Do I have an addiction to gambling?

Problem gambling (or Pathological Gambling) is estimated to affect just under 1% of the population of the United Kingdom. The rate among adolescent slot-machine gamblers is twice as high. Problem gamblers experience a range of negative health-related consequences such as depression, insomnia, intestinal disorders, migraine, and other stress related disorders, as well as financial, social, and legal problems. The Royal College of Psychiatrists stated that problem gamblers are more likely than other people to experience the following harms:

Financial harms: overdue utility bills; borrowing from family friends and loan sharks; debts; pawning or selling possessions; eviction or repossession; defaults; committing illegal acts like fraud, theft, embezzlement to finance gambling; bankruptcy.

Family harms: preoccupied with gambling so normal family life becomes difficult; increased arguments over money and debts; emotional and physical abuse, neglect and violence towards spouse/partner and/or children; relationship problems and separation/divorce.

Health harms: low self-esteem; stress-related disorders; anxious, worried or mood swings; poor sleep and appetite; substance misuse; depression, suicidal ideas and attempts.

School/college/work harms: poor school, college or work performance; increased absenteeism; expulsion or dismissal.

Although the American Psychiatric Association (APA) classifies pathological gambling as a disorder of impulse control, many experts view it as an addictive behaviour and claim that is correct to describe pathological gambling as an addiction despite the absence of consumption of substances of any sort. The APA diagnostic criteria of pathological gambling is based on a person reporting five or more of the following symptoms:

Committing crimes to get money to gamble

Feeling restless or irritable when trying to cut back or quit gambling

Gambling to escape problems or feelings of sadness or anxiety

Gambling larger amounts of money to try to make back previous losses

Having had many unsuccessful attempts to cut back or quit gambling

Losing a job, relationship, or educational or career opportunity due to gambling

Lying about the amount of time or money spent gambling

Needing to borrow money due to gambling losses

Needing to gamble larger amounts of money in order to feel excitement

Spending a lot of time thinking about gambling, such as remembering past experiences or ways to get more money with which to gamble

Pathological gambling is a chronic, relapsing condition similar to alcohol or drug addiction and tends to get worse without treatment. However, a range of different treatments are available and many pathological gamblers have received help from support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous. Gamblers Anonymous is a 12-step programme similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. The principles related to stopping the addictive behaviour through total abstinence for other types of addiction, such as substance abuse and alcohol dependence, can also be helpful in the treatment of pathological gambling.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists compiled the following set of questions as a self-help ‘check-up’ for people who may think they have a problem with gambling.

Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each of these 10 questions:

Do I spend a lot of time thinking about gambling?

Am I spending larger amounts of money on my gambling?

Have I tried to cut down or stop gambling – but not been able to?

Do I get restless or irritable if I try to cut down my gambling?

Do I gamble to escape from life’s difficulties or to cheer myself up?

Do I carry on playing after losing money – to try and win it back?

Have I lied to other people about how much time or money I spend gambling ?

Have I ever stolen money to fund my gambling?

Has my gambling affected my relationships or my job?

Do I get other people to lend me money when I have lost?

If you have answered ‘yes’

Just once –  this one thing may be enough of a problem to need help.

Three times – Problem gambling – your gambling probably feels out of control – think about getting help.

Five or more times – Pathological gambling – your gambling is probably affecting every part of your life – get help.

The Haynes Clinic is an alcohol rehab and alcohol addiction treatment centre which not only successfully teaches people how to stop drinking but also offers drug rehabilitation treatment and treatment for other addictions such as addiction to prescription medication and addiction to gambling.