Many people like to play the lottery, have a bet or take part in a sweep stake for the Grand National. However a gambling addiction affects about 6 in 1000 people and is only a problem when you are out of control of your gambling behaviour and when it impacts negatively on other aspects of life.
Gambling can become out of control for a number of reasons:
- To get away from difficult situations or feelings
- To avoid responsibilities
- To escape reality
- When someone has depression
- When someone is grieving the loss of a loved one
- In response to a traumatic experience
- When someone drinks or takes drugs
- In response to boredom
- As a way of coping with anger towards yourself or others
- Because they learnt this behaviour from parents
- Because they started gambling when very young
People who gamble have thinking patterns that are unrealistic about the outcome of their gambling behaviour.
They believe that:
- You are more likely to win compared to normal chances
- Some numbers or cards are more likely to come up than others or are ‘lucky’
- Having a winning streak of two wins in a row means that you are more likely to win in subsequent games and therefore bet increasingly larger amounts
- Being familiar with a game increases your chances of winning
- Participating in ritualistic behaviour will bring you good luck
- You will be able to win back any losses by gambling more
The impact of gambling
Gambling can have serious consequences. People for whom gambling is a problem are more likely to:
- Be dishonest about money
- Have feelings of being trapped and desperate
- Be distracted from working efficiently
- Become depressed
- Have relationship difficulties leading to separation or divorce
- Have problems with alcohol or drugs
- Be at risk of committing suicide
- Commit crimes in order to gamble
A gambling addiction can affect those around you. Living in the same home as a problem gambler can be difficult and distressing. They may try and hide the problem from you, may borrow or steal money, accumulate debts or be deceitful in order to cover up what is happening.
If someone you care about has a problem with gambling:
- It is best to be honest and direct with them about your concerns
- It is important to let them know the impact their behaviour is having on others
- Tell them about the trouble and pain they are causing you
- Let them know that there is help available
- Get support for yourself too
- Contact one of the specialist agencies that help relatives of problem gamblers
Overcoming gambling addictions
The first step is to acknowledge that there is a problem. The following questions will help you decide if your gambling behaviour needs attention:
- Do I spend a lot of time thinking about gambling?
- Have I tried to cut down or stop gambling but not been able to?
- Am I spending larger amounts of money on my gambling?
- Do I get restless or irritable if I try to cut down my gambling?
- Do I gamble to escape from life’s difficulties or to cheer myself up?
- Do I carry on playing after losing money to try and win it back?
- Have I lied to other people about how much time or money I spend gambling?
- Have I ever stolen money to fund my gambling?
- Has my gambling affected my relationships or my job?
- Do I get other people to lend me money when I have lost?
If you answered yes:
Once: You may have a problem. Even this one thing might mean you need help.
Three times: You definitely have a problem with gambling, it probably feels out of control. The best thing to do is to get help sooner rather than later.
Five or more times: You have a pathological gambling problem. It probably affects every area of your life. You need help as soon as possible.
About a third of problem gamblers will recover on their own without treatment and about 2 in 3 will continue to have problem, which will tend to get worse.
Getting the support you need
The second step is to find the appropriate help for you. Consider some of the options below:
1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
This form of therapy focuses on thinking patterns as well as the feelings and behaviour associated with your gambling. CBT helps you to work out more helpful ways of thinking and behaving. Research has shown that CBT can:
- Reduce the number of days a person gambles
- Reduce the amount of money they lose
- Help a gambler to stay away from gambling once they have stopped
2. Managing Debts
Sometimes it is hard to find answers to the problem of mounting debts however there are specialist agencies that can help. It is advisable to get a recommendation before approaching this type of service.
One we can recommend with confidence is Christians Against Poverty (CAP). CAP is a national debt counselling charity with a network of 160 centres based in local churches. CAP offers hope and a solution to anyone in debt through its unique, in-depth service.
3. 12 step programmes
Gamblers Anonymous hold regular meetings where individuals who have had similar experiences share their difficulties with gambling and what has helped with overcoming them. Gamblers Anonymous offers meetings throughout the UK and a ‘buddy’ system.
The CNWL National Problem Gambling Clinic
Based in London with doctors, nurses, therapists, psychologists, debt counsellors and family therapists with special experience in helping problem gamblers.
1 Frith Street, London W1D 3HZ, Tel: 020 7534 6699; Email: email@example.com
Gamcare – Gamcare runs the national HelpLine and its online equivalent, the NetLine, to offer help and support for people with a gambling problem, their family and friends. GamCare also provides face-to-face online counselling in many parts of the UK.
Gamcare Helpline – 0845 6000 133
- The Gordon Moody Association – A charity which provides treatment and housing for problem gamblers. Tel: 01384 241 292
- Gamblers Anonymous – For 12 step meetings. Tel: 020 7384 3040.
- Gamanon – Groups for relatives of problem gamblers. Tel: 08700 50 8880