The Ultimate Guide to Gambling Addiction
The extent of the problem
There are around 593,000 addicted gamblers in the United Kingdom alone. This signifies this problem is very real and very common. However, many of these people silently suffer from this disorder for many years. In this post, we put the spotlight on gambling addiction and also offer up some tips for overcoming your gambling addiction for good. If you are one of these 593,000 people suffering from an addiction, know that you are not alone and that help is available. By the time you’ve finished reading this post, you will hopefully have been given enough information to make long and last changes.
Despite the fact problem gambling is now classified as a bona fide behavioural addiction, many people still dismiss a gambling addiction as something that’s dissimilar to a disease. However, this belief could not be further from the truth. This is because addiction to gambling carries highly serious consequences for the sufferer and his or her family, and the illness perpetuates despite the sufferer’s wish to stop gambling for good. These consequences that face gambling addicts include job loss, financial meltdown, divorce and separation and even suicide.
Even though gambling addiction is widely regarded as an illness of the mind, many people may view gambling as a quasi-illness and one that involves conscious choice on behalf of the suffer. This would mean the gambling addict is ‘at fault’ for developing his or her addiction. However, gambling is a very serious illness and not unlike an addiction to drugs and alcohol. In this article, we aim to dispel this belief that gambling is not a ‘real’ illness.
Who gambling addiction effects
There is no ‘typical’ gambling addict. Gambling addiction affects all age groups, both sexes and all socioeconomic groups. This means we are all at risk of developing an addiction to gambling. It’s thus a valuable endeavour to educate yourself on this destructive disease we call a gambling addiction to ensure you know how to react if you or a loved one are touched by this disease.
Meet Pam, a 59-year-old gambling addict from Skegness
Before we continue, we would like to introduce you to Pam. Pam is a 59-year-old woman from Skegness. He’s a mother of three grown-up children. Pam is married and she’s had a stable job as a secretary for a medium-sized public organisation for the past 19 years. Back in 2008, Pam developed an addiction to slot machines. Pam’s addiction took over almost all areas of her life and pushed Pam to engage in illegal acts she’d never of dreamed of doing before she developed an addiction to gambling.
Pam would eventually gamble away every penny of her monthly paycheck on slot machines. This forced Pam to embezzle money from her employer. Pam suffered from an illusion that made her believe she could somehow win back her losses. Pam believed she was only ‘borrowing’ this money from her employer. This helped Pam avoid labelling herself as a thief. However, the more Pam lost, the more she stole in order ‘repay’ her employer.
Pam’s behaviour was literally hijacked by her addiction. Every time Pam lost all of her money at a local casino, she would drive home banging on her steering wheel promising herself she would never step foot in a casino again. However, the urges to resume gambling were too powerful for Pam to overcome, plus she had around £18,000 to return to her employer before they noticed the lost money.
Pam’s addiction to gambling came to an abrupt end in the Summer of 2009 when she was arrested for stealing public money from her employer. Pam served a six-month suspended jail sentence and she was ordered to serve 150 hours of community service. Now Pam attends weekly Gamblers Anonymous groups and she’s been ‘clean’ for nearly six years.
Pam believes some of the damage caused by her addiction is irreversible, particular due to strain her addiction inflicted on close relationships with her friends, family members and former colleagues. Pam also has many feelings of guilt and shame attached to her past addiction and she struggles to overcome these emotions to the present day.
Below, we outline a number of studies that help explain Pam’s erratic behaviour. We also provide a number of tips people in Pam’s situation could implement to avoid a similar fate.
Gambling addiction in the DSM-5
In the DSM-5, gambling addiction is classed as a ‘behavioural addiction’. This means a gambling addiction is no longer considered an ‘impulse control disorder’. In fact, gambling addiction is the only behavioural addiction of its kind to feature in the DSM-5 i.e. non-drug addiction Now gambling addiction is covered in the DSM-5, many insurance companies will pay for their insured to access gambling addiction therapy.
The three types of gambling addiction
There are a number of reasons why people become addicted to gambling. We can broadly break these reasons down into three pathways that people travel along that leads to gambling addiction.
Below we outline these three pathways
- The ‘normal’ problem gambler: this group of people begin to gamble socially and do not have any other underlying mental problems such as anxiety, depression or another co-occurring addiction that fuels their addiction to gambling. However, these people begin to gamble too often and they are known to ‘chase losses’. When they try to win lost money back they begin to realise they have developed a gambling problem. This group of people are known to best respond to therapy that’s designed to tackle gambling addiction
- The emotional problem gambler: these people make up the largest group who suffer from a gambling addiction. These people gamble to ‘mask’ and ‘numb’ pain caused by a traumatic event suffered in their earlier life. Gambling is thus a means of ‘self-medication’ that allows these people to process underlying emotional issues such as anxiety or depression. This is because gambling is a ‘mood modifier’ and an escapism
- The biologically pre-disposed gambler: this group of people exhibit an underlying neurophysiological deficiency that increases their odds of engaging in problem gambling. This deficiency means these people are more inclined to become impulsive and they may have a low boredom threshold. They are thus looking for ways to feel stimulated and aroused and gambling seems to provide this outlet
What is addiction?
An addiction is when priority is awarded to specific motivated behaviours (e.g. gambling). These behaviours are associated with immediate or short-term rewards. Less priority is given to other motivated behaviours such as occupational or familial behaviours that are typically less associated with immediate rewards. Addiction is thus characterised as a disorder of misdirected motivation.
The core components of an addiction to gambling include:
- Continued behaviour despite adverse consequences
- Diminished or lost control/compulsive engagement
- Craving or urge state component
Medically speaking, an addiction to gambling is also known as ‘problem gambling’, ‘ludomania’, ‘gambling disorder’ ‘clinical pathological gambling’ or ‘compulsive gambling.’ Like all other addictions, gambling is classed as an ‘urge to engage in a behaviour despite experiencing negative harmful consequences as a result.’
Your brain on gambling
The nucleus accumbens within the brain is responsible for reward processing. All addictions, including gambling, activate the nucleus accumbens forcing it to produce a neurotransmitter known as dopamine. Dopamine release tells you a specific activity is rewarding. Natural activities that assure your survival are known to trigger the release of dopamine. This includes having sex, drinking water and eating food.
Dopamine is released when a pleasurable activity is undertaken. However, dopamine is also released when a pleasurable activity is merely anticipated. When you anticipate an activity such as gambling, dopamine is released. Your brain expects more dopamine to be released once the activity is fulfilled.
If the activity is not fulfilled, you experience urges to complete the activity in order to receive an uplift in dopamine. These urges force you to continue gambling even when after you promised you will ‘never gamble again.’ Addiction is thus caused by a shortfall in expectation for a dopamine uplift.
The unconscious need for that dopamine hit becomes a preoccupation that causes us to act upon it by engaging in the addictive behaviour. PET imaging of an addict’s brain reveals this is the case. The dopamine reward system is triggered by various environmental cues that involve a ‘reward.’ This includes watching porn, gambling and seeing an attractive person you would like to have sex with.
Dopamine made me do it!
The mere anticipation of the reward triggers the dopamine reward system. This forces the addict to lose his or her powers of reasoning in pursuit of fulfilling the dopamine-releasing activity.
The addict engages in addictive activity due to the unconscious belief that the activity will further his or her survival. In reality, the addictive behaviour has hijacked the person’s reward mechanism that’s designed by evolution to help his or her survival. Conscious reasoning is trumped by a dopamine directed desire to engage in the addictive behaviour under the pretext this behaviour will assist the person’s survival.
Consistent exposure to the addictive behaviours causes the construction of neurological pathways in the brain. This is because neural circuits that ‘fire together, wire together.’ These dopamine-producing pathways become the route of ‘less resistance’ when it comes to dopamine release.
This means urges to engage in addictive behaviours becomes far more powerful when these behaviours are repeatedly continued. These neural pathways remain for many years following the addict’s decision to give up the addictive behaviours. However, with time, these pathways become weaker and weaker.
Falling dopamine levels when you are addicted
Dopamine levels reduce when people suffer from an addiction. Volkow’s study involved participants being injected with a dopamine medication known as pramipexole. This drug was radioactively labelled. The drug then bound to the dopamine receptors in the participants’ brain. Using a PET camera, the researchers then visualised that marker as a signal of dopamine levels.
The dopamine signal was found to be weaker for participants suffering from an addiction to drugs compared to the healthy control participants. This reveals long-term addiction leads to lowered levels of dopamine. When the addicted participants were exposed to drugs, their dopamine receptors lit up like a touch on the PET camera when compared to the healthy control group.
Similar results were revealed for pathological gamblers in another study conducted in 2012. This was particularly the case when it came to mood-related impulsivity and urgency. However, these differences in dopamine levels between the addicted and control group for the gambling study were not as apparent as that displayed in the earlier study involving drug addiction.
Signs of a gambling addiction
If you suspect you or a loved one suffer from an addiction gambling, then known there exist a number of signs that may confirm your suspicion.
Below we list the most common signs that signify you or your loved one could be suffering from an addiction to gambling:
- A pre-occupation with gambling: this is when you cannot turn off your thinking when it comes to gambling, no matter how hard you try to block off these thoughts
- Loss of control: you cannot cut back on your gambling no matter how hard you try. Following a gambling binge, you tell yourself ‘never again,’ but within 24 hours you’ve made another bet. This signifies you are not in control of your gambling
- Tolerance to gambling: you need to gamble more and more money or to gamble more frequently in order to feel the desired psychological state your addiction demands
- Experiencing ‘withdrawals’: When you stop gambling, your experience several psychological withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, discomfort and depression
- Escapism: You gamble in order to ‘mask’ or ‘numb’ psychological pain that’s caused by traumatic experiences or abuse you experienced in your past
- Chasing your losses: You continue to gamble in a desperate attempt to regain the money you’ve lost in prior bets
- Lying and stealing: you engage in activities that cross your moral boundaries in order to conceal or fuel your gambling. This includes lying or stealing from your loved ones
Phases of compulsive gambling
There’s are four phases of compulsive gambling. These four phases are categorised below:
- The winning phase: this is when you experience a big win and you are very excited about it. You develop a preoccupation with gambling and when you gamble you experience a physiologically excited state
- The losing phase: this is when you become more obsessed with your gambling. You start to gamble alone and you begin to borrow money in order to gamble. You may attempt to ‘win back’ what you have lost and you lie to your loved ones about the extent of your gambling. You also begin to undergo personality changes as you become more withdrawn and restless
- The desperation phase: this is when your urges to gamble force you to engage in behaviour that conflicts with your personal values. You may steal, lie and cheat in order to raise the necessary funds that enable your addiction to gambling. You may begin to experience suicidal thoughts
- The hopelessness phase: this is when you begin to lose your support system and feel increasingly isolated. You now feel ‘burned out’ from your gambling addiction and you may begin to expose yourself to substance abuse. Suicidal ideation also increases and you may attempt to carry out these ideas
Gambling addiction and other addictions
Many gamblers also suffer from a ‘co-occurring’ addiction. NESARC research reveals around 70% of pathological gamblers suffer from an addiction to alcohol. Around 38% of pathological gamblers also suffered from an addiction to drugs. Around 50% of these people suffered from a mood disorder and around 20% of these people had attempted suicide on at least one occasion.
The origins of emotional gambling
Emotional gambling, like all other addictions, is caused by negative emotions. These emotions include anger, fear and hopelessness caused by traumatic and abusive events experienced in the sufferer’s past. People suffering from gambling addiction often carry ‘baggage.’ This emotional baggage is typically caused by a traumatic event experienced in childhood. People suffering from gambling addiction have a little voice in their head that urges them to continue gambling even though this activity causes significant conflict in their life.
Once these people have finished gambling and thus lose all or some of their money, they may promise never to gamble again. However, as the pain and resentment re-surfaces, gambling addicts soon return to gambling instead of facing this pain using more productive means such as therapy. Gambling offers a temporary outlet for happiness and joy, so in a sense, resorting to gambling is a positive step to relieve pain and resentment caused by traumatic events in the gambling addict’s past. However, gambling ultimately accelerates the anxieties these people with to alleviate.
Being in the zone
Gambling addicts describe the feeling they experience when gambling as ‘being in the zone.’ These people describe ‘being in love’ with gambling or being in the ‘machine zone’. Gamblers lose the sense of what’s going on around them and they lose the sense of time. Five hours passing when gambling may seem like ten minutes.
This is because gambling hijacks the brain’s reward mechanism that drives our need to eat, drink water and have sex i.e. survival propagating behaviours. The addiction is not an addiction to winning money per se. Moreover, the addiction is to gambling itself. This masks all other problems the addict may be experiencing in his or her life. All of these problems simply disappear as the sufferer concentrates on the results of his or her gambling. Once this person has lost all of his or her money, these problems then reappear. Since they’ve lost all of their money, their anxieties have simply been accelerated.
Gambling and cognitive distortion
A gambler plays to excess due to decision-making distortions. These distortions create a heightened expectancy for winning i.e. that they are about to win. Although everyone is susceptible to decision-making distortions, problem gamblers are particularly susceptible to these cognitive distortions.
The two main types of distortions that apply to problem gambling are:
- The illusion of control (i.e. when the gambler confuses skill with a chance)
- The gambler’s fallacy (labelling random sequences as ‘winning streaks’)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (discussed below) aims to help the gambling addict overcome these distortions by identifying and challenging these beliefs.
Casino company’s dirty little tricks
Now that we’ve outlined the definition and neurological process underpinning a gambling addiction, we shall now outline some of the less than ethical tactics employed by the gambling industry that takes advantage of your tendency to become addicted to gambling.
Below we outline some of the less-than-ethical ‘tricks’ casinos are known to carry out in order to encourage gambling:
- Giving perks for playing such as free food and free tickets to shows
- Offering free alcoholic drinks to ‘big spenders’
- Use of sounds when winning occurs
- Using ‘chips’ instead of money so people do not believe they are losing money and distorting the value between chips and real money
- Dismissing dealers who ‘dump’ even though outcomes are random
- Obtaining personal details of known pathological gamblers and contacting them to return to the casino to claim perks
The danger of near misses
Most bettering games are designed to reveal ‘near misses’. This is when you almost won but didn’t. Slot machines and roulette are two notable examples when it comes to near misses. Near misses act as powerful motivational forces to continue gambling. Complete misses are far less powerful when it comes to motivating you to ‘try again.’
Gamblers feel a powerful sense of discomfort when a near miss is experienced. This discomfort is experienced in the form of anxiety, and anxiety is known to increase the secretion of dopamine. Since dopamine is the brain’s goal direction neurotransmitter, dopamine release causes the gambler to experiences urges to continue gambling.
Casinos and slot machine makers arguably engineer slot machines to come up with more near misses to encourage continued play. Near misses inducing cognitive regret and the only way to erase it is to continue gambling.
Gamblers overwhelmingly report an increased motivation to play after experiencing a near-miss outcome when compared to experiencing a full miss outcome. It’s thus not difficult to understand why so many betting games are designed to incorporate near-misses into their programming.
The dangers of multi-line slot machines
Many older slot machines contained a single line. If you matched up against three equivalent items, you won. However, modern slot machines have multiple lines. You may bet on multiple lines at the same time. This gives you the opportunity to ‘win’ on one of several lines.
However, you must pay to bet on several lines. Thus, even if you do ‘win’ on one ‘line’, your losses outweigh your wins because you’ve lost on the other bets you paid for. This creates an illusion of winning even though your net losses outweigh your net gains. This illusion motivates you to continue to bet even though you are clearly losing money.
This is known as ‘losses disguised as wins’ or LDWs in the gambling industry. LDWs generate physiological arousal similar to actual wins e.g. heart rate increase, anxiety and perspiration. LDWs also distort the gamblers memory concerning the ‘true wins’ for that particular session.
Problem gamblers also report that multi-line games are more ‘immersive’ and more skilful than the single-line game alternatives.
When you strike a ‘win’, the machine responds with ‘bells and whistles.’ When you lose, the machine is silent. This plays on Pavlovian conditioning to encourage you to continue gambling.
The problem with the modern slot machine
Modern slot machines have been described as the ‘crack cocaine’ of the gambling industry. Modern slot and roulette machines are different to their predecessors. With old-style slot machines, you simply pulled a handle and hoped for a ‘three of a kind.’
However, modern slot machines are similar to high-tech video games that play music and show scenes from popular TV shows. Instead of pulling a handle, you bet by pushing a button. The bet is literally over in seconds.
The speed in which these bets are completed means slot machines highly addictive. Many criticise the gambling industry for designing machines that purposefully cause people to develop a gambling addiction. In a sense, these machines are doing the same thing as an addictive drug i.e. making the user become dependent.
Addiction is linked to the speed of reward. This is why Internet pornography is much more addictive than pornography contained in a magazine of VHS video. And this is exactly why modern slot machines are much more addictive than older slot machines. Modern slot machines increase the gambling ‘dosage’ to much higher levels. All this speed means more bets, and more bets mean more excitement and more excitement means more dopamine. More dopamine means the modern slot machine is more addictive than its predecessors.
This also explains why the ‘penny slot’ machine is so addictive. You can literally place hundreds of small bets throughout the day. These machines are designed to give the player at least 30% of their money back. The lights and sounds emitted by these machines are designed to trick the gambler’s brain that he or she ‘came out ahead’ even though a net loss has occurred.
Fixed odds better terminals (OBTs) in the United Kingdom
Fix odds better terminals (OBTs) are electronic roulette machines. Because the UK lacks a US-style casino culture, these machines are typically available in bettering shops. Like the modern slot machine, an OBT is a very fast method of betting, and bets are completed far quicker when compared to traditional ‘real world’ roulette.
When compared to slot machines, OBTs have much higher stakes. Higher speed and stakes have earned OBTs the title of the ‘crack cocaine’ of UK betting shops. OBTs are by far the preferred means of gambling for the UK’s problem gamblers.
Gambling addiction risk factors
Below we list a number of factors that increase the risk of you developing an addiction to gambling:
#1. Confidence in your ability to win
Many gambling addicts believe they possess the knowledge to win above all the odds. This causes these people to gamble without monitoring what they have spent. Confidence does not equal competence, and within a short period of time, many of these people develop an addiction to gambling.
#2. Easy access to gambling
Unfortunately, the availability of gambling outlets increases the odds of you developing an addiction to gambling. The number of gambling outlets is at an all-time high. Most towns and even villages have a bettering shop, and most cities are home to several casinos. The rise of online gambling means you can make a bet literally anywhere you can receive a telephone signal.
#3. Your economic status
People on a low salary are more likely to develop an addiction to gambling than their wealthier peers. You are more likely to chase what you consider to be a ‘big win’. Your winnings could be more than your monthly salary. If you suffer from a tight financial situation, you may gamble in order to try to ‘make ends meet,’ even though your gambling means your financial situation is ultimately worsened. You are also more likely to ‘chase’ money you have lost in prior bets when you earn a low wage.
#4. Your personal traits
People who exhibit an impulsive personality are more likely to gamble. You are also more likely to gamble if you tie your sense of self-esteem to your gambling addiction. Furthermore, you are also more likely to gamble if you use gambling as a way to escape your problems in life.
#5. Family history
You are more likely to gamble if you started to gamble at an early age. You are also more likely to gamble if you have a family history of drug abuse, alcoholism or mental illness. The odds of developing an addiction to gambling are also increased when you suffered a traumatic experience as a child. You are also more likely to gamble if you experience a major life change such as divorce, retirement or if your spouse passes away.
Gambling and gender differences
There does exist prominent gender differences when it comes to gambling addiction. For instance, women engage in gambling as a way of escaping from painful situations and emotions in their lives. In contrast, men are more likely to gamble due to their competitive nature or due to the exciting sensation gambling causes for them.
The development of gambling addiction is typically much quicker for women than it is for men. However, men are more likely to develop an addiction to gambling at an earlier age than women.
Although males are more likely to experience an addiction to gambling, women are believed to be catching up with their male peers in terms of the number of their numbers who have developed an addiction to gambling.
Gambling and age differences
Age is a major factor when it comes to the development of gambling addiction. The gambling industry has been known to deliberately target elderly people in their advertising messages. Elderly people are more vulnerable to developing an addiction to gambling due to major life changes taking place such as retirement and the loss of a spouse. Many elderly people turn to gambling as a way of escaping boredom and reality.
However, teens are also highly vulnerable to developing an addiction to gambling. This is due to teens’ level of brain development. Like the elderly, teens are also more likely to turn to gambling due to boredom and as a way of boosting self-esteem. Teens are also subject to peer pressure and the need to be viewed as ‘cool.’ Teens are also exposed to more gambling advertising messages than the rest of us due to more time being spent on social media, video games, TV programmes, the Internet and at sporting events.
Advice for clinicians
If you are a clinician, know that you will likely treat gambling addicts for non-gambling conditions such as depression, anxiety, substance misuse or eating disorders. Gambling is an invisible disease, so unless you make the correct enquiries, it’s unlikely you will diagnose the existence of gambling addiction.
The first step to take is to ask your patient if he or she ever gamble. Do not term this as a ‘gambling problem’ as this may raise their defences. If your patient confirms he or she gambles, ask them how they like to gamble. Is it via a casino, online, in a better shop or playing ‘scratch cards’? Then you must determine how often and for what duration your patient has gambled for.
Then you must ask whether gambling has caused problems for your patient. These problems may include work problems, relationship problems or health problems. Since gambling is a ‘hidden addiction,’ you must discover the extent of the problem by asking the correct questions when your patient’s defences are lowered. We also recommend you utilise Gamblers Anonymous’ 20 questions in diagnosing the existence of gambling addiction.
Overcoming a gambling addiction
Now we outline 6 ways you can address your addiction to gambling. The below advice should not replace the need to seek out individualised professional help.
#1. Realise you cannot win and realise the destruction that gambling has on your life
This step is about admitting you have a problem. If you are in denial about your gambling addiction, it’s unlikely any form of treatment will work. Most gambling addicts do not seek help until they’ve hit ‘rock bottom.’ Rock bottom may translate to job loss, marital breakdown, suicidal ideation and financial meltdown. We urge to seek out help well before you hit rock bottom.
#2. Get something else in your life to replace gambling
We urge you to get something else in your life to replace gambling with. Every time you experience the urge to gamble, you must not gamble but instead, do whatever this ‘something else’ is. This strategy works, but you have got to want it to work, otherwise, the urge to gambling will result in you continuing to gamble. You must not allow the urge to gamble to overcome your determination to engage in this alternative activity. If you stand firm, your determination to quit will overcome the urge to continue gambling.
Alternative activities we recommend include running, swimming, meditation, taking up new hobbies or socialising with friends who do not engage in gambling. All of these tasks promote dopamine production. Recall addictive behaviours act as the ‘path of least resistance’ when it comes to dopamine release. Over time, engaging in other activities will weaken the neural pathways that encourage your gambling addiction and thus take over gambling as the ‘path of least resistance’ when it comes to dopamine release and hence your preferred option to experiencing pleasure.
Activities that cause the release of dopamine include:
- Ticking off tasks on a ‘to do list’ – dopamine is released when we complete tasks to a level of satisfaction
- Create something. Creating something is known to result in dopamine release. Take up hobbies that result in the creation of something tangible e.g. arts, crafts, drawing or photography
- Exercise. This increases dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. Read the book ‘Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain’ by John Ratey
- Eat foods containing tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid and the building block of dopamine. Foods high in tyrosine include avocados, red bananas, chocolate, eggs, almonds, green tea, milk, watermelon and yoghurt
- Decrease caffeine intake. Once you drink caffeine, you will experience an initial kick, but eventually, your dopamine levels will decrease
- Listen to music
- Meditate. This prevents overthinking or ‘monkey mind’
- Take supplements that are known to increase dopamine levels e.g. acetyl tyrosine, curcumin, Rhodiola Rosea, magnesium oil, 500mg vitamin C, L-thiamine and Gingko Biloba
- Toxic cleansing via getting enough sleep and avoiding sugary foods. Sugary foods disrupt dopamine levels. Sugar acts in a similar way to other addictive substances and behaviours, so cut out sugar as much as you can. Take chromium picolinate to help you eliminate sugar cravings
It’s also vital that you are able to ‘keep a streak going’. This means continuing activity over many months or even years. To achieve this, mark off your calendar to ensure you do not avoid keeping the dopamine activity up over the medium and long term.
#3. Join a 12 step programme/support group
This is the approach adopted by Gamblers Anonymous. You are required to admit that you are powerless over your addiction to gambling. You must then reach out to a ‘higher power’ for help. 12 step meetings take place throughout the week and you are generally expected to attend at least once a week. During these meetings, gamblers discuss their progress ‘in recovery.’
#4. Sign up to CBT sessions
CBT stands for ‘Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.’ This form of therapy attempt to alter your thoughts and ‘core beliefs’ relating to your gambling addiction. It’s unlikely you will be consciously aware of these beliefs before you attend CBT sessions. CBT helps you verbalise these beliefs so you may then challenge and exchange these beliefs for healthier alternatives that do not fuel your addiction to gambling.
Some of these destructive beliefs that fuel gambling addiction include:
- I am more likely to win than other people
- I am a skilled gambler
- I can control the outcome of bets (illusory control)
- If I win more than once in a row, I am on a ‘winning streak’ that’s likely to continue (known as the ‘Gambler’s Fallacy’)
- If I perform a certain ritual, I am more likely to win
- If I lose, I can win back my losses by gambling again (chasing losses)
CBT is a medium-term commitment. Sessions are typically last for an hour and must be completed over a ten-week period. You must also complete ‘homework’ during the week. This is typically in the form of keeping a ‘thought diary.’
#5. Consider taking medications
Gambling addicts are known to suffer from depression due to lower levels of norepinephrine and serotonin. SSRIs antidepressants raise serotonin levels by preventing serotonin reuptake in the brain. This causes a glut of serotonin to build up making the person feel happier and less depressed. This is known to decrease the occurrence of gambling.
#6. Consider taking psychotherapy sessions
You may consider taking formal psychotherapy sessions. These sessions will help you identify events in your past that may be causing your addiction to gambling. Psychotherapy will also help you overcome negative emotions tied to your current or past addiction to gambling. These emotions typically include hopelessness, shame and guilt. In time, psychotherapy will help you overcome these negative emotions so you are able to move on with your life.
Below we list a number of organisations, events, tools and books to assist you in your research:
- Gambling Anonymous
- National Problem Gambling Clinic
- National Problem Gambling Clinic London
- Overcoming Problem Gambling: A Guide for Problem and Compulsive Gamblers by Philip Mawer
- The Gambling Addiction Cure by Michael Johnson
- Shared brain vulnerabilities open the way for nonsubstance addictions: Carving addiction at a new joint?
- The Cambridge Gamble Task
- Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey
About the author:
Jon writes for ADT Healthcare and a number of other websites. Jon graduated with a degree in psychology in 1992. Jon has been in recovery for 19 years.