Amid casinos’ glamour lies a darker reality— a world of addiction, deceit, and desperation. Gambling addiction, where the line between excitement and destruction is perilously thin, encompasses various activities, from traditional casino games like poker and roulette to sports betting and online gambling.
Regardless of the form it takes, the potential allure of winning can make it difficult to recognise when recreational gambling transitions into a compulsive behaviour pattern.
What is Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a behavioural addiction that affects many people worldwide. It is characterised by an uncontrollable urge to gamble despite harmful consequences.
Government statistics reveal that approximately 3.8% of the population engages in gambling activities at an elevated risk level, while 0.5% of the UK population grapples with problem gambling. In most cases, harmful gambling behaviours are closely linked to intense involvement in online gambling, electronic slot machines, and sports betting. These particular forms of gambling tend to carry higher risks and contribute significantly to the prevalence of problem gambling.
Gambling addiction can creep up on anyone who experiences the thrill of a big win or major defeat; however, it often accompanies other mental health issues like depression, anxiety and substance disorders, all of which can make gambling addiction harder to live with and treat.
Why is gambling addictive?
Several factors contribute to gambling addiction:
- Dopamine: Gambling triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward in the brain. When you win, your brain is flooded with dopamine, creating a pleasurable sensation. This can lead to a craving for more, making you continue gambling in pursuit of that same euphoric feeling.
- Escapism: Gambling can provide an escape from stress, anxiety, or emotional pain. Gambling then becomes a coping mechanism, offering a brief sense of relief or distraction from underlying issues. The desire to escape reality can fuel the addictive cycle as you turn to gambling as a means of self-medication.
- The thrill of risk: Risk and uncertainty in gambling can be exhilarating. The anticipation of a potential win activates the brain’s reward system, leading to a heightened sense of excitement and motivation to continue gambling.
- Illusion of Control: Many people develop a false belief in their ability to control the outcome of a game or influence their chances of winning. This illusion of control creates a sense of empowerment and encourages individuals to continue gambling, even when the game’s outcome is determined by luck.
How does gambling addiction develop?
Gambling addiction, like many other addictions, develops through a complex interplay of various factors, and while the exact causes can vary from person to person, several key factors contribute to the development of gambling addiction.
- Initial Positive Experiences: The initial experiences of gambling can play a significant role in the development of addiction. Even if it’s by chance, winning early on can create a sense of excitement and reinforce the belief that gambling can lead to financial gain.
- Vulnerability Factors: Certain individuals may be more susceptible to developing a gambling addiction due to underlying vulnerabilities. These can include genetic factors, a family history of addiction, and personality traits such as impulsivity, sensation-seeking, or a tendency towards risk-taking. Additionally, individuals with co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse disorders can also be more prone to developing a gambling addiction.
- Chasing Losses: As gambling addiction progresses, individuals may find themselves in pursuit of the next big win in order to recoup previous losses. This leads to a vicious cycle of escalating bets and increasing financial and emotional risks.
Availability and accessibility of gambling opportunities, impact on social support systems, and lack of access to mental health services can also contribute to the risk.
Gambling addiction symptoms
Gambling addictions can manifest in different ways and are not always easy to recognise.
Here are some common signs of addiction to gambling:
- Constantly preoccupied with the thought of gambling
- Increasing the amount of money and time spent on gambling
- Difficulty controlling or stopping yourself from gambling
- Continuously chasing the next ‘big win’ to supplement what you’ve already financially lost
- Feeling anxious or restless when attempting to stop your gambling activities
- Financial problems, such as debt and borrowing money
- Neglecting or compromising professional or educational responsibilities
- Frequently lying to loved ones to conceal the extent of financial difficulties or gambling
Gambling addiction treatment
Seeking rehab treatment for gambling addiction is an important step in reclaiming control over your life. It is essential to reach out for professional help and support from experts who understand your condition.
By engaging in a structured rehab programme, you’ll be able to develop the strategies you need to manage triggers, build healthier coping mechanisms and begin a life without gambling.
Some examples of therapies used at Oasis Bradford:
- 12-step: This approach provides a structured and supportive framework for individuals to acknowledge their gambling addiction, take responsibility for their actions, and make amends for the harm caused.
- Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT): DBT is a therapeutic approach that combines elements of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) with mindfulness practices that helps individuals develop skills to manage intense emotions, improve relationships, and enhance their overall wellbeing.
- Individual and group therapy: This allows individuals to understand the underlying causes that drive their gambling and promotes the development of coping strategies.
- Meditation and mindfulness: This takes a comprehensive approach that addresses the individual’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects by understanding the underlying factors that contribute to addictive gambling behaviours.
- Family therapy: It also encourages self-reflection, accountability, and ongoing participation in a supportive community of peers who understand gambling addiction’s challenges, helping individuals develop coping skills, maintain abstinence, and work towards recovery.
At Oasis Bradford, we use a holistic approach to gambling addiction treatment. We offer various traditional talk therapies and alternative treatments to build a comprehensive programme that allows you to overcome your gambling addiction.
Aftercare at Oasis Bradford
After completing your gambling addiction rehabilitation programme, engaging in aftercare is crucial for long-term recovery. At Oasis Bradford, we understand how important ongoing support is after you finish your rehab treatment, so we offer a year of free aftercare to help you stay on track and prevent relapse.
Taking the first step
Contact us today, and we will be able to provide you with the necessary knowledge and guidance to start your gambling rehab programme. Remember, seeking help is an important step towards recovery, and we encourage you to take that step today.