What Is Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction, also referred to as “problem gambling” is a behavioural addiction.
It’s a type of impulse control disorder where the individual has little to no control of a gambling habit.
Sometimes, the urge to gamble feels like an overwhelming compulsion—so hard to deny, that thoughts of not gambling, increase stress levels dramatically.
Sadly, most compulsive gamblers come to admit their behavioural addiction only when they hit a significant personal low, usually called “rock bottom”,
For many recovering gambling addicts, their moment of greatest pain at this point, later became their moment of realisation, and the first step toward recovery, as it’s usually at this point, that gambling addicts will seek help.
Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
- Gambling with increasing amounts of money to maintain the same thrill
- Trying to cut back or control gambling with little success
- Thoughts and actions centre entirely around gambling, to the point of losing interest in anything else
- Lying and secretive behaviour about gambling
Gambling As A Primary Or Secondary Problem
Gambling addiction can occur as a primary complaint, i.e. with no other co-occurring addiction or behavioural issues attached.
More commonly however, a compulsive gambling problem exists as a secondary issue, i.e. it appears in combination with another addiction issue, or co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, etc.
Most rehabilitation clinics, including Abbeycare, treat primarily alcohol and substance misuse disorders.
Indeed, few options (if any) exist, which are entirely dedicated to resolving gambling addiction as the primary complaint.
Since the issues underlying gambling, are often the same reward pathways and behaviour patterns experienced in substance misuse disorders, most centres will aim to treat gambling, using a similar approach, to address the addiction at the psychological cause.
Importantly, Abbeycare treat gambling only in cases of secondary gambling addiction – i.e. where problem gambling appears as a co-existing issue, alongside a more prevalent addiction complaint such as alcohol or substance misuse.
Gambling Shares Similar Underlying Issues With Substance Misuse
Whilst the behaviours of gambling versus substance abuse appear different on the outside, the internal psychological patterns underlying the addictions, are often identical:
- Erroneous ways of labelling thoughts, emotions and beliefs
- Habitual ways of doing things (that slowly became destructive)
- Environments, circumstances, and social peers that enable dependency to problematic substances and/or behaviours to develop
- Social isolation, loss of meaningful relationships
- Trauma that can be physical, sexual, and/or emotional
- Self-belief and self-identity about addiction, or being an addicted person
Causes of Gambling Addiction
Genetics and Brain-Related Factors
Genetic mapping techniques show that gambling addiction is likely inherited.
Individuals who have a direct relative with a gambling problem are more likely to develop gambling addiction, if preventive measures are not taken.
There is a tendency for those with mood and anxiety disorders to use gambling as a way to cope, or to raise levels of brain chemicals associated with self-esteem and confidence.
As a consequence, gambling addiction has a high incidence of co-occurring depression and/or anxiety disorders.
Substance Abuse Disorders Commonly Found Alongside Problem Gambling
There is also a likely connection between substance abuse problems, and gambling addiction.
Latest research in neuroscience shows that with both populations, there is a similar pattern within the brain’s level of dopamine.
Irregularity of dopamine is connected to impulsivity. It is this impulsive quality that often gets persons with substance use and gambling issues, into trouble.
A person can also suffer from all forms of these addictions.
There are numerous cases when a person with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) has a gambling problem, a substance abuse problem or both.
There are also cases when a person can be sober from one type of addiction, but not with another.
In addiction support groups, this type of behavioural pattern is called switching one addiction for another.
Consequently, persons with addictions to substances and gambling, are treated with the same 12 Step Facilitation and Cognitive Behavioural Techniques.
Evidence also supports the use of structured programmes such as those in a rehab clinic to be effective as a first step towards recovery.
Cognitive or Thinking Pattern Factors
Cognitive factors pertain to the ways human beings think and make sense of reality.
Because of the way humans reason and make sense of their reality, the urge to gamble can be particularly hard to resist because doing so “makes sense”.
Brain imaging techniques including MRI and fMRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) employed to look into the brain while gambling is happening has revealed that:
In “near-miss” outcomes – the brain registers the near miss as a gain; so the person gambling feels as if s/he has won, even if factually there is a loss.
With “gambler’s fallacy” human beings have a tendency to impose order or meaning on random events that happen. This is the origin of belief in luck.
Individuals tend to frame the story of winning as the end result of their gambling process, in such a way that in the end, there is always a happy ending.
Chasing this happy ending perpetuates the desire to keep on playing until a jackpot is won.
Those suffering from gambling addiction are likely cognitively unable to accurately process the high risks (financial, emotional, social) of their behaviour. They are are also more likely to underestimate the impact of their addictive behaviours on family life and loved ones.
Additionally, they seem immune to the low chance of being rewarded for their gambling stakes. These possible shortfalls differentiate them from the general population.
For most, when risks are high and rewards are low, gambling is not initiated.
But for those with gambling addiction, the urge to gamble is almost unstoppable, even in the face of significant harm.
Non-Biological Factors That Lead to Gambling Addiction
When at-risk individuals are exposed to certain external sources of stimulus (outside source of excitement), the chances of becoming hooked to the excitement rises exponentially.
At-risk individuals are typified as those who have direct relatives with problematic gambling behaviour.
These relatives can include parents and loved ones, siblings, and especially twins, since twins share the same genetic make-up.
In the UK, it is estimated that 70% of the population will occasionally indulge in gambling.
But only at-risk individuals may develop the problem.
The external sources that can advance the development of gambling addiction are typically game features, media exposure, and social environment.
Up to 40% of problem gamblers in the UK say that they are addicted to roulette on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.
The underlying reasons for this are still under scrutiny.
Other gaming features that can make a game more addictive include those that encourage:
- “Hot hand” player’s performance – when a person is on a winning streak, even if this is a random event, gamblers overestimate the chance of winning
- The perception that skill matters in the game, even if most gambling games are games of luck and not skill
- Instant gratification – especially true with online gaming and gambling, where a person can play with very high stakes in a short span of time.
In countries where advertising related to gambling is heavily controlled or prohibited, gambling addiction is less likely to occur.
In countries where heavy advertising of gambling activities is apparent, individuals as young as nine play games simulating the gambling experience.
Behaviourists agree that extensive media exposure, especially on multiple platforms (print, TV, social media, etc.) encourages gambling.
Many contend that media advertising primes young adults to gamble at an early age. With adolescents who are still at the stage of mental development, gambling then becomes an established habit because of its promotion as normal, everyday experience .
The likelihood of developing gambling behaviours, and gambling addiction, increases among at-risk populations when:
- An individual is surrounded by others who gamble.
- Gambling is accepted by family and friends as a way to relieve stress and have a good time.
- Gambling is an integral part of a family ritual or a social ritual.
Research also shows that individuals who belong to the lower economic bracket and/or are considered a marginalised group, tend to have a higher tendency to develop gambling addiction.
With the current push of technology, the numbers of problem on-line gambers is also on the rise.
Currently, there are on-line games that simulate gambling, slot machines, quiz machines, casino games, feature loot boxes, and encourage skins betting.
Experts are alarmed as these new developments encourage gambling at an early age, as young as 9 or 10.
This early exposure to gambling/gaming is foreseen to increase the number of individuals with problematic gambling/gaming behaviour world-wide.
Already in China and South Korea, on-line gaming addiction is considered a disorder. Alongside, there is a thinning distinction that separates online-gaming and on-line gambling.
Gambling Addiction Treatment: Withdrawal, Rehab & Aftercare
Gambling addiction treatment has three distinct phases: detox(withdrawal), rehab, and aftercare.
Detox from Gambling Addiction (Withdrawal)
Whilst there can be no physical “detox” from problem gambling, in a rehab clinic this can take the form of professional supervision during the period of ceasing gambling behaviour.
Since many gamblers are engaged in the addiction as a means to compensate for low levels of feel-good chemicals like dopamine, it makes sense that levels of these must be re-adjusted, by the body, after the thrill-seeking behaviour stops.
Many gambling addicts are also struggling with co-existing depression or anxiety disorders, and a reputable clinical team should oversee symptoms throughout, and administer appropriate medication, if required.
Gambling Addiction Rehab
In daily life, (or even en-route to a meeting) those suffering from addiction can pass by betting shops or bet online, unable to avoid trigger situations.
Importantly, a stay in a residential clinic for treatment can help shield from exposure to these triggers, and greatly increases the likelihood of maintaining positive therapeutic gains, in the long term.
In residential rehab clinic programmes, attention is usually mainly on physically addictive substances.
Nevertheless, gambling addiction can be treated together with these co-occurring concerns.
In our experience, the issues underlying a substance misuse addiction, are usually the same mental health issues and behavioural patterns underlying gambling addiction.
Therefore, the treatment programme for the addiction remains the same, regardless of how it manifests behaviourally:
- Individual Addiction Keywork Sessions
- Group Therapeutic Work (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
- Family Support Groups
- Holistic Care
The most effective techniques backed by science are 12 Step Facilitation, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Motivational Enhancement Therapy, and the Matrix Model approach, among others.
In a structured programme, continuity of care is important.
Often, free services or support groups such as those provided in an outpatient setting mean the person sees different professionals.
This can result in care that is not integrated, and some vital information can be misplaced in the process.
In Abbeycare, person-centered treatment options are delivered by assigning a case manager who will be with you throughout the duration of detox, rehab and aftercare.
Over time, we’ve seen that this continuous, consistent and integrated model provides optimal outcomes for long-term recovery from addiction, whether from substances, alcohol, or addictive gambling behaviour.
Gambling Rehab Aftercare
After attending therapeutic sessions, it’s important to engage in planning for life in the future, without structured support.
The rehab process can be challenging; it’s certainly eye-opening – but life outside the centre will present its own unique set of challenges.
To better equip a person to deal with challenges post-rehab, we help you configure an aftercare plan for:
- How to deal with trigger situations
- Practical plan for when compulsive feelings arise
- Schedules for support group meetings
- Names and contact numbers of persons to call during testing times
With adequate support and encouragement, recovery from gambling addiction is possible.
Problem gambling lowers self-respect; it is deleterious to self-esteem. With sincere endeavour in withdrawal, rehab, and aftercare, it’s possible to get back on track and live a better-balanced life.
- How quickly can I start treatment for gambling addiction?
In Abbeycare, we can arrange for admission 24-48 hours after our initial call together. Once availability is determined, we can begin the rehab process as early as possible.
- How long does gambling addiction treatment last?
Gaming addiction treatment usually lasts 28 days to provide best possible long term recovery likelihoods. This is composed of detox, rehab, and aftercare planning.
Depending on the person’s specific needs and other requests, the duration of rehab can be longer or shorter – please ask for advice personalised to your unique situation, when calling.
- Where do you offer gambling addiction treatment?
Currently, Abbeycare offer gambling treatment as a secondary addiction treatment, at our clinics in Scotland and Gloucester.
- What happens when I call?
We’ll chat through a little of your history with addiction, and understand how it’s affecting your life right now. We can discuss what you want to achieve from rehab treatment, and possible treatment options for your unique situation, tailored to budget, timescales, and other needs.
- How much does gambling rehab cost?
Abbeybot below can provide instant pricing guidelines. Please select the “something else” option, for guideline pricing for gambling addiction treatment.
Or, call us direct for queries about pricing.
A deposit is required when your place in the clinic is booked. Thereafter, the remaining balance is due upon arrival at the clinic.
- Does rehab “cure” gambling addiction?
In the same way as a surgical operation can be the first step to recovering from a physical issue, a primary care rehab stay is the first step toward long term recovery for gambling addiction.
Our team will provide you with all the help and support needed during your stay, and help set up the support you need, for the long term.
As with all issues in life, it remains your responsibility to follow through on the supports provided, and take action where needed, to keep your long term recovery on track.
In this way, rehab can be seen as a means to achieving gambling addiction recovery, as it sets the wheels of long-term healing in motion.
How To Book
To book into Abbeycare for Gambling Addiction help, call our enquiry line direct on 01603 513 091.