Most people think of mood-altering substances when they hear the term ‘addiction’. They assume that every addict must abuse substances such as alcohol or drugs, but this is not always the case. When you consider that addiction is any pattern of behaviour that has a negative impact on everyday life, it is easier to see how behaviours such as shopping and gambling can also be a problem. In fact, gambling addiction is one of the most destructive addictions in terms of the impact it has on the individual and those around him or her. The issue of how gambling addiction affects the family is one that often arises because this illness can have a devastating impact on so many individuals.
How Does Gambling Addiction Begin?
According to the NHS, there are almost 600,000 problem gamblers across the UK. Before the internet and the advent of smartphones, most gamblers had to leave their home to place a bet, whether that was at the bookies, a racetrack, in a casino, or at the local bingo hall. However, now it is possible to gamble from the comfort of one’s home, while stuck in traffic, or anywhere else for that matter. All you need is a mobile device capable of accessing the internet and a source of funds, such as a bank account or credit card.
Online gambling sites have made it easier for people to gamble, and because of advertisements promising free bets and the ability to win large sums of money, more and more individuals are getting hooked. While most people who gamble do so responsibly, there are those who quickly become addicted to the adrenaline rush experienced every time a bet is placed. Scientists say the natural high experienced is like those produced in individuals addicted to substances such as drugs. The need to recreate these feelings repeatedly can result in a devastating addiction that can have disastrous implications for the affected individual and their family members.
For most, gambling begins with experimentation. What is a social or fun activity in the beginning can quickly become a massive problem for some, who may then end up losing everything because they lose control over their ability to stop.
The Impact of Gambling Addiction on the Individual
If you have found yourself drowning in a sea of debt because of a gambling addiction that has spiralled out of control, you are not alone. Gambling addiction is an illness that can happen to anyone. In the beginning it may have been a source of enjoyment, but over time, you may have become preoccupied with it to the point where your every waking moment was taken up with either gambling or thinking about gambling.
Gambling addiction can take over an individual’s life and can destroy relationships and finances. You may have heard how gambling addiction affects the family, or you may be living such a life right now, where you are avoiding spending time with those you love in favour of gambling. Maybe you have done things that you thought you never would – including lying to your family members or stealing from them to fund the habit that you cannot control.
Perhaps you are at a stage where you are hiding your addiction from the people around you. This is very common in gambling addiction. It is easy to gamble in secret. In fact, many problem gamblers will be feeding their habit while sitting in the same room as their family members or friends. Because it is easy to gamble from a smartphone, it is possible to be sitting there losing thousands of pounds while the other people in the room are completely oblivious to what is happening. It is for this reason that gambling addiction is often referred to as the secret or hidden addiction.
How Does Gambling Addiction Affect the Family?
When thinking about how gambling addiction affects the family, it is important to remember that this is an illness that can have disastrous consequences for so many individuals. It is probably the one addiction that can have such far reaching implications. What often happens is that the person with the problem can continue for quite some time without anyone realising what is going on.
As there are no outward physical indications that a gambling addiction exists, family members often do not realise that there is an issue until the addiction is at a late stage. It may not be until the gambler is at risk of losing everything that the illness comes to light.
Some family members only found out about a loved one’s gambling addiction when they were on the verge of losing their home. There is a strong link between gambling addiction and mountains of debt. In some situations, the gambling addict will resort to criminal activities when becoming desperate. They have been known to steal from their employers in a bid to win back money lost. This can all happen without anyone else having any clue as to what is going on right under their noses.
As you might imagine, gambling addiction can be devastating for family members when they discover what has been happening. They may be left in dire financial straits and the feelings of hurt and betrayal can run deep. Discovering that a loved one has left the family in financial ruin can be shocking and some people find this extremely difficult to deal with. The fact that the addict has been lying to them is hard to take and can destroy trust.
The Importance of Treatment for Gambling Addiction
It is important to consider how gambling addiction affects the family unit as well as the affected individual when asking the question of whether it needs to be treated. A gambling addiction is an illness like any other addiction and must be treated if the consequences are to be reduced.
Moreover, just like other addictions, a gambling addiction will not go away by itself. No matter how much you want or hope that it will pass if you ignore it, the reality is that a gambling addiction is an illness of the brain that requires treatment.
Even when the addiction comes to light and family members are aware of the problem, no amount of promises by the gambling addict to stop will make the condition go away. The pull of the addiction is far too strong and when it occurs, the gambler will be unable to resist.
The brain structure has been altered and the individual is no longer capable of making good judgements. When the urge to gamble arises, he or she will convince him/herself that it will be okay to gamble just one more time. If they can win a big amount, then all problems will be solved and everyone will be happy! It is these thought patterns that need to be broken, and this can only happen through therapy.
Do You Have a Gambling Addiction?
It is hard to admit that any pattern of behaviour is no longer in your control. It is the same for gambling as it is for drinking or drug taking. Those affected may not want to admit to having a problem because they fear it will make them look weak. They may be embarrassed that they have allowed themselves to get to this point and would rather pretend that everything is okay than face up to the truth.
Nevertheless, the longer the addiction is allowed to progress, the more devastating the consequences will become for everyone. It is important to do something about the addiction sooner rather than later. If you have suspicions that your gambling habits are getting out of hand, the sooner you act, the better it will be for all concerned.
Think about your gambling habits and answer the following questions:
- Do you often gamble even though you have promised yourself you would not?
- Do you gamble for longer than you planned?
- Do you lose track of time when you are gambling?
- Do you prefer to spend your time gambling than with family members or friends?
- Have your loved ones mentioned that you have changed recently?
- Do you spend more money on gambling than you can afford?
- Do you continue gambling when you win?
- Do you chase your losses by gambling more money in the hope of winning back what you have lost?
- Do you spend money on gambling that you need for other things?
- Do you borrow money to enable you to gamble?
- Do you lie to family members about what you are doing when you are gambling?
- Do you feel guilty about money you have lost when gambling?
If you have answered yes to one or two of the above questions, you may have a problem, but if you have answered yes to more than this, it is likely that you need professional help to overcome your issues.
Where to Get Help for a Gambling Addiction
If you believe you need help for a gambling addiction, or if you are concerned about someone you love, please call us here at UKAT. We have clinics across England where you can access excellent programmes of care to help you overcome your illness.
Our clinics are staffed by highly trained individuals with expertise in every type of addiction and the knowledge of how to beat it. Our programmes are designed with you in mind to ensure that you have the best chance of a long-term successful recovery.
If gambling addiction is destroying your life, please get in touch with us today. You do not have to continue living with the weight of this illness hanging over your head. We can provide you with advice and information about your options for treatment and we can answer any queries you might have. Our dedicated helpline is available 24-hours a day or, if you prefer, you can leave your number on our site and we will call you.