Double or Quits?
Gambling addiction affects 0.7-0.9% percent of the UK’s population over 16, and completely takes over their being.
A further 3.5 million people in the UK are estimated to show signs of difficulties with gambling, according to the Gambling Prevalence Survey in 2010. And it’s not your stereotypical image of an addict where the challenges are growing – with women showing the largest increase between 2007 and 2010.
Often living dual lives, gambling addicts may appear on the outside to have it all ‘together’ – holding down jobs, seen as pillars of society, they have families and can often come from professional backgrounds.
This can be a charade, unfortunately, for those that are addicted. Lives can become controlled by the obsession to gamble, and the compulsion to keep going even when all the chips are down.
The problems become known when the individual becomes pre-occupied with gambling, to the extent it impact on family, commitments and finances, often with devastating consequences. As with any addiction or compulsive behaviour, even when the addict is not gambling, they are thinking about the next time they will be.
The risk-taking may not stop there, it can often spill into challenges in the workplace, with recent high-profile cases involving not just risky behaviour with other people’s money, but actual fraud, theft and criminality.
The reality of gambling addiction is one of crippling financial devastation and mental crisis, and many addicts will find themselves in a downward spiral of uncontrollable debt. Maxed out credit cards, re-mortgaging of the family home and unsecured loans are at the top of the list.
With the introduction of ‘fixed-odds betting terminals’ in 2001, figures show nearly a fifth of problem gamblers in the UK have reported debts of between £20,000 and £100,000.
The rise of online casinos and betting sites also now mean that people that are gambling addicts can and will continue to bet from the comfort of their own homes, and will always find a way to feed their addiction, finding ways to get around legislated limits. As with any compulsive behaviour, the problem needs to be identified and the root cause of the addiction or behaviour needs to be tackled.
SO what do we do…?
Often, those who are addicted to gambling will be in a state of denial of their situation even where it’s clear from missing financial obligations that there is a real problem. Or, they will want to stop, however the guilt and shame they may associate with their addiction could be preventing them from doing so – and so the pain deepens and they return to gambling, or a displacement activity to assuage the guilt and shame, in a vicious circle.
If you are reading this and you are worried about your own behaviour, or that of a loved one who is gambling, the good news is that there is a way out, and there is a solution.
Residential treatment can offer the most effective starting place for anyone suffering with gambling, or any other addiction. A new and safe, supported environment allows the addict to gain respite and distance, so that they can work, with support to identify the triggers of their illness. This normally lasts around 6 – 8 weeks and comprises of 1-2-1 counselling and group therapy sessions as well as other therapeutic activities that are conducive to long term recovery from addiction, such as relapse prevention workshops.
Following on from treatment, it is vitally important that an aftercare plan is put in place to support the recovering addict for when they arrive home. These plans will provide a bridge to normal living where they may choose to seek support through a network of other recovering gambling addicts such as through attending Gamblers Anonymous.
If you are worried about someone’s gambling or are struggling with gambling addiction yourself, please call 0207 993 2060 in confidence.