Known as a ‘behavioural addiction’, gambling eventually leads to serious financial difficulties, problems at work, dysfunctional family life and sometimes suicide. Whether you buy lottery tickets, bet on sports, play poker online or visit casinos, gambling can become compulsive.

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. 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.

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.

Reasons for Someone to Start Gambling Include:

  • 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
  • Desperation
  • Hopelessness

Problem Gamblers Often:

  • 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
  • Are 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

Gambling Addiction Treatment at Castle Craig

At Castle Craig, the Gambling Addiction programme is based on a 12 step treatment model and integrates Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Through CBT we help patients with gambling addiction to develop and achieve SMART goals. This enables patients to measure their progress through small but significant steps. SMART goals must be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. These can be:

  • To abstain from alcohol, drugs and gambling
  • To work with a debt counsellor to resolve financial issues
  • To learn relapse prevention strategies
  • To develop a healthy, new lifestyle through a good diet, exercise and creative therapies
  • To rebuild broken relationships with family, friends and colleagues

Our trained therapists run Gamblers Anonymous 12 Step groups where compulsive gamblers can share their experiences and support each other.

Gambling and Cross Addiction

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.

Gambling and Depression

Depression and gambling frequently co-occur. Persons with depression may be drawn to gambling as an escape-type behavior that temporarily alleviates some of the symptoms of depression by providing excitement and thrill. Individuals with problem gambling habits frequently develop depression as a result of the severe stressors that problem gambling can produce, such as relational strain, family strain, financial problems, lying, and secrecy.

Like any other addiction, the “self-medicating” quality of gambling poses a difficulty for treatment, as individuals with problem gambling behaviors have often developed those behaviors because they lack other coping skills to deal with difficult feelings. This behavior may continue to be an appealing “out” from the very problems it is causing.

Are you a Problem Gambler?

The American Psychiatric Association’s Manual for Diagnostic and Statistics about Mental Disorders (DSM) provides this questionnaire to identify the problem gambling. Ask yourself:

  • 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’)?

Cryptocurrency Addiction

Castle Craig is one of the very first Residential Rehab Clinics in the UK offering treatment for Bitcoin Addiction. We treat Crypto-Addiction as a Gambling Addiction. Find out more about Cryptocurrency Addiction