Those who have either direct or indirect experience with problem gambling may be questioning what triggers gambling addiction? It is often difficult for those affected to comprehend why they have developed a problem while others have not. What makes one person more susceptible to gambling than another? Why can some people gamble in moderation while for others it becomes an obsession that ultimately destroys their life?
Unfortunately, there is no way to answer these questions with any degree of certainty. There is no single cause of addiction in every person, and what triggers gambling addiction in one individual may not trigger it in another.
While there is no exact cause of addiction for everyone, there are certain risk factors that can make the likelihood of the problem developing that much higher.
Causes of Gambling Addiction
Just like every other type of addiction, there are certain risk factors for problem gambling. Below are a few examples:
- Family History of Addiction – Having a family history of addiction, particularly gambling addiction, can increase the likelihood that you will be affected too. Being brought up in a home where gambling was the norm may increase your risk of having a problem when you are older.
- Early Exposure – Early exposure to gambling is also known to be a risk factor. The younger you are when you start gambling, the more likely you are to have a problem. The reason for this is the fact that younger people are more prone to impulsivity.
- Mental Health Problems – Mental health problems could also lead to an increased risk of addiction in some people. There are many individuals who use gambling as a way to relieve feelings of depression or anxiety, for example. Gambling is considered a high-risk activity and certain mental health conditions result in a propensity for such. Those who suffer from bipolar disorder, for example, would be prone to manic behaviour where they might become addicted to the adrenaline rush and euphoria associated with gambling.
- Emotional Trauma – Suffering traumatic experiences raises the risk for addiction, with those who have suffered more trauma being more likely to develop addiction.
In addition to the above, there are certain situations that could make someone more susceptible to a gambling addiction. For example, those who experience a big win when they first start gambling might quickly become hooked and may believe themselves to be ‘lucky’. This can lead to false expectations of gambling developing in that individual; there are even those who convince themselves they are going to become millionaires from gambling.
Having financial problems can also contribute to problem gambling. It can be hard to understand how someone with money problems might consider risking more money to gamble, but the hope of having a big win to solve all their financial issues can lead some people to gamble.
Promises of big wins and free bets when a certain amount is deposited from betting companies can also lure people into believing they can solve their problems by gambling. More often than not, these individuals then find it difficult to stop.
How to Recognise Problem Gambling?
It is often difficult to recognise a gambling problem in a loved one because quite often there are no outward signs that there is an issue. It is usually only when the person ends up in dire financial straits that things tend to come to a head.
Before the advent of the internet, gamblers would have had to venture out of their home, for the most part, to gamble. It would have meant heading to a local betting shop, race-track, bingo hall, or casino to feed their habit. These days, it is possible to gamble at any time of the day or night from the comfort of your own home. It is even possible to be sitting in the same room as someone else and feed your habit without this other person even being aware.
Online gambling sites and the fact that almost everyone has access to a smartphone or other mobile device these days has made gambling the ‘hidden’ addiction, and spotting it is even more difficult than ever before. Unlike addictions to substances such as alcohol or drugs, there are no physical symptoms that would indicate a problem.
To recognise a gambling addiction, it is important to be on the lookout for changes in behaviour. If a loved one seems to be running out of money constantly and there appears to be no obvious reason why, it could be that he or she has a gambling problem.
You may also notice that your loved one is losing interest in activities or hobbies that he or she once enjoyed. In addition, the person might prefer being alone rather than spending time with other family members and friends. This might be because it allows him or her to gamble in secret.
As we have alluded to a couple of times in the above paragraphs, it is hard to recognise a gambling addiction and often those affected cannot even see how serious their situation has become. If you are worried about someone you love, you can speak to one of our advisors for confidential advice.
Do You Have a Gambling Problem?
A gambling addiction usually develops over time. While some people can get hooked almost immediately, for others it takes more time. In the early days, you may have been able to gamble casually. Maybe you bought a lottery ticket every now and then or placed a bet on the horses occasionally.
The next stage is regular gambling, but at this stage, you may still have had a measure of control over your gambling and it does not interfere with home and work life. However, as your gambling habit progresses, you may start to experience issues at home or at work. As soon as you became preoccupied with gambling, everything else in life might have been shifted into second place. This can cause a massive strain on relationships.
If your gambling becomes an obsession and you lose all control over it, then you are almost certainly addicted. Pathological gambling causes an uncontrollable urge to gamble and the affected individual is powerless to resist. Even when you know that gambling is going to cause problems in your life, you will have no way of controlling it. You may be using gambling as a way to relieve stress and other problems. Nevertheless, the more you gamble, the worse your problems are likely to become. You may suffer from mental health problems such as anxiety and depression and could resort to substance abuse in a bid to self-medicate.
Do You Need Help for Your Addiction?
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what triggers gambling addiction or to determine at which point a gambling habit becomes an addiction, but one thing is certain – without treatment, it is a problem that will only get worse.
If you are struggling with a gambling habit that you cannot control, it is important that you get help as soon as possible. Treatment for gambling addiction usually involves a lot of counselling and therapy. It is important to identify the cause of the addictive behaviour in the first instance, and this usually takes place with talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy.
You will have a choice in the type of treatment programme that you can access, but if your addiction is severe, you might prefer a residential programme where you will be removed from everyday life. In this situation, you will spend several weeks in an inpatient clinic where you have no access to any temptations. You will be away from all means of gambling and it will be like a detox.
During this time, you will have a number of individual counselling or group therapy sessions, designed to help you learn how to live without gambling. You will learn the reasons you gamble and the negative thought processes that have affected your thinking and judgement thus far.
For more information on how to access such a programme, please contact us here at Recovery Lighthouse. We offer excellent programmes with fully trained counsellors who have experience in treating all types of addictions.
Our clinic is decorated to a high standard and has state-of-the-art facilities; we are also regulated by the Care Quality Commission. To speak to one of our friendly advisors about the type of care we provide, please call our helpline today. Alternatively, you can leave your contact details on our website and we will contact you as soon as possible.