Most individuals, who suffer from a gambling addiction, do not realize that there is help available to help them stop and stay stopped. Just because they are not addicted to alcohol or a drug, does not make the addiction any less damaging to the sufferer or to their families and loved ones. Gambling can be seen as harmless recreational fun and for most, it is. However, for those with an addictive personality it can cause devastating consequences. The addict’s brain receives a high and pleasurable experience from the anticipation and preparation put in to the gamble, and the reward when they win. They compulsively seek to activate the brains reward system over and over again. They hold a false belief system that they can beat the odds. Even when they are losing, they are powerless to stop or think rationally. Gambling addiction is a progressive illness and the individual will find themselves taking bigger and bigger risks, breaking their moral codes and even resorting to stealing and lying to fund their addiction. Severe problem gambling, when the individual feels compelled to gamble even when they desire to stop, and have suffered negative consequences to their financial security, mental health, family and social lives is referred to as Clinical Pathological Gambling. This is very much a real disorder, which can carry the same patterns and similar consequences as an addiction to drugs, alcohol or another compulsive addiction. Sometimes the compulsion to gamble is so overpowering, that a clinical and psychological intervention is required.
There are many ways and means that a compulsive gambler can get their fix. They will usually have one or two preferred outlets for their addiction, but for some they will gamble on literally anything. Common forms of gambling addiction include:
Horse and Dog racing betting
On line and telephone betting
Playing Card games
There are many symptoms and subsequent consequences of compulsive gambling addiction to look out for. The list of common symptoms below may help you to identify if you or a loved one are suffering from a compulsive illness that requires professional help:
Gambling addiction is what is known as a Process Addiction. This means that the individual is addicted to an activity rather than a substance. Other examples of Process Addictions are Shopping Addiction, Sex Addiction, Gaming Addiction and Internet Addiction. Process addictions activities the brains reward system and create a high feeling as endorphins and adrenaline are released in to the body. This is what the individual craves and becomes addicted to, much like someone with a substance addiction. As the addiction progresses, the individual crosses an invisible line, where they eventually lose all control around gambling. They lose more and more, not just in terms of finances, but jobs, loved ones, friends, health and in more severe cases some come to a point of seeing suicide as the only way out of the mess and destruction their addiction has created. In this respect, gambling addiction is no different to any other addiction. The internal pain, depression and turmoil becomes too much to bare.
The only solution to a gambling addiction is complete abstinence from the activity.
Once an individual has lost the ability to control the compulsion to gamble, there is little hope of their recovery unless they receive professional help. Some need to be removed from society to enforce a period of abstinence whilst they receive treatment to deal with the root causes. Without treatment, it is likely that they will return to their addiction; consequences are not enough to stop someone who suffers from a compulsive disorder.
“I cannot explain the despair I felt of not being able to fight the impulse to gamble. I had lost everything; I was in financial ruin and heavily in debt. Too ashamed to admit the truth to my family, whom I loved dearly. I had created a web of lies to cover up my gambling. I lived in constant fear of being found out. I couldn’t understand why I just couldn’t stop. I hated what I had become; yet I continued to gamble. I truly couldn’t see a way out; I had run out of ideas and out of hope and felt suicidal”
The first thing to remember is that you are dealing with someone who is very ill and unable to see the truth or the reality of their addiction. The most important thing you can do to help is to not enable their addiction, no matter how much they beg, plead, or try to manipulate you into giving them money or paying off debts. A compulsive gambler is only likely to seek and engage in help once they have nowhere left to go with their addiction. Someone who has reached this stage requires professional and psychological help and support.
Liberty House offer a tailor made inpatient program to those suffering with Gambling Addiction. The program consists of a number of specialized therapies designed to deal with the underlying causes and prevent relapse on returning home. If you or a loved one needs help, we can accommodate emergency admissions. Please call us direct to find out more about our program or to discuss an admission. There is help and there is hope, a full recovery is possible.