A gambling addiction is not a new type of illness, but the problem does seem to be getting worse. Many are blaming this on the accessibility of online gaming websites and the many fixed odds betting terminals placed in betting shops around the country.
It is no longer necessary for individuals to leave their homes in order to place a bet, and because almost everyone has access to some kind of mobile device or computer, gambling can be done from the comfort of one’s own home.
Perhaps the biggest issue with gambling these days, however, is the fact that it is impossible to tell if someone has a gambling addiction just by looking at him/her. There are no physical symptoms that would indicate a problem as there are with some substance addictions such as alcoholism or a drug addiction. A gambling addiction has been dubbed a secret or hidden addiction because those affected can feed their habit in the presence of others without anyone being aware of what he/she is doing.
The Lancashire Evening Post has been conducting an investigation into the growing problem of gambling, and reporter Sarah Carter met up with compulsive gambler Ian, who has been struggling with a gambling addiction for more than thirty years.
Ian has been addicted to gambling for his entire adult life and remembers how, as a student, he would spend all day in his favourite café with the racing pages in hand before heading to the nearest betting shop to place his bets. In the evening, he would play cards in the halls of residence.
His addiction began while he was in school and was playing cards with friends for money, albeit small stakes. However, his gambling addiction snowballed to the point where he lost relationships, enormous sums of money, and jobs. He admits to lying to loved ones, being arrested for stealing, and losing his home because of the addiction that has plagued his life.
Ian says he can now look back at his gambling habits when he was younger and recognise them for what they were, although at the time he did not see himself as a compulsive gambler. He said, “I was lying to my parents, and I was shoplifting in order to tell them I had spent my money on singles and books when really I had stolen them and spent the money gambling.”
Although Ian attended Hull University, he said he very rarely went to classes and instead spent his days reading the horse racing pages before going to the betting shop. He said, “In the second term, my grant was a bit late arriving, and I found myself very short of money, and I got caught shoplifting some food. That led to my first court appearance – to the best of my recollection, I got a £50 fine.”
As with most gambling addicts, Ian found his life spiralling out of control as he started to rack up debts, and he realised he might have a problem. Nevertheless, although he knew he had an issue, he did not appreciate that gambling was the cause of his problems. Instead, Ian saw it as a solution, which is a common characteristic of those with a gambling addiction.
As his addiction progressed, his work life began to suffer, and he found himself lying to cover up his behaviour. It got to the stage where he stopped going to work and started shoplifting things like records and books, which he then sold to fund his habit. Despite being charged with shoplifting when he found himself behind with his rent, his solution was to go out shoplifting again as he had convinced himself that this was the only way to pay his landlady. Unfortunately for him, he was caught and charged again.
Ian’s addiction continued throughout his adult life; he squandered a £20,000 inheritance on gambling and started to suffer from depression and anxiety. His mental health and gambling addiction got so bad that earlier this year (2016) he tried to end his life by taking an overdose. He said that he had decided there was no point in being alive.
After being admitted to a mental health unit after his failed suicide attempt, Ian says he now has a completely changed mindset, adding, “I no longer feel suicidal, I’m slightly more optimistic about the future, and no longer have an inclination to place a bet. For the first time in as long as I can remember, horse racing is no longer interesting me.”
Hopefully, he can now put his gambling addiction behind him and move on. Unfortunately, Ian’s story is not uncommon. Many people across the UK are struggling with various addictions every single day. Some never get the help they need, despite it being available. Here at UKAT, we help people with all types of addiction. For more information on the services we provide, contact us today.
If you successfully complete our 90-day inpatient treatment program, we guarantee you'll stay clean and sober, or you can return for a complimentary 30 days of treatment.