Gambling addiction is known as compulsive gambling disorder which can destroy people’s lives and wellbeing. This form of addiction is a mental health problem that is characterised by an inability to control the urge to gamble despite the negative consequences.
People with gambling addiction are often preoccupied with thoughts of gambling, and they may neglect their work, relationships, and other responsibilities in order to gamble. Recreational gambling, on the other hand, is gambling for fun and amusement without the negative consequences associated with gambling addiction. People who gamble recreationally are able to control the amount of money they spend and the amount of time they spend gambling.
According to the UK Gambling Commission, 0.5% of adults have an issue with gambling, and 3.8% are at-risk gamblers. This means that around 246,000 people in the UK are addicted to gambling, and another 2.2 million people are at risk of developing a gambling addiction.
Common Signs of Someone with a Gambling Addiction
Common symptoms of a gambling addiction can include:
- Preoccupation with gambling: People with gambling addiction are often preoccupied with thoughts of gambling. They may think about gambling all the time, even when they are not gambling. They may also spend a lot of time talking about gambling, reading about gambling, or watching gambling programmes.
- Loss of control: People with gambling addiction are unable to control the urge to gamble. They may gamble more money than they intended, gamble for longer periods of time than they intended, or gamble despite negative consequences.
- Chasing losses: People with gambling addiction often try to chase their losses by gambling more. This can lead to a terrible vicious cycle of gambling more and more money in an attempt to win back what they have lost.
- Lying about gambling: People with gambling addiction may lie to their family and friends about how much they gamble or how much money they have lost. They may also hide their gambling behaviour by gambling online or at casinos that are far away from home.
- Financial issues: Gambling addictions can lead to a number of financial problems, such as debt, bankruptcy, and foreclosure.
- Relationship issues: Gambling addictions can result in relationship problems. People with gambling addiction may neglect their relationships in order to gamble, or they may lie to their loved ones about their gambling behaviour.
- Mental health problems: Gambling addiction can also result in some mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
Here are some real-life examples and scenarios that may help you to identify the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction in someone you know. They may require help if they:
- Always talk about gambling, even when they are not.
- Spend a lot of time gambling when they have other things to do.
- Borrow money to gamble or cash in their savings to gamble.
- Lie to their family and friends about how much they gamble or how much money they have lost.
- Get angry or irritable when they cannot gamble.
- Neglect their work or relationships in order to gamble.
- Have financial problems or have been in debt due to gambling.
- Have had relationship problems due to gambling.
- Have experienced anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts due to gambling.
Ways to Help Someone with a Gambling Addiction
Carefully Approach the Conversation
It can be difficult to know how to start a conversation with someone who is addicted to gambling. However, it is important to remember that the person you are concerned about is struggling with a mental health condition. They are not a bad person, and they need your support to help stop gambling.
To initiate a conversation with a gambling addict, choose a time and place where you can have a private conversation. You can start by telling the person that you are concerned about their gambling and it is good to be specific about the behaviours that are concerning you.
Always try to avoid being judgmental or accusatory, and let the person know that you are there to support them and that you want to help them get help. A key thing you can do is listen to the person’s concerns and experiences without judgment and offer to help the person find professional gambling help and treatment.
Maintain a Non-judgmental and Supportive Approach to Someone With a Gambling Addiction
When you are trying to help someone with a gambling addiction, it is key to remember that gambling addiction is a mental health condition. It is important to avoid blaming or shaming the person, that you are patient and understanding with them, and acknowledging small wins can help boost recovery motivation.
Another good way to help someone with a gambling addiction is to offer practical support, such as helping the person to develop a budget or to manage their finances and encourage the person to seek professional help.
Seek Professional Gambling Treatment
Seeking professional assistance is important for gambling addiction because it can help people to:
- Develop a better understanding of their addiction: Professional counsellors can help people understand the root causes of their addiction and the factors that contribute to their gambling behaviour.
- Develop coping skills: Professional counsellors can help people develop coping skills and relapse prevention techniques to manage their cravings, triggers, and other challenges associated with recovery.
- Create a relapse prevention plan: Professional counsellors can help people create a relapse prevention plan that will help them stay sober and avoid gambling.
- Build a support network: Professional counsellors can help people connect with other people in recovery who can provide support and understanding.
Create a Supportive Environment
Creating a supportive and safe environment for the gambling addict can be challenging, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are a number of things you can do to help the person you care about recover from their addiction.
Here are some tips:
- Talk to the person about their needs and concerns. Ask them what they need from you in order to feel safe and supported.
- Establish clear boundaries – discuss which behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable. For example, you may want to establish a rule that no gambling is allowed in the home.
- Be supportive and encouraging, and let the person know that you believe in them and that you are there for them.
- Help the person to develop a relapse prevention plan. This plan should identify the person’s triggers and temptations, and it should outline strategies for coping with these challenges.
- Encourage the person to seek professional help. A therapist or counsellor can provide the person with the support and guidance they need to recover from their addiction.
Try to Reduce Triggers and Temptations
Here are some strategies for reducing triggers and temptations for a gambling addict:
- Identify the person’s triggers – what are the things that make the person want to gamble? Once you know the person’s triggers, you can start to develop strategies for avoiding them.
- Remove gambling paraphernalia from the home – this includes things like gambling chips, slot machines, and sports betting apps.
- Restrict the person’s access to money, such as setting a weekly or monthly budget for the person, or it may mean holding onto their credit cards and bank cards.
- Avoid spending time in places where the person is likely to gamble, such as casinos, bars, and racetracks.
- Encourage the person to engage in other activities such as spending time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies, or volunteering.
Take Over Financial Management
Managing the financial aspects of gambling addiction can be challenging, but it is important to remember that there are a number of things you can do to help yourself or the person you care about.
Here are some tips to help someone with a gambling addiction:
Assess the financial situation. Make a list of all the debts and assets – this will help you to learn more about their current financial situation and will also help to identify areas where you can make changes. Create a budget – by creating a budget, you will help them track their income and expenses – this can help you to identify areas where they can cut back on spending.
Pay off debts as soon as possible. Make a plan to pay off their debts in a timely manner – this may involve making extra payments or consolidating your debts into a single loan. Saving money for emergencies is another way to help someone with addiction. Aim to save up enough money to cover at least three to six months of living expenses to help with unexpected financial setbacks.
Close all gambling accounts, including online gambling accounts and accounts at casinos and other gambling establishments and take their credit cards and bank cards to prevent them from using cards to gamble.
-  0.5% of adults have an issue with gambling, and 3.8% are at-risk gamblers. This means that around 246,000 people in the UK are addicted to gambling, and another 2.2 million people are at risk - https://www.england.nhs.uk/2022/02/nhs-launches-new-gambling-addiction-clinics-to-meet-record-demand/