How to Get Help For a Gambling Addiction

Gambling is a popular pastime for many people, but for some it becomes an addiction that can cause serious harm. Problem gambling affects people from all walks of life and can lead to debt, health issues and even suicide. There are steps you can take to get help for a gambling addiction and reduce the risks.

The behaviours that characterise gambling disorder are a combination of impulsivity, poor decision-making and difficulty controlling spending or impulses. It is also often accompanied by mood disorders such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse. People with mood disorders are at greater risk of harmful gambling, and can often start gambling to self-soothe unpleasant feelings or to escape from their problems.

A major challenge for those with gambling disorder is the urge to keep trying, even when they know it’s not healthy. This is because repeated attempts at gambling trigger a large release of the natural brain chemical dopamine, which produces pleasure and motivates us to repeat actions that give pleasure in the hope of getting more of it. The brain becomes desensitised to this reward, and so needs more and more dopamine to produce the same effect. This is what compulsive gamblers call ‘chasing the high’.

In addition to a strong support network, you can seek help from specialist gambling treatment services. These may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you change unhealthy gambling behaviors by identifying and challenging irrational thoughts and beliefs. It can also teach you coping skills to manage your cravings and solve financial, work and relationship problems that are caused or made worse by gambling.

Another option is family or individual therapy, where a mental health professional can provide emotional and moral support. It is also helpful to seek help for any underlying conditions that are contributing to your problem gambling. For example, depression or anxiety can be triggered by or make compulsive gambling worse, and it is also common to experience a relapse after stopping gambling.

Finally, you can seek help from peer support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the model of Alcoholics Anonymous. You will be paired with a ‘sponsor’ who is a former gambling addict with successful recovery and can offer guidance and encouragement. In addition, you can consider psychodynamic therapy which explores unconscious processes and how they influence your behaviour. This can increase self-awareness and enable you to recognise how your past experiences are influencing your current behavior. This can be an effective treatment for people with gambling disorder. You can find out more about where to get help by visiting our gambling advice page. You can also speak to a debt advisor for free, confidential advice about dealing with money problems. This content mentions suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety. Please read with care. If you are in crisis, call 999 or visit A&E immediately.