A question we are frequently asked is ‘what is internet gambling addiction?’. To answer this, we need to quickly summarise how gambling took place and takes place now. It used to be the case that gambling was an activity conducted outside the home. Those who wanted to place a bet would do so in their local betting shop, casino, bingo hall, or at a race track. While it is still possible to gamble in this way, these days internet gambling has become hugely popular. But what is this really?
When considering the question of ‘what is internet gambling addiction?’, it is probably best to think about what internet gambling is first. Over the last couple of decades, the internet has become much more prevalent in everyday life. Almost everyone today has access to the internet 24-hours a day from mobile devices such as smartphones, laptop, and tablets.
Furthermore, because accessing the internet is now instantaneous, most of us have changed our habits and behaviours around it. For example, while internet shopping might have seemed strange even just a decade ago, nowadays most people shop this way. It is the same thing for gambling.
Gambling online is now hugely popular, and there are many reasons for this. One of the biggest advantages of internet gambling is the fact that it can be done from anywhere. You could, for example, gamble before you even got out of bed in the morning if you were that way inclined. You do not have to wait for a betting shop to open and you do not even have to get dressed before you place your first bet. For those with a gambling addiction, the appeal is great.
There are no restrictions as to when and where a gambling habit is fed when it comes to internet gambling; provided you have access to the internet and a source of funds, you can gamble anywhere and at any time.
Gambling addiction is one of the most destructive types of addiction in terms of the impact it can have on others. Nevertheless, not everyone who gambles will develop a problem; in fact, the truth of the matter is that most will not. The reality is that for most people gambling is an enjoyable activity that they have full control over.
They can bet on the horses or the football without allowing their use to spiral out of control. They will never gamble more than they can afford to lose, and they will not get hung up about chasing their losses if their bet does not have a positive outcome.
There are others though for whom gambling becomes an obsession. It may have started as a harmless activity, but over time it develops into a habit that begins to interfere with everyday life. As the problem worsens, the need to gamble more frequently grows and they start to gamble higher amounts to achieve the same level of satisfaction.
Once an addiction takes hold, the individual loses all control of his or her gambling and it will begin to take over. Life will revolve around gambling and the affected individual will become preoccupied with the activity. When he or she gambles, the inability to stop will be lost and it is usually only a lack of funds that prevents more money from being gambled away.
As internet gambling is something that can be done anywhere, many problem gamblers go unchecked for long periods of time. For example, it is possible to gamble in secret behind the screen of a mobile phone while being in the same room as loved ones.
Gambling addiction requires a constant source of funds too, which can be a major problem in and of itself. Addicts often take desperate measures to feed their habit and will frequently gamble money that they cannot afford to lose, all the while convincing themselves that a big win is just around the corner.
Many of those with a gambling addiction plunder savings accounts, take out loans and credit cards, or even committing fraud as they are convinced they can win back the money lost – and then some. They believe they are just one bet away from a massive win that will solve all their problems. Unfortunately, most individuals with a gambling addiction will never win enough to cover their losses. Those who do are so far gone in their addiction that they are unable to quit and walk away. Even when they secure a big win, they will simply gamble it all away again, further exacerbating their problems.
Sadly, many relationships suffer irreparable damage because of gambling addiction. The family members and friends of those with a gambling addiction are often in the dark until things have reached crisis point. It is not unheard of for a spouse of a gambling addict to discover the secret addiction when checking a savings account and finding it empty, or when a letter arrives from the mortgage company about repossession because of mounting arrears.
As online gambling can be carried out in secret, it often reaches a critical stage before anyone ever finds out. As mentioned above, this can leave families on the brink of ruin. In some cases, addicts will face criminal charges and spend time behind bars because of acts committed out of desperation.
It is no exaggeration to say that lives can be torn apart by gambling addiction. Many relationships simply do not survive, and children can be particularly affected. Having a parent with a gambling addiction can mean growing up neglected. With all money being syphoned off to feed the gambling habit, children often go without.
Moreover, because of the impact that the illness can have on the mental health of the addict, children often have to live with unpredictable behaviour without really understanding why.
Treatment for gambling addiction is essential in terms of allowing all members of the family to get their lives back on track. Without professional help, this illness can completely spiral out of control and leave the addict with literally nothing.
We touched upon how gambling addiction can have a serious impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing. The stress of living with a secret addiction can take its toll and many affected people become suicidal. Rather than reaching out for help, many take the unfortunate decision that their loved ones would be better off without them.
Others will turn to substances such as alcohol or drugs to help them cope with the feelings of guilt and shame that they are experiencing every time they gamble. This can then lead to them dealing with the effects of more than one type of addiction.
Thankfully, treatment is available for gambling addiction. Many affected individuals have managed to turn their life around by accessing a suitable programme of rehabilitation. With a series of talking and behavioural therapies, the cause of the addiction can be identified, and work can begin on rebuilding lives.
Family therapy is an important part of the process as it is vital to address the impact on all members of the family unit. It may be the case that underlying family issues were the catalyst for the addiction, but it is often the case that the addiction has caused problems for individual family members. They will need help to overcome these issues.
If you have been keen to get an answer to the question of ‘what is internet gambling addiction?’, please contact us here at UKAT for more information. We have a number of top clinics operating across the UK where you can access private residential programmes designed to help you get well in the shortest amount of time. We can also offer helpful advice on the other options available in your area as well as answer any questions you might have. Please call us today.