. Gambling for an addict is the brains learned default setting to change the way that they feel. Without their usual dopamine fix, they will struggle to regulate their emotions and think rationally; this is when they are most at risk of relapsing. It has been recognised by medical and addiction professionals around the world for a very long time that in order for an individual to recover from an addiction on a permanent basis, there must be a profound change in their thinking, perception and coping mechanisms. This required change, can be achieved it various ways, but usually involves some kind of cognitive behavioural therapy to challenge and change the individual’s core belief systems and thought processes.

Dopamine can be naturally regulated through a person’s thought process and subsequent actions. Think about it…the gambler achieves the high from dopamine through their perception. The preparation put into a gamble creates activity in the brain that stimulates excess dopamine production. They anticipate that this is going to be the big win, the one that will solve all their problems. Their belief system is fundamentally wrong, as even when they do win it is not enough; they carry on gambling, seeking that elusive high again and again and again. When they lose, they take bigger risks, trying to recoup their loss, again they are chasing the high. Gambling addiction is not about money or about the winning, it is the individual’s perception to the activity that alters the brain’s chemistry. This perception and belief system needs to be completely smashed and rebuilt on healthier terms if they are to stay in recovery.

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Is There Free Treatment for Gambling Addiction?

Sadly in terms of free treatment and on the NHS, there is little intensive and effective treatment for gambling addiction available. However, there are a few options that can work if the individual is dedicated and completely willing and desperate for change. Your local GP can arrange for cognitive therapy sessions on the NHS; although this treatment is very effective, there are usually waiting lists of an up to a few months and they do not tend to specialise in treating addiction. The alternative is to attend a self-help group such as Gamblers Anonymous, or GamCare who offer free support and counselling online or over the phone. GamCare also help the families and loved ones of those that are addicted to gambling. Addiction Helper recommend that if you suffer from a compulsive gambling problem that you access all the support available to you. This means requesting CBT therapy and attending self-help and charitable groups.

Can Gambling Addiction Be Treated in a Rehab Clinic?

The answer to this is simply “yes”. Just because there is no substance involved, does not mean that your addiction cannot be treated as if it were a substance. This does mean attending a private rehab clinic as the NHS do not fund rehab for behavioural addictions. All the treatment centres that we work with are very proficient in treating all manner of addictions, including those that involve no substance, such as gambling. As a chronic relapsing brain disease, all addictions are driven by the brain’s reward system and adapted neurological pathways. This manifests in the individual’s belief systems, thought processes, self-destructive and maladaptive behaviours. The recovery process begins with abstinence, then rehabilitation, aftercare care and maintenance. There is no quick fix to addiction, it takes time, work and perseverance for an individual to change the way that they think with the aid of professional help. Every individual that enters one of our abstinence based rehab facilities is required to stop the substance or behaviour that they are addicted to.

Addiction Helper work with over 100 CQC regulated and registered rehabs of the highest calibre throughout the UK and a select number overseas also. Every rehab we work with must meet with our high standards of work ethics and medical and therapeutic regulations. We only work with the best rehabs available in the UK; rehabs that are fully regulated by the Care Quality Commission and are staffed by experienced and qualified addiction professionals. Just like an individual with a substance addiction, a sufferer with a behavioural/activity/process addiction needs to explore and deal with the issues that are underpinning the addiction. The action or behaviour is simply a manifestation of something much deeper. Our rehab staff address the root causes of the addiction, and encourage a change in the individual’s belief systems and thinking using a number of highly effective evidence based addiction treatment therapies. Each individual that admits to one of our addiction treatment clinics will receive a very personalised treatment programme; one that is adapted to their specific addiction and treats the individual on a physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual level. We take all factors into consideration to ensure that we cover all bases with each and every patient that we treat. Any treatment programme that leaves out the psychological and emotional rehabilitation aspect of addiction is very unlikely to work in the long term.

Private Rehab Treatment for Gambling Addiction

By far the quickest route to intensive professional treatment for a Gambling addiction is through a private rehab and we are able to facilitate same day urgent admissions wherever necessary. Our company consists of experienced and highly trained professionals who have previously overcome their own addiction problems. We are extremely passionate about our role in helping others to achieve recovery and will do all we can to help in that process. Addiction Helper have helped well over 10,000 individuals suffering from an addiction, to access the correct treatment, support and help. On contacting us, we will conduct a free over the phone comprehensive assessment of your or your loved ones treatment needs. From there we will discuss with you the best treatment options available and suggest a suitable treatment programme.

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For those that are unable to afford private rehab, we will advise of what is available on the NHS and free services. We work a vast range of different rehab centres, ranging from low cost effective and affordable treatment, to premier and luxury treatment. We also offer a range of different duration of treatment programmes. We suggest that anyone undergoing rehab treatment strongly considers an absolute minimum of 28 days inpatient stay. This can be further extended if required; we also offer long term 12 week primary care programmes, up to 6 months secondary care and also sober living and extended tertiary care. Whatever your treatment needs are and limitations financially or commitment wise, we will work with you to find you the best treatment programme available for your individual circumstances.

The benefits of admitting to a private rehab are clear:

  • You will undergo a comprehensive medical assessment and full medical detox for any chemical dependency present.
  • You will benefit from 24/7 support from trained professionals
  • You will be in a safe, recovery focused environment, away from temptation and the stress of the outside world; allowing you to focus solely on getting well.
  • You will undergo evidence based holistic addiction treatment therapies to unearth and address the root causes of your addition
  • You will be under a professional team of experienced and qualified Doctors, Nurses, Counsellors, Psychologists, Holistic Therapists and Support Workers
  • You will receive a full rehabilitation programme that is tailored to specifically meet your individual physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual needs

Furthermore all of the rehabs that Addiction Helper are partnered with offer 1 year free aftercare as part of an ongoing comprehensive recovery package. We also offer the family support too; we recognise that the family are an integral part of the individual’s recovery back home and that they will also need help in understanding addiction and in healing the past.

The Best in Gambling Addiction Treatment

Addiction Helper specialises in treating addiction; the treatment programmes we offer are both intensive and comprehensive. We are able to treat all substance addictions and activity/process addictions successfully within our exemplary rehab clinics. We are also able to fully treat co-occurring illnesses, which can commonly accompany addiction, such as Depression, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, OCD, Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress (PTSD). These conditions can often underlie a substance or activity addiction, so it is imperative that all conditions present are treated simultaneously and comprehensively. This gives the individual the best chance of achieving and maintaining a long and happy recovery.

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Rehabilitation Programmes for Gambling Addiction

Following a successful abstinent period from gambling, either as an inpatient or in the community, the individual will then ideally undergo a full rehabilitation programme to address the psychological aspect of their addiction. Failing to treat the underlying causes and conditions of addiction, usually results in relapse, or at the very least a very painful and miserable existence. Our rehabs are staffed by experienced and fully qualified addiction treatment experts, many of our staff are in recovery themselves, so have a unique insight and understanding of the addicts brain and are subsequently able to earn their trust and respect very quickly. This is very productive in terms of a solid and successful therapeutic relationship.

Our Gambling addiction rehab treatment centres only deliver the latest in evidence based addiction therapeutic and medical treatments such as: a full medical detox for any chemical dependency including alcohol, one to one counselling, process groups, trauma therapy, CBT, DBT, 12 Step therapy, group therapy, educational workshops, relapse prevention techniques, mindfulness, meditation, fitness programme, healthy eating programme, holistic programme and much, much more!

image showing hands freed from the ropes of addiction

A good rehabilitation programme is essential in order to avoid relapse, otherwise all that has happened is the individual’s body has stopped getting its usual dopamine fix through gambling. With the same mind-set and belief systems, it is likely that at some point in the future they will resort to their only method of dealing with their thoughts, feelings, emotions and life – by returning back to gambling. We always strongly recommend rehabilitation alongside any medical detox, to ensure each individual has the best chance of a long and happy recovery.

An addict’s brains are conditioned to seek instant gratification and ease and comfort through their drug or activity of choice. Addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease, and over the time spent in addiction, the brain adjusts as does its neurological pathways; so in a sense they have no choice but to seek relief through addiction, rather than applying healthy coping mechanisms to neutralise or process the way that they are thinking and feeling. In order for them to be able to live life on life’s terms without picking up a substance or resorting to a process addiction, they will need to learn healthy coping mechanisms and be able to apply a set of recovery tools to safeguard their recovery. This is why detox or abstinence alone, from any substance or activity, is rarely sufficient if the individual is an addict. Our rehabs professionally treat the root causes of addiction, teach our clients the tools of recovery, arm them with the facts of addiction and show them the process to be able to continue their recovery on returning back home and to the real world.

We treat each individual patient as a whole person, using person centred treatment techniques to treat the mind, body and spirit comprehensively. Failing to treat the psychological aspect of gambling addiction and the issues underpinning it, will usually result in relapse. For this particular addiction, full inpatient residential abstinence and rehabilitation provides the individual with the best chance of staying permanently free from gambling and other addictive behaviours in future. Furthermore, all patients that complete their gambling addiction treatment programme with us, will also receive 12 months complimentary aftercare at their chosen rehab. We consider this a vital ingredient as it assists with keeping the individual inspired and engaged in the recovery process and helps them to overcome any problems and challenges they may be facing back in their home environment.

Gambling addiction can become life threatening if left untreated and it can affect anyone. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction to gambling or a gambling problem, it is important you seek help immediately. Call us now, or talk to us on LIVE CHAT; we are open 24/7 and waiting for your call. We can help you or a loved one to take the first steps in breaking free from gambling permanently!