In April, the UK government published its long-awaited white paper which sets out reforms in gambling regulations. This follows the review undertaken to ensure that the 2005 Gambling Act was “fit for the digital age”.
Technology has meant that it is now possible to gamble anywhere, at any time. From a computer, a smartphone, or a tablet, with money being debited directly from your bank account. Constant, 24/7 access has led to thousands of people finding themselves in trouble, left with a ton of debt they are unable to repay; and it is incredibly difficult for those struggling with a problem to stop.
In the UK alone, there has been a huge rise in the number of over-16-year-olds that are believed to be problem gamblers; with the Gambling Commission estimating that more than 2 million people are either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction.
Gambling addiction; also known as compulsive gambling, pathological gambling, or gambling disorder; is an impulse-control disorder. Though it may not cause direct physical harm, (in the same way as drugs or excessive alcohol consumption), it does create devastating consequences for many individuals.
If you think your gambling, or that of someone you love, may have gotten out of control, here are some warning signs to look out for.
Enjoying a past time, and frequently engaging in a hobby is one thing, being completely preoccupied is a different matter. When the behaviour, in this case gambling, begins to take over your life, it can dominate every waking moment.
The constant obsessive thoughts. Planning the next gambling activity, how to obtain more money to bet, reliving previous wins, neurotically picking apart losses. Then comes the need to gamble more frequently, with ever increasing amounts of money, to achieve the desired “high”.
Until it becomes everything. Leading to a withdrawal from social situations and other previously enjoyed activities, eventually putting the need to gamble before everything else – friends, family, and work, and in the process damaging relationships and career opportunities.
The addict seems totally unable to stop, despite continued and repeated negative consequences for themselves and those around them. First, it may be failing to keep up with obligations around the house, or with school or work.
Then maybe a lack of care and attention with personal hygiene, and appearance. A change in sleeping and eating patterns, because they can’t be bothered, wanting to spend all their free time on their activity. It may be because funds become tight, all available cash is poured into their habit.
Eventually it can lead to a growing mountain of debt. Obtaining loans and credit cards and borrowing money from friends and family. Household bills left unpaid. It can even lead to stealing and committing fraud to gain the extra funds required to get their fix.
People gamble for many reasons. For some it is a social event, a chance to get dressed up and hang out with their friends. Others bet for financial reasons, they believe if they hit the jackpot or win big, that it will change their life.
Many will do it purely for entertainment, they like the feeling they get, the high from taking a risk and the adrenaline rush while waiting for their horse to come in, or the jackpot to come up. Some individuals will use gambling as a coping mechanism, for a short while it takes away their worries, and they feel more confident and in control.
Gambling, and any other behavioural or process addiction, provides an escape from uncomfortable feelings of tension, anxiety, and irritation. It becomes a solution to dealing with difficult situations and painful emotions. Unfortunately, as with any addiction, it is a temporary fix, which leaves the sufferer with heightened anxiety, low moods, and depression. It can also exacerbate or trigger existing and underlying mental health conditions and substance abuse problems.
Addicts tend to become secretive and dishonest about their behaviour around their compulsion. Maybe because they don’t want to be judged; because they don’t want to be told to stop; possibly because they don’t want to admit, even to themselves, that there is an issue, it is easier to be in denial and pretend that everything is okay. Frequently they feel a lot of shame and regret over what they are doing, the secrets they are keeping, the impact of their behaviour. Many don’t understand why they just can’t stop; especially as the consequences keep getting graver, and the outcomes darker.
This means the addict will lie about where they are going, who they have been with. How much money they have spent, what the money has been spent on. These secrets and lies spill over into every aspect of their lives, taking a toll on both physical and mental health, and often driving a further wedge between an addict and their loved ones.
A big sign that there is a problem with the way you, or someone you love is gambling, is being unable to stop. Most individuals who don’t have a problem are able to walk away when their losses exceed a set amount, rather than continually chasing the next big win to make the funds up. They can stop when their family members or loved ones point out there may be an issue.
For a compulsive gambler it feels impossible. Many have made repeated attempts to stop, reduce or control the habit. When their crutch (the behaviour) is removed they are restless, moody, irritable, and discontent.
If you recognise any of the above signs, then talk to a professional, as soon as possible, and get some help. A gambling problem can sometimes be compounded by other co-occurring mental health conditions. Many problem gamblers also suffer with substance abuse issues, stress, anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. There is a solution, and with the appropriate treatment, individuals can and do recover.
Here at our luxury residential rehab centre in Ibiza we treat clients suffering with a variety of addictions and disorders, including impulse control (OCD), substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) and processes (gambling and sex), as well as mental health conditions such as bipolar, anxiety and depression.
The rehabilitation centre’s therapeutic team is headed by Medical Director, Dr Manuel Rodriguez. We are highly qualified in a range of treatments including talk therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), cognitive behavioural (CBT) and equine-facilitated therapy.
For details on admissions to our Spanish rehab centre please contact [email protected]
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