Gambling addictions and how to deal with them

Gambling addictions and how to deal with them

At The Bridge Marbella, we’re committed to supporting our patients and enabling them to recover from their addictions. We want you to leave our rehab in Spain stronger mentally, physically and with the tools to have a lasting recovery, breaking the vicious cycle of addiction.

Gambling is one of the addictions we specialise in, but which is very often denied by the addicts themselves, and only flagged up by loved ones and colleagues. That’s because gambling is seen to be socially acceptable, with a large proportion of the population “having a flutter”, betting on sports or playing the lottery on a regular basis. However, once gambling becomes compulsive, it can be as destructive on your life and family as substance abuse, so must be taken seriously and acknowledged as a problem.

In this blog, we wanted to introduce the topic of gambling addiction and let you know that there is help out there for anyone struggling with this problem, for either the addict or family members. Our qualified and experienced addiction specialists are here to answer your questions about gambling addiction and we have a range of different programmes suitable; from online treatment options for addiction which you can do anywhere and fit around your life, to dayhab, and residential rehabilitation in our private rehabilitation centre. There are also support groups and your GP will be able to refer you for relevant therapy and treatment. You do not have to face this alone!

What is gambling addiction?

If you are addicted to gambling, you will not be able to stop yourself from gambling. The type of betting, frequency and amount you bet may vary, but the thing that brings addicts together is the compulsion, or uncontrollable urge to gamble. You are not able to stop, even when you can no longer afford it and it is negatively affecting the rest of your life.

Gambling addiction is a common issue, despite regulations around the betting industry, with charity GambleAware’s survey revealing that in 2020 nearly 1.4 million people in the UK were problem gamblers – 2.7% of adults! Unfortunately, this figure is likely now to be higher, with vulnerable people being adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and either relapsing, or losing control of their gambling habit during this difficult time.

What are the symptoms of gambling addiction?

As we mentioned above, the defining symptom of gambling addiction is not being able to stop, but as addicts often deny the addiction for a long time, we thought it would be helpful to outline a few other warning signs to look out for.

  • Being obsessed by gambling and avoiding work or family commitments to gamble
  • Lying about how often you gamble and how much you spend and trying to hide the habit
  • Funding your gambling through extreme means, such as selling possessions, stealing money or using money for bills to bet
  • Gambling to feel better and then feeling guilty after you’ve done it
  • Taking bigger risks, betting more to cover losses, or betting more than you can afford for the thrill of the win

It’s important to note that you can still be addicted to gambling even if you don’t do it frequently.

How do you treat gambling addiction?

First you need to admit that you have a problem with gambling, which is often a major stumbling block for this type of addiction. Once you have, there are a wide range of treatment options for you, so please don’t lose hope.

A gambling addiction may not manifest like an addiction to drugs or alcohol, but the compulsion and how it affects an addict’s brain is very similar. This is good news, as there are very well-established treatment methods and programmes out there to help you once you admit there’s a problem and seek help. As the support group Gamblers Anonymous so rightly says – there is hope!

Here are a number of ways you can get help for a gambling addiction –

  • Speak to your GP and find out what gambling addiction support there is near you and what free services are available on the NHS.
  • Reach out to your local branch of Gamblers Anonymous and join a meeting to follow their 12-step programme. It follows the same system as AA and can be a great way to get support from fellow addicts, learn coping strategies and develop a support system to break the cycle of the addiction.
  • Try therapycognitive behavioural therapy and 1-2-1 therapy can be valuable for gambling addicts to understand why they gamble compulsively and take back control of their thoughts, feelings and actions through simple, but effective techniques. Therapy can also get to the root of why you gamble and deal with any trauma that could be lying behind this addiction.
  • Sign-up to an online addiction treatment programme – Unfortunately a large proportion of gambling addicts do not seek help, either because they won’t admit they have a problem, feel shame about getting treatment or can’t afford residential rehab programmes. However, studies have shown that virtual treatment programmes can work very well in this case, because it is easier to access without affecting the rest of your life, can be done in the comfort of your home and is significantly cheaper than traditional rehabilitation programmes. During the pandemic when clients couldn’t travel to our private rehabilitation centre in Marbella, but still desperately needed our help, we developed a virtual addiction treatment programme. This is a four week, rolling programme delivered by the same expert team of qualified therapists and addiction specialists that deliver our residential programme but at a fraction of the cost. It can be an excellent way to seek help.
  • Go to rehab – There are residential rehabilitation programmes suitable for people who find themselves unable to stop gambling without being removed from the triggers and temptations of their day to day lives. This offers you a safe place to stop and seek intensive treatment and make a lasting change. Alternatively, an outpatient rehabilitation programme such as our dayhab programme can be better for people who want to continue working, or living at home, while seeking treatment.

Whatever route you take, we urge you to seek help and deal with your gambling addiction, before it causes lasting damage to your relationships, finances and gets so bad that you feel like you need to take desperate measures. Unfortunately, there is an increased risk of suicide in people who gamble excessively, so this is not something which should be taken lightly. There is help out there, please don’t lose hope. Our addiction professionals are at the end of the phone, and here to support you and help you lead a full and happy life free from gambling addiction. Get in touch with us today.