Often referred to as problem gambling, a gambling addiction is the constant urge to gamble continuously even though there are negative or harmful consequences attached to the outcome. Gambling addicts are void of a desire to stop at any time and in the more severe and extreme cases are classified as clinical or pathological gambling addicts. It can also be termed an addictive disorder because of the similarities it draws with people who suffer from substances addictions. In any case addiction to gambling is a very serious problem and without proper treatment can ruin the lives of those affected and also impact negatively on the lives of their friends and families.
Diagnosing Gambling Addiction
When diagnosing whether or not someone has a gambling addiction a few key signs are observed for during the diagnosis. Someone must have at least four of these symptoms over a period of a twelve month assessment:
- The need or compulsive urge to gamble in order to achieve gratification.
- Restlessness or irritability when asked to or attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
- More than three previously failed attempts to stop gambling completely.
- Preoccupied or fixated on gambling e.g. constantly talks about gambling, previous victories and ways of making stake money.
- Gambles even when in a state of distress e.g. during anxiety or panic attacks.
- Returns consistently to chase their previous day’s losses without being able to stop.
- Lies to conceal the scale of the gambling addiction.
- Lost a job, forfeited their education or a career opportunity because of problem gambling.
- Steals money or items to fund their gambling addiction.
Gambling Addiction - The Statistics
|% of Population with a Gambling Related Addiction||% of Population classed as Pathological Gamblers|
|UK & EUROPE||0.5% to 3%||0.3% to 1%|
|CANADA||0.8% to 2.7%||1.5% to 1.9%|
|AUSTRALIA||0.5% to 1%||0.1% to 0.3%|
In the UK and Europe, the percentage of the population with a gambling addiction can vary from 0.5% up to 3% dependent on geographical location. In the UK it was found that around 0.6% of the entire population suffered from some form of gambling related addiction. The highest figure for gambling addiction was pointed at spread type betting, mainly sporting and equestrian events, at around 14.5% across the whole of the UK and Europe.
In the United States the percentage of the population with a gambling related addiction was around 3% with 0.6% classed as clinical or pathological gambling addicts. In stark contrasts the same study shows Canada as having upward of 1.5% to 1.9% classed as pathological gambling addicts.
In Australia a recent report showed that gambling addiction was around 0.5% to 1% of the entire population. The reported listed poker machines or ‘pokies’ in pubs and bars as the number one form of gambling addiction, with sports and equestrian betting coming in second.
Treatment for Gambling Addictions
A lot of the different systems developed to treat gambling addictions involve a type of group therapy and step based self-help programs. It works on the principle of support from a group of peers with mentors who are at an advance stage of recovery and thus are able to share experiences with new members on how to deal with problem gambling. An addict must first admit that they have a problem to their group before any form of therapy can commence. The 12 step program is founded on this very principle.
Another method used in the treatment of gambling addictions is a type of motivational interviewing which encourages self-help and promotes a different way of thinking. This type of therapy allows an addict to overcome their addiction by resolving problem feelings and anxiety, avoiding any unnecessary confrontations and defining a goal to work towards to. The key here is showing the addict that they still have freedom of choice and to encourage them to change and become more confident.
Do you know anyone with a gambling addiction?
If so you may want to help them to get in touch with people that can give them a firm footing on the road to a successful recovery. The following organizations are a good first port of call if you or someone you know suffers from a gambling related illness.
National Council on Problem Gambling (US)
GamCare Gambling Addiction Help (UK)
Institute of Ontario on Problem Gambling (CAN)
Gambling Help Online (AU)