Recreational Gambling Versus Problem Gambling
Most people who gamble occasionally do so for entertainment. They know that they are likely to lose and if they win it is luck. They understand that gambling is a game of chance.
Problem gamblers believe that they can forecast the outcome of a game. They think they can govern chance: if something has not happened for a long time it will eventually happen. They believe that a big win will solve all their problems and that they deserve to win.
Problem gamblers spend more than they can afford to lose. It is no longer entertainment and it replaces all other interests in life. Betting has become a compulsion and the gambler is preoccupied with their next bet, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble. There are family problems due to arguments, lies and the gambler’s denial. It’s common to become depressed and experience feelings of shame and guilt. The gambler feels isolated and hopeless.
“The average gambler is often young, fit, active, positive person who has this terrible problem that can be very hard for others to detect.” Chris Burn, Gambling Therapist, Castle Craig.
Reasons for Someone to Start Gambling
- An escape from pressure, stress, or boredom;
- A relief from sadness, loneliness or emptiness;
- An escape from abusive relationships;
- Substituting another addiction: cross-addiction.
Phases of Problem Gambling
- The winning phase
- The losing phase
Problem Gamblers do the Following:
- Spend unlimited time and money on gambling;
- Experience financial problems;
- Chase their losses (after losing money the gambler will return another day to get even);
- Take out frequent loans;
- Be preoccupied with gambling;
- Believe that a win must be about to happen;
- Ask for money from family and friends or steal to fund their habit;
- Pawn belongings to raise funds;
- Lie to friends and family about the extent of their losses;
- Experience mood swings, depression, hopelessness;
- Constantly think about the next bet;
- Become restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling;
- Deny the extent of the problem;
- Have had repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back or stop gambling.
Consequences of Problem Gambling
In 2015 the Gambling Commission found that more than 2 million people in the the UK are addicted to gambling or at risk of developing a problem. Gambling, especially online gambling, is one of the fastest growing addictions in the world today.
As gambling addiction progresses, a person’s life becomes focused on the next gambling “fix” and this can lead to desperation, depression and feelings of shame and fear. Unfortunately many gamblers do not seek help until the problem is severe and they are facing financial ruin.
Very often another addiction such as alcohol dependence may co-exist along with gambling and it is essential that these other addictions are also treated.
“I went to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting and it was really astonishing how many people there had been involved in suicide attempts and had ruined their lives through gambling in a relatively short period of time.” Chris Burn, Gambling Therapist, Castle Craig.
Those who have been in recovery from addictions to alcohol or drugs are at risk of cross-addiction. This is when one addiction is swapped for another e.g. gambling. Research suggests that the reward pathways and dopamine receptors of the brain of a recovering alcoholic might be stimulated in the same way by the thrill and rush of gambling.
Are you a Problem Gambler? Questionnaire
The American Psychiatric Association’s Manual for Diagnostic and Statistics about Mental Disorders (DSM) provides this questionnaire to identify the problem gambling.
Do you find that you are preoccupied with gambling (for example, constantly thinking about past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling opportunity, or scheming of ways to get money with which to gamble)?
Do you need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement?
Have you already made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back or stop gambling?
Do you feel restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling?
Do you gamble in order to escape from problems or to relieve unpleasant moods (eg feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression)?
After losing money gambling, do you often return to try and ‘break even’ and recoup your losses (‘chase your losses’)?
Have you lied to family members, therapists, or others to conceal the extent of your involvement in gambling?
Have you committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance gambling?
Have you jeopardised or lost any significant relationships, jobs or educational opportunities because of gambling?
Have you had to manipulate others to provide you with money to relieve desperate financial situations cause by gambling (‘bailout’)?
Treatment for Gambling Addiciton
At Castle Craig we treat gambling with a 12 Step approach, we deal with the denial and the consequences of gambling. We also use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to emphasise positive, practical steps that the patient can take to change their lifestyle. Read more about our gambling addiction treatment programme.