While most people can bet responsibly, many find the thrill and anticipation of gambling addictive and will go on to become problem gamblers. It is estimated that more than half a million people in the UK are problem gamblers and, with the accessibility of gambling as well as the growing number of online gaming sites, it is expected that this number will rise. The global economic downturn of the last few years has led to many people struggling to make ends meet; with continuous advertisements for online gaming sites promising the chance to win big, it is no surprise that so many are tempted by the offer of free bets for every new account that is opened. Online gaming and fixed odds betting terminals are designed to be attractive and exciting, and many people find the anticipation of each spin exciting and thrilling. These individuals will quickly become hooked, and they may quickly develop addictions. Gambling addictions can destroy the lives of those affected as well as those closest to them.
The Hidden Addiction
Many years ago, gambling was something that was done down the local bingo hall, in betting shops, or in casinos. Today, though, gambling has become more accessible, available online to anyone with an internet connection and a computer or mobile device. Gambling can be done from the comfort of the home or even on the way to and from work on public transport. Some individuals even spend their lunch breaks at work betting on using smartphones or tablets. The problem with online gambling is that it can be carried out in secret – unless someone else can see the screen of the mobile device a person is using, he or she would not be able to tell that the individual is gambling. This is the reason gambling has been labelled the secret or hidden addiction.
What is a Gambling Addiction
As with all addictions, gambling addiction is an illness. It is classed as an impulse-control disorder, meaning those affected have no control over their compulsion to gamble. People with gambling addictions will continue to gamble despite the fact that it may be causing harm to themselves and those around them, especially loved ones. The affected individual tends to keep gambling no matter if they are winning or losing. To them, it is not the winning that counts – it is the thrill of gambling that keeps them going again and again. The person may promise him or herself that they will stop gambling once they win, but this rarely happens. Many people wrongly assume that one has to gamble every day in order to have an addiction. Nevertheless, the truth is that many individuals can go two or three days without gambling but still be considered a problem gambler because each time they do gamble they will continue to do so until no money is left. When gambling causes damage in a person’s life, it is considered problematic. Many are also under the illusion that gambling is not a problem if the person affected can afford to lose the money being gambled. Some even think that the affected person is only hurting him or herself, so there is no real problem. However, the consequences of gambling are not restricted to financial problems. Those with a gambling addiction tend to become obsessive about it to the point that it consumes them, and their relationships, therefore, become affected. Gambling addiction often leads to marriage breakdowns and loss of relationships with close friends.
Signs of a Gambling Addiction
Because gambling is a hidden addiction, it could take a while for others to notice when a loved one has this type of illness. There are usually no physical signs to indicate a problem exists as there are for other addictions such as alcoholism or drug addiction. It is harder to spot a gambling addiction but, after a while, it may become apparent that a loved one is dealing with some serious issues. If you have an affected loved one, you may start to notice that this person has become withdrawn or secretive. They may begin to miss significant events or spend much of their time online. Gambling addicts could start to neglect relationships that were previously very important to them, and they may begin to lie to loved ones about what they are doing and where they have been.
Do You Have an Addiction?
If you have become concerned that you may have a gambling addiction, there are certain signs that may confirm it:
- If you have become secretive about your gambling and are worried about others finding out then you may have an addiction. Many gamblers convince themselves that their loved ones would simply not understand. They are positive that they are going to get a big win and, when they do, they will tell their loved ones who will obviously be delighted.
- If you plan to spend a certain amount of money but find that when it runs out you deposit more and more and find that you cannot walk away even after you have won, then you may have a gambling problem. Most problem gamblers continue to gamble despite continuing to lose, or even after they have won, ploughing every penny back until it is all gone and they have nothing left to bet with.
- If you are becoming desperate and are spending money you cannot afford to lose in the hope of winning it back, then you may have an addiction. Some problem gamblers will borrow money or even steal in order to allow them to continue gambling.
- If loved ones have expressed concerns about the amount of gambling you are doing, then this could signify that things are serious. Most family members and friends will not realise that a loved one has a problem until the addiction is serious and the addicted individual is showing signs of desperation.
Consequences of a Gambling Addiction
A gambling addiction requires treatment because if left to develop, it will undoubtedly spiral out of control, resulting in a host of negative consequences. A gambling addiction may affect a person’s ability to work effectively if he or she is constantly thinking about gambling or is taking time off work to gamble. Because gambling requires a lot of money, those with addictions may find they are continually borrowing to enable them to feed their habit. This can lead to mounting debt, which can be difficult to repay. The stress of having lenders constantly calling for money can cause a number of health issues. Many problem gamblers develop mental health problems such as anxiety and depression because of their addiction. Those with a gambling addiction may become obsessive about gambling to the point that they begin to neglect their relationships with friends and family members. As the problem gambler begins to prioritise gambling over the people in their lives, they may find that relationships suffer, with some of these relationships even be damaged beyond repair.
Help for Addiction
Treatment is available for those with a gambling addiction, no matter how severe the addiction is. Private and public organisations and charities offer advice and support to those with addiction, and the sooner this addiction is treated, the better for all involved. Gambling addictions left untreated can ultimately destroy lives.