Understanding Gambling Addiction by Dr Paul McLaren of the Priory Hospital Hayes Grove

Recent media coverage of gambling addiction has highlighted that fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) have become ever more prominent in our high street betting shops and are a real cause for concern with regards to their addictive nature. 

So what makes gambling become an ‘addiction’ and what are the signs and symptoms to look for? Dr Paul McLaren of the Priory Hospital Hayes Grove explains:

image“A gambling addiction is characterised by the continuous urge to gamble, despite the negative impacts it can have. Problem gambling can cause difficulties in relationships and at work, whilst the cost of funding it can become a huge financial burden. If you are in need of gambling help you may find that even when you win large sums of money the winnings will be used to fund more bets until they run out. Recently gaming websites have made gambling even more accessible, creating issues for problem gamblers who can gamble at all hours of the day and night”.

“The thrill is linked to risk taking, which induces a natural high. The effect of this altered psychological state is similar to that of stimulant drugs. In the same way that a drug addict becomes preoccupied by their habit so too does the gambling addict."

Symptoms of an addiction may include:

  • A preoccupation with gambling and loss of interest in other hobbies 
  • Increasing the quantities gambled to recoup lost bets or to experience the same thrill
  • A negative impact upon relationships with those closest to you 
  • Concealing the amount of money and time spent betting from family members
  • Stealing money in order to gamble 
  • Denial that you have a problem 
  • You may also suffer from physical symptoms. These symptoms include anxiety, irritability, headaches, stomach upsets and stress-related symptoms.”

How to get help with your gambling problem

Understanding that you need help is the first step. Talking to someone and understanding what treatment options are available is the next stage. Trying to understand why the addiction developed, and what other stresses or problems you may be trying to avoid is key. This may be explored through individual, or group therapy. This may involve getting help from professionals or joining a self-help group such as GamCare or Gamblers Anonymous; these groups offer local, telephone and online help.

Free initial gambling addiction assessment

We understand embarking upon gambling therapy can be an emotionally turbulent time for you. With this in mind, the Priory offers a free initial assessment with an experienced therapist at all of our addiction treatment locations to help you discuss your needs in confidence.

Addiction treatment at the Priory

A gambling addiction can make you feel as though you are losing control. The main approach to gambling therapy is to use psychological support. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective and can help people to understand what triggers gambling and the ways in which you may change your behaviour. Medical treatments can also play an important part in relieving underlying stress or depression.

For further information on the full range of Priory services, please call: 0845 277 4679.