The same as any other addiction, an addiction to gambling can be very harmful and hard to get control of.
So-called ‘problem gamblers’ range in their addiction, the most extreme being the gambling addict. They get an unmistakable rush from a win and will chase a loss to win back their cash. Or they simply indulge in games involving the betting and winning of cash.
What is Meant by “Addiction”?
It doesn’t matter that gambling isn’t a consumable substance like alcohol or drugs. It is still addictive. The reason being that we get addicted to things on the basis of a change of the amount of the chemical dopamine, in our brains.
In simple terms, dopamine is connected to the reward part of our brain. Rather than simply making us feel great, we feel rewarded when we partake in a particular activity. This facilitates a need to repeat this behaviour again and again.
Basic rewards such as eating chocolate might produce a similar rush. But the more extreme causes, like recreational drugs or a gambling session, might incentivise us to take part in that destructive behaviour repeatedly.
Biologically speaking, some people are more genetically prone to developing an addiction to gambling more than others. Some people have what is called an ‘under-active’ reward system in the brain, where the prefrontal cortex isn’t activated as much as others.
Those prone to it actively have to seek more of that sense of reward to feel sated. This is why one gambling win might lead to an addiction in order to trigger this reward thrill.
Additionally, by compulsively repeating this habit, a person can develop a tolerance to the rewarding feeling which dulls the sense of reward. So, to get the same buzz, they need to repeat the behaviour more frequently.
Can You be Cured of Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction can rewire a person’s brain in the exact way drugs and alcohol do. The great thing is those addictive behaviours can be kept under control.
It’s not possible to eliminate the desire, not 100%, as it is genetically built into the person’s brain. What can be chanced are the behaviours and recognition of the triggers that cause the urges, and how to cope with them.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is concerned with detecting the thought process experienced by gambling addicts, for example, the feeling they get when winning, or the misunderstanding that, if they continue to play, their chances of winning increase.
CBT aids to highlight the causes of this destructive repetitive thought process and amend them. The idea is to encourage the addict to understand that they won’t be rewarded as much as they believe. CBT has scientific evidence of being highly effective in many psychological issues. It simply alters how we think.
Counselling for Gambling Addiction
Individual or group counselling sessions are a fantastic way to highlight triggers that incite gambling addicts to gamble. Communication of issues in an open way, either with a therapist or with other people, can help the addict look at their issue from someone else’s perspective. It helps them understand that the reward might not be as amazing as their brain has been wired to make them think.
Working with those people affected by gambling, for example, the addict’s friends and family demonstrates the impact their behaviour has on people close to them.
An addiction can be an insular illness. Counselling lets sufferers to be open and to view their issue with different perspectives.
Dependent on how much of their disposable income the addict has to spend on their treatment, rehab centres can offer round the clock support. The quality on offer varies, as does access to proper medical health professionals. The benefit of the 24/7 care in addition to therapy sessions can help the addict find the underlying cause of their behaviour.
Organisations exist to help an addict get started on the road to recovery. Your gambling operator will certainly have a responsible gambling policy and there should be links you can easily find on their website pointing to useful organisations like:
- BeGambleAware. A free resource online which provides info on where to find help.
- Mind. A charity supporting mental health and addressing addictive illness.
- GamCare. A confidential environment offering helplines, online chat services, forums and self-assessment tools.
- The National Gambling Helpline. A freephone number open seven days a week from 8am to midnight, for gamblers and their loved ones.
Rehab institutions like The Priory are a great place for help, but it’s advised to start small as the idea of a centre can be overwhelming. Use a forum or helpline as your first port of call.
Prevention is Better than the Cure
It’s a fact that some addictions are simply unavoidable. There are strategies you can put in place to avoid becoming addicted to gambling at all.
You’ll have to use your own initiative and motivation, but with the help of friends and family, and even the gambling operators you’re using, it’s doable.
Set Limits for Yourself
Know not just your budget but your time too. It’s important. Allocate a specific time of day to relax, or set yourself a limit to spend. You can set these on the site so you’re not entirely on your own…
Use your Gambling Operator’s Limits
There are three simple tiers. Reality checks which allow players to see periodically how long they’ve been gambling. A time out, which prevents a player from playing anywhere between a day and six weeks. Finally, self-exclusion which disables logging in for six months or more. Check out our Knowledge Hub for more information on gambling site features.
Ask Someone Close to You
It’s really common to get so incredibly caught up in an addiction that the person doesn’t realise they’re affecting those close them. Speaking to one of these people can give you an honest insight into how much time you’re dedicating to gambling and how it’s impacting them.
As with all addictions, gambling addiction is still an illness. Admitting that the urge will never truly go away in whole may seem defeatist. But, by talking to a professional, and admitting out loud that there is a problem, many thousands of gambling addicts are recovering and getting control of their problem.
Only ever bet with a trustworthy gambling operator. They should have a clear responsible gambling policy. It could be fundamental to preventing addictive behaviours. It’ll ensure you enjoy gambling but in a controlled way.