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This page was medically reviewed by Stephanie Chick (FDAP), Senior ATP (Addiction Treatment Programme) Therapist at Priory Hospital North London, in July 2020.

What is a gambling addiction

A gambling addiction, sometimes referred to as 'compulsive gambling' or 'problem gambling’, is characterised by having a continuous urge to gamble, despite the negative effects that it can have on your life. It is believed that gambling may reflect a diagnosis of impulse control disorder, where trouble regulating your emotions and behaviour can make it difficult to manage the urge to gamble and seek out the associated adrenaline rush.

Compulsive gambling can cause difficulties in relationships and at work, whilst the cost of funding it can become a huge financial burden. While it is possible to get lucky from time to time, particularly if you feel that you are knowledgeable about the sport or card game in which you are betting, it is important to remember that betting odds of any kind are always in favour of what is ultimately a lucrative industry for a reason.

Gambling addiction can affect anybody at any time, and differentiates from an occasional ‘flutter’ for fun, or even a gambling problem that isn’t out of control, in that it can consume all aspects of your life. While traditional gambling prior to the digital age consisted of having to physically place bets at horse racing venues or bookmakers on the high street, modern day gambling involves 24/7 access to casino and sports bets at the touch of a screen or click of a button.

While it can feel impossible to stop gambling, specialist gambling addiction treatment at Priory, aims to alleviate the destructive effects of compulsive gambling behaviours. At Priory’s specialist addiction centres, behavioural therapies are used to help you to understand the reasons why you find it difficult to stop gambling, enabling you to learn techniques to channel these urges into more healthy pursuits.

Gambling addiction treatment at Priory

Treatment for gambling addiction can take place as part of our 28-day Addiction Treatment Programme, with the length and type of treatment that you receive, dependent on your unique condition and the severity of your addiction.

However your gambling habits are conducted, gambling addiction becomes apparent when it begins to negatively affect your relationships, finances, or interferes with your job, and it is a habit that can quickly get out of control. Gambling addiction can be completely out of character, with increasingly mounting debt, and behaviour that you would previously have deemed irrational.

The amount of money that you spend on betting will often amount to much more than other people would be prepared to lose, and even if you win a large amount on a bet, you will likely feel the urge to place that money into more bets in the hope of increasing your total winnings.

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Treatment for gambling addiction

Gambling addiction can make you feel as though you are losing control. The main approach to gambling therapy is by using some form of psychological support or intervention. This may involve getting gambling addiction treatment from professionals at Priory and joining a self-help group such as GamCare or Gamblers Anonymous; these groups offer local, telephone and online support.

We offer several forms of treatment for problem gambling. However, the first step is to try to understand why the addiction developed, and what other stresses or problems you may be trying to avoid. This may be explored through individual or support group therapy at one of our specialist gambling addiction centres.

Behavioural talking therapies, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), has shown to be effective in the treatment of gambling addiction and can help you to understand what triggers your gambling behaviours, and the ways in which you may change this behaviour.

Medication for a dual diagnosis

The most effective method of treating gambling addiction is via a comprehensive programme of addiction therapy. However, if you are struggling with gambling addiction alongside another co-occurring condition, such as depression or anxiety, it may be appropriate for you to be prescribed medication to help with this dual diagnosis. If you are diagnosed with a further mental health condition alongside gambling addiction, your treatment programme may involve inpatient treatment to ensure that any prescribed medication such as antidepressants are being taken at the effective dose.

Fast Access to Residential Treatment

We are currently able to offer fast access to private inpatient treatment at Priory. Please call us today and speak to our expert advisors.
Call: 0800 860 6267
Alternatively, you can complete our online enquiry form.

What are the signs and symptoms of a gambling addiction

Because there are no clear signs or symptoms if you or someone you care about has a gambling addiction, it can be difficult to spot patterns of compulsive betting when compared to more visibly clear symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction. For this reason, gambling is sometimes referred to as a ‘hidden illness’, and many who have gambling addiction will deny or play down the severity of their problem.

However, there are subtle signs that will appear if someone has an ongoing gambling addiction. The most common signs and symptoms of a gambling 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

In addition to these, you may also suffer from additional physical and psychological symptoms. These symptoms may include anxiety, irritability, headaches, stomach aches and stress-related symptoms.

How to prevent gambling cravings

If you have a gambling addiction, resisting the urge to place a bet or seek out a casino in order to satisfy the craving for the associated adrenaline rush, can be very difficult. Part of the therapeutic process when receiving treatment for gambling addiction at Priory involves helping you learn alternative ways to address these cravings, without having to physically gamble.

If you feel a gambling craving beginning to take hold, here are some tips to avoid giving in to the urge:

Postpone gambling until the moment has passed - while many forms of gambling can be a response to a spur of the moment desire, consciously telling yourself to hold off from gambling for a certain amount of time, such as 10 minutes or an hour, can help to reduce the urge enough to resist acting on it.

Avoid being on your own - having a gambling addiction and preventing cravings involves being aware of triggering situations. Being isolated or stuck for things to do can lead to a greater chance of gambling purely to pass the time. If you are alone and begin to experience gambling cravings, contacting a family member or friend and arranging an activity can help to keep you occupied until the craving has passed.

Think about the consequences – while it can be difficult to look at the long-term when gambling, preventing further gambling by remembering how you felt last time you lost a similar amount of money, and the impact it had on people close to you, can help to dissuade you from giving in to the craving to gamble.

Get help for compulsive gambling

In order to stop gambling, there needs to be an admission that there’s a problem – this may typically come after a large loss or losing a substantial amount of money over several days. Get in touch with Priory today to see how we can help to treat gambling addiction.

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding gambling addiction treatment and rehabilitation, please call 0800 144 8969 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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