Problem gambling is defined as the impulse to repeatedly gamble despite adverse consequences or a desire to quit. Figures show that around 250,000 people in the UK are currently suffering from some form of gambling addiction. If you suspect that you or a loved one has a gambling problem, we've compiled a list of resources that are there to help.
Gamble Aware – here you can get access to official information about gambling in the UK, seek advice on self-exclusion from physical establishments and learn how to recognize a problem.
Gambling Addiction– this site is designed to help you spot the signs and identify the causes of gambling addiction. Without physical symptoms, it can be difficult to diagnose a problem; this site helps to spot the habits and patterns of someone who may be addicted.
Gamblers Anonymous – here you can arrange to attend a gamblers anonymous meeting, a support group for those affected by gambling addiction. You can also chat to advisors and take a test to see if you have a problem.
GamCare – this site offers online and phone support for those affected by a gambling addiction, as well as counselling support for those who need more help. It is a registered charity and comes recommended by the NHS.
Counselling Directory – if you find yourself in need of professional help or support with addiction, this site can help you to find a therapist in your local area. You can also find help for related conditions, including alcoholism and depression.
National Problem Gambling Clinic – this is the only NHS service in the UK specifically designed to help those with a gambling addiction. It provides group and individual treatments, one on one therapy and also after-care services such as back-to-work schemes and financial planners. There is also a separate service for women with the same problem.
Gam-Anon – recognising that gambling addiction affects more than just the gambler, this site is specifically designed to offer support to friends or family members who are suffering because of their relationship with a problem gambler. You can use its online chat room, read past stories to extract helpful how-to’s or arrange to visit one of its regular support groups.
Priory – the Priory operates private clinics to treat all kinds of addictions nationwide, by providing residential care for sufferers. Residents have access to various group and individual treatments, as well as bespoke therapy from trained professionals. Although this is a more costly option, you can undertake a free assessment to determine if you have a problem.
Signs and Symptoms of Problem Gambling
- Increasing the amount and frequency of money gambled
- Spending most of leisure time thinking about gambling
- Feeling a high or sense of euphoria from gambling
- Gambling in order to deal with negative emotions
- Boasting over wins but not talking about losses
- Borrowing money to gamble, especially in secret
- Recurring mood swings
- Deceitful or secretive behavior to conceal degree of gambling
Coping with Problem Gambling for Yourself
If you think you may have a gambling problem and want to change, there are a number of ways to address the problem. While every gambler’s story is different and requires a unique recovery program tailored to address their specific addiction, there are a number of strategies that help for the majority of people seeking change.
First off, seeking help and support can be incredibly helpful. Finding friends and family members, or even people that have been through the same issues that are members of organizations such as Gamblers Anonymous can create a loving support network to turn to whenever an urge to gamble strikes. Isolation can be a trigger for gambling addiction, so building a robust and active group to socialize with away from gambling is an effective tool for fighting the addiction.
Another technique is to simply do something else when the desire to gamble strikes. Go see a movie, hit the gym, go out to dinner, whatever you can think of to take your attention off of gambling. Similarly, simply putting gambling off for a bit at a time may prove effective. Making yourself wait 15 minutes before placing a bet may be all the time you need for the urge to pass completely or at least become easier to resist.
Coping with Problem Gambling for a Loved One
If you know or suspect that a friend or family member suffers from a gambling problem, there are a number of ways to help them with their struggle.
First off is the flip side of the advice given above when gamblers seek help for themselves. They will require the support of loved ones when they decide to address their addiction, so make sure to be there for them. Important to note, however, is that you cannot force someone to address their problem, the decision to stop gambling MUST be made by the person with the addiction.
It is also important to address the problem and how it may affect your life. Make sure to protect yourself emotionally and financially so that you can best focus on helping your loved one with their problem. Setting financial boundaries for yourself AND your loved one can be incredibly important in preventing a relapse. Figuring out the best way to handle requests for money is also important, and may take time, so be patient.
Finally, do not be ashamed to seek out help. Other people and families have been through these same issues, and many will be going through them at the same time. Reaching out for advice, stories, and support are all worthwhile and helpful ways to cope with gambling addiction and give the addict the best opportunity to successfully kick the habit.
Another route gamblers can take to fight their addiction is self-exclusion. The process of self-exclusion has been around for years in the gambling industry, and allows players to fill out a form asking that they not be allowed to gamble at certain locations for a fixed period of time.
This option is particularly effective for online gamblers. Nearly every online casino offers self-exclusion as an option, and enforcement is strict. When a player signs up for self-exclusion, their account is shuttered for a fixed period, almost always a six-month minimum, and it is impossible to reactivate until that time frame is over. There is also an effort made to prevent the creation of new accounts by the player, something that is becoming easier as technology progresses. Many online casinos also keep the account deactivated once the fixed period is over until the player seeks them out to reactivate it, a process that allows the casino an opportunity to gauge the player and encourage problem gamblers to continue seeking help. Some shops might even refuse to reactivate the account if they feel the player’s addiction is severe enough.
Any players that think self-exclusion may be a helpful tool in combating their addiction, customer service and help lines are a good place to start in any betting situation, while almost all online casinos feature links to their self-exclusion services under their website’s “Responsible Gaming” sections.