Is There An Increase In Gambling Addiction?

Increasing opportunities to gamble

There is very clear, documented evidence that there is a spiralling rise in gambling addiction. This can be directly related to the advancement in modern, rapidly evolving technology.

In the past, gambling was restricted to attending a horse meeting, a greyhound stadium, the high street betting shop or a casino. All involved different degrees of travelling to get to, but now we don’t even have to leave home to place a bet. If we have access to the internet, a laptop or mobile phone, we can now place a bet 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

This easy access to gambling has created a problem for many people that goes unchecked. The problem is compounded by the fact that there are insufficient financial safety nets for those that develop a gambling addiction. In fact, through advertising, in all forms of media, we are even encouraged or enticed to gamble with the chance of winning.

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Why do some people get addicted to gambling?

The start of a gambling addiction does not start with the act of placing a bet or watching wheels spin and then actually winning from that first bet.  It is the whole process and the changes within our brain through the extra release of Dopamine that encourages us to place another bet. It is the pleasure we get from the act and process of gambling itself. That initial pleasure can be very short lived – as with playing a slot machine type game on our mobile phone – or it can be a longer experience such as by placing a bet on a horse race, having prior studied all the “form” of the entrants. It is the anticipation that we could win that captures us. An increasing percentage of people will go on to play and gamble beyond all reasonable limits, leading to dire financial consequences.

The financial impact of a gambling addiction

With any addiction we could lose our job, which in turn means we cannot pay the mortgage and we end up having to sell our home.  With a gambling addiction, we can accrue huge debts very quickly, partly due to the multiple bets that we are able to make, and because we can use credit cards and loans to accrue these debts. This can result in the amount of debt being totally unrepayable and result in financial ruin and bankruptcy. So, just from a financial point of view, a gambling addiction can end up being completely devastating for a family unit.

The impact of Covid 19 on the increase in problem gambling

Certainly, modern technology and the lack of restrictions imposed on the ability to gamble 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, has led to the sudden rise in the amount of people seeking help for gambling related issues who have contacted us at The Haynes Clinic.  Secondly, the last 2 years of Lockdowns has led to people becoming bored within the confines of their own homes.  Not only have people turned to drinking more alcohol but have also turned to online gambling to alleviate the boredom. Also, we need to remember that alcohol will lower our inhibitions and we then become more susceptible to continue gambling, even whilst losing, due to the amount of alcohol we have been consuming and losing sight of the actual reality of the situation. So alcohol addiction and reckless gambling can go hand in hand.

Denial about gambling addiction

As with all addictions there would be the individual with the gambling problem in denial about the extent of the addictive behaviour and thinking and feeling that they are still “in control.” Family and friends will telephone the Haynes Clinic for advice and will often use the phrase that the individual with the problem with gambling, alcohol, or drugs, has reached “rock bottom.”  This is, sadly not the case, addiction is like peeling an onion, you think you are at the lowest level you can get to and then you go down to another level.

Signs of problem gambling

Gambling addiction can be difficult for family and friends to recognise, or spot until it has reached a crisis point.  As only a mobile phone, laptop or computer needs to be used, the playing behaviour will become very secretive. Even in public, next time you are walking in your local area, just check how many people are on their mobile phones and a percentage of those will be playing some form of gambling game. 

With the spiralling downward of a gambling addiction, those closest will start to see a slow change in the moods of the gambler.  These gambling related mood swings will, in time, not swing but stay on the depressive side with elevated levels of being short tempered and with angry outbursts.  When challenged, they will find a reason to justify the dramatic change in their behaviour and family and friends will also normally choose to initially go along with the excuse that has been put forward. 

However, ultimately, the financial strain that a person with a gambling problem puts on their life and the lives of those closest to them becomes intolerable.  It is generally at this time that the individual will ask for help. There is fully documented evidence that there is a very high rate of gambling related suicide amongst problem gamblers and it is therefore very important that they get help as quickly as possible when it is asked for.

Gambling rehab

If we were able to stop and start our addictive behaviour “at will,” then rehabs such as The Haynes Clinic would not exist.  It is essential that the gambler considers removing himself from the home environment to a place of safety such as a residential rehab clinic for gambling treatment.  Being in a safe environment where it is impossible to gamble, using any format, will help to break the cycle of problem gambling.   Quite often family members and friends are willing to help towards funding treatment as generally speaking anyone with a gambling problem has spent their last penny. Also, being in  gambling rehab treatment, individuals suddenly realise that their behaviour is similar to all the others in treatment with them.  They all share the feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, anger and remorse.

What happens in gambling rehab

Whilst in residential gambling treatment, aside from being removed from all access to gambling, there will be intense daily therapy coupled with attendance at support groups. There is also a specific support group for gamblers called Gamblers Anonymous and meetings in a specific area of the country can be found by Googling their website.

 Gamblers will be introduced to these meetings in gambling rehab. It is worth trying them if gambling rehab is not an option.