Gambling Addiction Treatment and Rehab

Compulsive gambling, or an addiction to gambling, can be described as an “impulse control disorder” that is characterised by being unable to restrain or ignore an urge to gamble. A particularly common form of gambling addiction is the one that happens entirely online. It is so, because of its accessibility and many forms. You can partake in online gambling in the form of poker, blackjack, roulette or even virtual slot machines. Gambling addiction can also appear in the form of compulsively betting on the lottery, sports, or compulsively using scratch cards.

If you suspect that you or a loved one might be addicted to gambling, help is fortunately easily accessible regardless of your location in the UK. At Addiction Helper, we can provide you all the information you need about gambling addiction, including its symptoms, effects, its causes, and how we can help you find the ideal rehab clinic to treat it.

The short and long-term effects of gambling addiction can be just as devastating as that of substance addiction, especially if you allow the problem to go on unchecked for a long period of time.

Like substance addiction, process addictions influence the reward centre of your brain. But, unlike a substance addiction where it is the substance of abuse that your reward system is responding to, it is simply the act of going through the process that triggers your brain’s reactions. Besides gambling addiction, other commonly reported process addictions include kleptomania, pornography addiction, sex addiction, food addiction, gaming addiction, co-dependency, and internet addiction.

Depending on the severity of your gambling addiction or other process addiction, it can cause problems for not just you, but also your loved ones around you.

If you believe, or even suspect, that you might have an addiction to gambling, please call our confidential helpline now to speak to one of our specialists about the possible ways to heal and never look back.

Gambling Addiction Explained

Generally, gambling can be considered an exciting and fun pastime. You can even participate in it as a low-risk activity with the potential for big earnings if you are really lucky or smart. But, for some other individuals, gambling is more than just a game. For these people, it is a serious addiction that they cannot stop, even though it has caused them and their loved ones grief.

Gambling starts to turn into an addiction when we become obsessed and are unable to stop playing. Eventually, the habit will begin to negatively impact relationships, finances, work, education, and overall social interactions.

The very dependence is caused by dopamine – a “feel good” neurotransmitter that is released in the brain and triggers your reward centre. When dopamine is released, your brain translates it as pleasure and demands more of it. If gambling is the action that led to the rush of dopamine, repeating the action continuously can turn a normally harmless activity, such as betting on your favourite team to win, into a compulsive need to wager at every single option in the list.

This is because, instead of the brain continuing to release dopamine in normal amounts and at normal intervals, it will adapt and come to rely on constant external stimuli (in this case gambling) to release copious amounts of the “feel-good” chemical.

In the event you quit gambling or try to quit gambling, your brain will find it difficult to cope with producing dopamine without external stimuli and this can result in withdrawal symptoms.

The most popular forms of gambling in the UK include:

  • Amusement arcades
  • Bingo
  • Casinos
  • Gaming involving money
  • Horse racing
  • Dog racing
  • Lottery
  • Online gambling
  • Telephone betting
  • Playing card games
  • Scratch cards
  • Slot machines
  • Sports betting

Warning Signs of Gambling Addiction

There are various warning signs and red flags that will pop up once gambling starts turning from a harmless game into a dangerous relationship with Lady Luck. If you notice two or more of the below signs, it can be considered a clear indicator that the person in question has begun developing, or has already developed, a gambling addiction:

  • Needing to spend an increasing amount of money to satisfy gambling cravings
  • Experiencing restlessness, anxiety, or irritability whenever trying to quit gambling or reduce the frequency of gambling
  • Experiencing multiple failed attempts to quit gambling
  • Thinking about gambling continuously and obsessively, especially about the next opportunity to gamble or about previous gambling excursions
  • More likely to gamble after going through a negative mental and emotional experience
  • Lying to friends and family about gambling. Especially about the frequency of gambling, how much lost while gambling, or about when you are next going to gamble
  • Feeling a powerful need to gamble as soon as possible after a loss, with hopes of recuperating losses or breaking even
  • Suffering relationship issues with friends and/or family because of a gambling habit
  • Neglecting workplace, education, or family obligations in favour of gambling
  • Using false pretences to acquire money to gamble. For example: lying about bills to borrow money actually intended for gambling
  • Experiencing sudden and inexplicable mood swings, such as happy on some days and gloomy or aggressive on others
  • Falling into financial troubles as more and more savings are being put into gambling
  • Spending more time gambling

If a loved one is exhibiting two or more of the above symptoms, he/she very likely has an addiction; you can call us to arrange for an intervention.

Recreational gambling versus problem gambling

Most individuals who gamble do it every now and then for fun, even though they know that they are more likely to lose than win. These people accept the reality that gambling is purely a game of chance. Problem gamblers do not share this view.

A problem gambler believes that the outcome of a game can be figured out by them. A gambler like this believes that he/she can manipulate chance in his/her favour. One common rationale of the problem gambler is they are likely to win soon after a long losing streak, and that the expected win will solve all their problems. This type of thinking will lead a problem gambler to keep placing bets until there is nothing left, or they are in debt.

This is when betting becomes a compulsion. The next bet and how to get money to bet is all the gambler can focus on. This leads to lies, neglected responsibilities, and disputes within the family and possibly in the workplace. The typical problem gambler is always in denial that they have a problem. He/she will feel isolated and hopeless when not gambling and may experience depression.

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Characteristics of a problem gambler

  • Experiencing financial troubles
  • Spending unrestricted time and money gambling
  • Going through repeated yet unsuccessful attempts to control or stop gambling
  • Continuously coming back to gamble with the aim of recuperating losses
  • Pawn belongings to raise funds or stealing
  • Taking out loans with the intention of paying back with winnings
  • Being constantly preoccupied with gambling and the next bet
  • Becoming restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling
  • Always convinced that a win is just around the corner
  • Getting money to gamble under false pretences
  • Keeping secrets and lying about how much has been lost gambling
  • Experiencing mood swings, depression, and hopelessness
  • Denying the extent of the gambling problem

Reasons for someone to start gambling

Different people start gambling and continue gambling for various reasons:

  • For fun or for the experience of it
  • An escape from abusive relationships
  • To escape pressure, stress, or boredom
  • To get past sadness or loneliness
  • Using gambling as a substitute for another addiction

Phases of problem gambling

Problem gambling typically develops and progresses in phases:

  • The winning phase: This is when the gambler first experiences the thrill of gambling. The problem gambler will from this point find his/herself trying to attain the pleasure of the winning phase.
  • The losing phase: This is the phase where the gambler is seeking the thrill of winning but is unable to attain it due to continuous losses. The recreational gambler will quit at this point, but the problem gambler will keep going until there’s nothing left in an attempt to get a gambling “fix”.
  • Desperation: At this point, the problem gambler has lost all finances and will start borrowing or even stealing just to satisfy the ‘gambling itch’. The gambler will keep placing bets, holding on to the fantasy that a win is just around the corner and will keep going until he/she is out of money.
  • Hopelessness: The problem gambler has hit rock bottom but believes he/she can still make a comeback if he/she can only get a win. But the gambler lacks the means to place any more bets and at this point will do almost anything for another opportunity to gamble.

Consequences of problem gambling

As of 2015, over 2 million people in the UK had some form of gambling addiction or were at risk of developing a gambling addiction. At the time, online gambling was one of the fastest growing addictions in the UK and is still a growing concern around the world.

With each passing day that a gambling addiction goes untreated, the problem gambler’s thoughts and life will be consumed

with urges for the next gambling “fix” which will gradually lead to desperation and depression. This individual may also experience feelings of fear and shame. Problem gamblers rarely seek help at this point but rather will wait until things worsen financially, or a loved one arranges an intervention.

There are also problem gamblers who have other addictions such as alcohol or drug addictions alongside their gambling addiction. For them, it is impossible to attain lasting recovery from gambling addiction without also treating their substance addiction.

Gambling Addiction and Substance Abuse

Recent studies have drawn a link between substance abuse and gambling addiction. This has been a long time coming considering that even though gambling has, for years, been considered a process addiction, it was not originally considered to tie in with drug or alcohol addiction. However, recent studies have shown that gambling addiction and substance addiction actually share common denominators that explain how they both become a problem for vulnerable people.

In places that host gambling, such as casinos, horse tracks, or sports stadiums, substances of abuse are often served or sold illicitly. This is likely because intoxicating substances are marketed as a necessity for creating a festive atmosphere. They also serve the purpose of numbing people who have lost bets while also reducing their inhibitions and placing them in the mood to keep making bets.

While intoxicated, gamblers are less likely to count the losses of a failed bet and go home. Instead, they will likely keep playing all in the name of a good time. By using addictive substances to numb the pain of losing and forget possible troubles of money unwisely spent, a person can keep on gambling until he/she has nothing left.

For people who participate in these activities on a fairly regular basis, substance abuse and the act of gambling will become intertwined with one activity fuelling the other. Substance abuse and gambling addiction may become so intertwined in the mind of the gambler that he/she will have trouble performing one without the other.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter which habit came first because combining substance abuse and gambling addiction can only lead to toxic results that negatively affect finances and relationships, with the addict spending all their time and money on either substance of abuse or games of chance. Worst case scenario, the addict could end up being arrested for their drug, alcohol or gambling behaviour.

Contrary to what many believe, addiction is not an exclusively physiological condition. It also has a huge psychological element as most addicts feed their addiction with the aim of escaping from the stress, troubles and pressure of their daily life, which they find suffocating or overwhelming. Thinking of things from this angle sheds light on how a person may use multiple addictions to escape from whatever it is he/she needs a break from.

That is, the compulsive search for how to cope with life’s complications can lead to engaging in multiple activities and give rise to the manifestation of more than one addiction. In fact, another study has shown that some individuals with gambling and substance addictions may also experience sexual compulsivity.

A person suffering from any form of addiction is in that situation because they have some type of life issues, for which their addiction provides them solace from. Said addiction may be gambling, drinking, drugs, or a combination of all three. What they are addicted to takes a backseat to the fact that they are unable to deal with their life issues head on and on their own, which leads them to use their addiction as their cover-up and source of comfort.

To effectively treat such a condition, it is important to identify and address the addictions altogether at the same time. Failure to do so will leave one addiction untreated. This can, in due time, restart the cycle of addiction by triggering a return to the others. For instance, treating gambling addiction without treating alcohol addiction will eventually lead to the addict drinking until gambling suddenly seems like a good idea again.

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Gambling Addiction with Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorder – an individual having more than one ongoing disorder, for example, having a drug use disorder alongside a mental disorder. In the instance of compulsive gamblers, having co-occurring disorders typically means suffering from anxiety, post-traumatic stress, attention-deficit disorder, personality disorders, or a substance abuse disorder alongside the gambling addiction.

Many things can give rise to co-occurring disorders. But, more often than not, a co-occurring disorder can be traced to an early childhood issue such as an attention disorder. The co-occurring disorder may also be caused by emotional trauma or a physical illness, medication reactions, substance abuse, or even menopause.

To effectively treat a co-occurring disorder, it is best to treat all the disorders simultaneously. For instance, if you have a gambling addiction as well as bipolar disorder, an assessment by a mental health professional will identify it. Once identified, a course of treatment that cares for both disorders at the same time will be offered. Failure to treat all disorders at the same time will be tantamount to not treating any at all. This is because failure to treat all disorders will simply result in the untreated disorder providing a fertile ground for the untreated disorder to make a comeback. Depending on the severity of the disorder, it may even make it impossible for the gambling addict to recover at all.

If your gambling problem is treated, but a substance abuse disorder or other co-occurring disorder goes untreated, the other disorder will only get worse until you one day lose control and find yourself gambling again.

How to Find Gambling Addiction Rehab?

Getting your addiction treated in a private rehab with the capability and resources to care for all aspects of your addiction will be best. There are a variety of proven gambling addiction methodologies available and any good private rehab specialises in a variety of them and can give you the care you need to retake control of your life.

The most ideal gambling addiction rehab for

your needs will be able to provide the level of care you need at a price you can pay. Before your gambling addiction treatment begins, the rehab will first put you through a detoxification process. While going through detoxification, you are likely to experience irritability, restlessness, anxiety, intense cravings, and possibly depression. For many addicts, having to go through this on their own can be very overwhelming. It is for this reason we recommend an intensive support system to help patients successfully get through the period of abstinence. The right private rehab for your gambling addiction treatment should be able to provide you with a safe and secure environment for your recovery as well as all the therapeutic support you may need. Support can come in the form of group meetings, one-to-one support, or family support.

In a private rehab, the necessary avenue or setting for a gambling addict to relapse and gamble again is taken away in the rehab’s controlled environment. Medical and addiction specialists are aware that for a recovering addict to permanently recover from an addiction, he/she must make changes in how they perceive things, think, and cope with stress. Effective rehabilitation can help a recovering addict achieve the necessary changes through behavioural therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, that challenges and modifies the recovering addict’s belief systems and thought processes.

You will only get the best results if the inpatient rehab centre is a perfect fit for your needs and has the resources to provide the level of care you need. Within the inpatient facility, you will be provided accommodation for the duration of your treatment as well as the structured care that addresses all aspects of your gambling addiction, including the triggers that led to the behaviour and the causes behind it.

If your addiction isn’t particularly severe, you can opt for treatment in an outpatient facility that can provide similar programs, but the difference is you will be coming from home for scheduled appointments and treatment.

Types of Treatments for Gambling Addictions

There are several ways to tackle gambling addiction effectively. But, the most effective will be determined by its severity, existence of a co-occurring disorder, and other factors. The treatment options typically made available to assist in the recovery of gambling addicts include:

  • Psychotherapy and counselling: For process addictions such as gambling, psychotherapy can be more beneficial and effective than medication. Examples of psychotherapy include cognitive-behavioural therapy and contingency management, which will help you retrain how you perceive the act of gambling and fight the urges.
  • Support groups: Support groups such as family support or peer support, as well as self-help programmes, are effective ways to treat problem gambling. A particularly popular type of support groups are the 12-step programmes such as Gamblers Anonymous which is built on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • Outpatient programmes: You will be able to come from home to receive treatment which will typically consist of nine or more hours of structured therapy each week. Most people commence outpatient care after initially going through inpatient/residential care. However, if sticking to solely outpatient care, such treatment is only ideal if your addiction is not a severe one that requires a high level of care or round the clock supervision.
  • Medication: There are certain medications that help with gambling addiction even though they are not what the drugs were initially created for. For instance, opioid antagonists that inhibit dopamine production can be useful in treating gambling addiction as it stops the pleasurable dopamine release that addicts experience while betting. Mood stabilisers and antidepressants are also being experimented with.
  • Residential facilities: A residential treatment centre is probably the most ideal place for treating any form of addiction as you are provided with a secure and safe environment where you will be protected from your stressors that normally lead to gambling. Recovery in the controlled environment of the residential rehab also provides you with the opportunity to focus wholly on your recovery without distractions, while also being provided all the support and therapy you need.

When do you need a residential rehab facility?

Deciding if a residential rehab or outpatient programme is ideal for your addiction will be best determined through a professional evaluation of your condition. The fact is, the more severe your addiction, the more likely it is you will get effective treatment in a residential rehab. You can also determine if residential rehab is the most ideal for you if you are exhibiting the following:

  • Frequently engaging in gambling for longer periods than intended.
  • Having your thoughts constantly preoccupied with fantasies of gambling.
  • Borrowing money, stealing money or getting money through lies to finance your gambling.
  • Spending money on gambling but neglecting debt or bills.
  • Unable to stop gambling even when you want to.

Therapies for gamblers

There are a variety of therapies available to care for the special needs of gambling addicts. Behavioural therapy is especially popular, especially cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT has, over the years, been used to treat gambling addiction with great results. The process works by gradually rewiring and retraining the addict’s brain to reject cognitive and emotional states that foster compulsive behaviour that lead up to addiction.

Also, with research revealing that incessant gambling is capable of changing the brain’s chemistry, medication-assisted therapy has come to be seen as a viable treatment option.

The use of medication such as Naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, can be used to address changes in the brain’s chemistry brought on by compulsive gambling. Naltrexone has proven to be effective at minimising gambling cravings as well as inhibiting dopamine release when an addicted person participates in an addictive activity.

What to Expect during Gambling Addiction Rehab?

One of the best ways to prepare for your experience in gambling addiction rehab is knowing what to expect. Once you know what you are likely to go through in rehab, you will be more mentally prepared and receptive when the time comes to receive treatment.

Admission into the rehab facility will involve going through an intake process that mainly consists of an evaluation process. The evaluation will involve routine medical testing, psychological analysis, and the filling out of some paperwork. Once the admission process is complete, you will be introduced to the schedule of the rehab programme which will be structured in a manner that ensures you receive optimal care but aren’t unduly stressed.

During your stay in rehab, you will go through exercises, education, counselling, behaviour modification therapy, and more. You will be taught how to deal with your compulsive need to gamble and will also be provided with the tools to overcome cravings.

Life after Gambling Addiction Rehab

Upon completion of treatment, you can choose to continue receiving care from home through an aftercare counselling and therapy services. Aftercare is optional, but recovering addicts that take advantage of it have a higher chance of achieving lasting recovery.

Aftercare is designed to reinforce what has been learnt while in rehab and provide you with ongoing support.

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