The NHS estimates that there could be up to 593,000 individuals with a gambling addiction in the UK. People who struggle with problem gambling have difficulty controlling their urge to gamble, even when they are aware of the negative impact it may have on their lives.
What’s The Cause Of Gambling Addiction?
Research has indicated that individuals with a family history of problem gambling and those who start gambling at an early age are more prone to developing a gambling addiction. However, it is difficult to establish an exact cause-and-effect relationship. The onset of problem gambling can occur at any age and affect individuals of any gender or ethnic background. It is further complicated by the fact that problem gambling often co-occurs with other addictive disorders, such as alcohol or drug addiction, known as co-morbidity.
Although genetic studies suggest a potential genetic predisposition towards impulsivity or addiction disorders, it is likely that multiple biological, psychological, and social factors contribute to the development of a gambling addiction. Thus, it is essential to understand and address the complex interplay of these factors to effectively treat problem gambling.
What Makes People Keep On Gambling?
Gambling has become ubiquitous in our society, with constant advertising on TV, radio, newspapers, and even at sporting events. Access to gambling is also made easy through physical locations on high streets and online platforms. This accessibility creates a dangerous situation for individuals with addictive personalities, leading to the development of problem gambling.
Some gamblers compulsively place bets, hoping for a big win, which can lead to financial ruin if they exceed their means. Others may experience a big win, which only serves to fuel their desire for more gambling. This cycle leaves individuals feeling trapped in a behaviour with no clear way out.
Contrary to popular belief, addiction can stem from activities rather than just substances. Gambling triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that creates a natural ‘high’, resulting in similar chemical changes in the brain as recreational drugs. This chemical reaction fuels addiction and creates a craving for the high it brings, whether it is drug, alcohol or gambling-related activity.
How Long Does It Take To Become Addicted?
Gambling addiction typically develops gradually, and certain individuals may be more vulnerable to its effects due to underlying factors. It is classified as an impulse control disorder, and its severity varies from person to person. Although individuals with a gambling addiction may believe that they can quit on their own, many require professional assistance to overcome their negative behaviours and establish a healthier way of life that promotes positive decision-making.
How Do You Define Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction, also known as pathological gambling or gambling disorder, is a behavioural addiction characterised by a persistent and recurrent pattern of gambling despite negative consequences or a desire to stop. People with a gambling addiction may experience a range of symptoms, including:
- Preoccupation with gambling: The person may spend a lot of time thinking about gambling and planning their next gambling session.
- Need to gamble with increasing amounts of money: Over time, the person may need to bet more and more money to get the same level of excitement or satisfaction from gambling.
- Failed attempts to stop or cut back: The person may have tried to stop or cut back on their gambling, but have been unsuccessful.
- Restlessness or irritability when trying to stop: The person may feel restless, irritable, or anxious when trying to stop gambling.
- Using gambling as a way to cope with stress: The person may use gambling as a way to escape from stress or negative feelings.
- Chasing losses: The person may continue to gamble in an attempt to win back money they have lost.
- Lying about or hiding gambling behaviour: The person may lie to others about their gambling behaviour or try to hide it.
- Jeopardising relationships, jobs, or other important aspects of life: The person may continue to gamble despite negative consequences that affect their relationships, job, or other important areas of their life.
It’s important to note that not everyone who gambles excessively has a gambling addiction, but if these symptoms persist and interfere with daily life, it’s recommended to seek help from a professional.
What Can Be Done To Help?
The NHS recommends the following organisations to seek help from:
- GamCare: the leading national provider of information, advice, support and free counselling for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling. Visit: gamcare.org.uk
- GamAnon: Get help and support if you’re affected by someone else’s gambling problem, including how to recognise the signs and where to find your nearest meeting. Visit: gamanon.org.uk
I can also recommend the organisations included in my article: Find Problem Gambling Help In The UK & USA
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