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Gambling addiction is a medically recognised disorder of the brain and a process addiction. It is far more than just an inability to control gambling, just as a substance addiction is far more than just an inability to control a substance.

Where a gambling addiction is diagnosed, a sufferer will display a number of signs and symptoms that not only refers to their lack of impulse control around gambling but also affects every single area of their life and their being.

Gambling addiction is a type of gambling disorder that has progressed to the point that the brains pleasure/reward system has structurally changed to place gambling above all else.

A gambling addict will take great risks with their gambling, be preoccupied by their gambling and will be reek all manner of havoc in their financial affairs, social life, personal relationships and career. Psychologically, a gambling addict will have lost the power of choice in gambling as the addiction hijacks the brain and becomes all consuming.

For family and friends that know a gambling addict, their destructive ways are incredibly painful and frustrating to watch. Their loved ones behaviours and actions make no sense. This is where it is important to understand that gambling addiction is a grave psychiatric condition. Left untreated it can cause the sufferer to completely self-destruct and end up in a place where the only way out they can see is to take their own life.

If you or someone you love suffers from gambling addiction it is vital to seek professional addiction treatment and help.

poker table showing two cards and chips

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When problem gambling becomes an addiction it is also referred to in the medical field as pathological gambling, gambling disorder and compulsive gambling.

Pathological gambling was first recognised as a psychiatric disorder in 1980 and was initially categorised as an impulse control disorder. However further studies revealed many similarities between substance abuse disorders and pathological gambling (where an individual’s problem gambling has exacerbated to a state where they have very little to no control over their gambling)

As a result of various studies conducted by scientists of the effects of pathological gambling on the brain, pathological gambling was renamed Gambling disorder and reclassified under the ‘addictions’ section category of the DSM5 manual in 2013.

The reclassification of gambling disorder along with substance and behavioural addictions has not only helped the medical field to understand the nature of this condition (as a chronic and progressive, relapsing brain disorder) but has also helped us in the addiction field to better understand how to successfully treat it 1.

signs of a gambling addiction

If you or a loved one are suffering from any kind of problem gambling it is important to seek help sooner rather than later. Untreated problem gambling can easily spiral into a full blown gambling addiction. When this happens, as a result of structural changes that occur to the brain and the pleasure/reward system through repeated problem gambling, consequences come thick and fast and the condition becomes progressively more serious and complex to treat.

Signs and symptoms of gambling addiction

Parallels can be drawn between the way in which drugs and alcohol can stimulate the feeling of reward felt by the user, and the way in which gambling can be felt to be rewarding, beyond the financial aspects. The belief that a gambling addict can win back previous losses becomes all consuming, and the increasingly frantic attempts to do so draw the gambler deeper into the downward spiral. Signs of gambling addiction include:

  • Being constantly fixated on where your next gambling fix is coming from
  • Feeling powerless to stop gambling, even when there is a great need or desire to do so
  • Compounding the problem by gambling even more
  • Gambling with larger sums of money to achieve your sense of thrill and reward
  • Finding devious ways to hide the extent of your gambling from others
  • Continuing to gamble even though you can see the damage being caused to your finances, social life, work and family relationships
  • Stealing money or asking others to lend you money

If you can relate to the above then you have a serious condition that requires very specific addiction treatment in order to overcome.

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Types of gambling a person can become addicted to

A person addicted to gambling will usually have one preferred method of gambling where their focus lies. However, most gambling addicts will literally bet on anything that presents the opportunity for them to beat the odds and gain a reward as a result.

Types of gambling an individual can become addicted to include:

  • Casinos
  • Arcades
  • Online betting
  • Betting shops – dogs, horses and sports betting
  • Scratch cards
  • Lotteries
  • Slot machines
  • Bingo
  • Card games

How gambling addiction starts – Contributing factors of gambling addiction

There is often no single determining reason as to why a person becomes addicted to gambling. There are however some factors that increase the likelihood of a gambling addiction developing. These contributing factors place you at higher risk and include:

  • Suffering from mental health problems
  • Childhood or adolescent trauma
  • Exposure to gambling at a young age
  • Being raised in a dysfunctional environment
  • Addiction present in the family – genetics
  • Having a past or present addiction to alcohol or drugs
  • A major stress factor or trauma in your life i.e redundancy, break up of a meaningful relationship, suffering a bereavement, a stressful lifestyle

Whatever the causes that set you on the path to gambling addiction, recovery is possible. At Delamere we unearth and comprehensively treat the underlying causes of gambling addiction and problem gambling.

Sometimes there can be any number of reasons for a gambling addiction developing, sometimes it can be down to one reason or genetics. Regardless of the causes, treatment at Delamere is tailored to your individual needs. We can ensure that you have the strategies and tools required to keep gambling addiction permanently at bay.

The process of recovery from gambling addiction

The process of recovery from any addiction is never straight forward or indeed quick, gambling addiction is no exception.

In order to access the correct addiction treatment to help you to recover from gambling addiction it is first of all important to understand just how compulsive gambling affects you as an individual.

A gambling addict will receive nearly as much pleasure and excitement from a near win as an actual win. Dopamine plays a key role in all addictions. Even preparing for a gamble releases dopamine and endorphins. The brain’s pleasure reward system becomes dominated and hijacked by the dopamine releasing process that engaging in gambling produces.

The process of recovery from gambling addiction
Source: – A near miss is almost as exhilarating as win in a gambling addicts brain

It’s not just a simple case of stopping the action of gambling. If you suffer from a gambling disorder, you will feel overwhelmingly compelled to gamble. Even if you manage to stop for a time, starting again is often catastrophic. The addicted brain immediately recognises the rewarding stimulus and thus the cycle of addiction snowballs once again.

If you are planning on quitting gambling once and for all, then undergoing cognitive behavioural therapies and counselling to address the underlying causes and help to change your mindset and behaviours is a must. By undergoing a profound transformation in your thinking and behaviours gambling recovery is possible.

What can you expect from undergoing gambling treatment at our Delamere rehab clinic?

You can expect to undergo intensive healing on every level and gain tools and strategies that will not only help you to avoid a gambling relapse but will also help you to rebuild relationships, realise your personal goals and become the person that you have always truly wanted to be, living a life that has meaning, peace, purpose and brings great joy.

Here at Delamere’s residential rehab in Cheshire we offer a new kind of healing and hope for those that suffer from problem gambling. Not only will you undoubtedly benefit from the healing ambience of our gambling clinic programme, but you will also undergo many innovative evidence based therapies that will treat every single aspect of you as a whole individual.

Our multidisciplinary team of addiction professionals at Delamere are dedicated to helping each individual patient overcome their addiction and undergo a profound personal transformation. Our approach is holistic, person centred and extremely effective.

You can learn more about our residential treatment services here.

Ways to overcome a gambling addiction at home

Not everyone has the means to access private addiction treatment for a gambling problem, this can especially be true of those suffering from more severe forms of gambling addiction.

Financially a gambling addiction can strip away everything material and land the sufferer in thousands of pounds worth of debt. This, combined with mounting consequences, can take a gambling addict to a place of contemplating suicide as the only way out of the constant fear, worry and stress their habitual gambling is causing them.

Financial hardship as a result of gambling can contribute to a worsening of the condition, as the addicted person desperately tries to win back their fortune taking bigger and bigger risks. It is not a simple case of stopping and facing the music when you suffer from addiction. As a chronic and progressive disorder of the brain, the sufferer is compelled to act in a way that continues to harm themselves and others.

Deep down many that suffer from compulsive gambling wish that they could stop but do not know how. Any attempts to abstain from gambling usually result in relapse and a worsening of their condition. This is the nature of addiction.

If you or a loved one are looking for ways to overcome a gambling addiction at home, we do have some suggestions that you can try. These suggestions can work if the person is able to give 100 percent of themselves to their gambling recovery.

Ways to overcome a gambling addiction at home include:

1. Removing all gambling apps on your PC and phone

Try to make your personal environment gambling free so you are less tempted by its presence. If you have been betting online or by telephone remove all numbers and applications that are associated with gambling. Temptation can never be completely eradicated but you can minimise it within your home environment.

2. Strengthen your support network

Support whilst you are trying to overcome any addiction is vital and can make a huge difference to your recovery. Active gambling addiction leans towards secrecy, isolation and dishonestly. By being honest with your family and friends that you are trying to quit gambling they will be more mindful and supportive.

3. Join a peer support group or mutual aid group for gambling addiction

Knowing that you are not alone in your battle with a gambling addiction is a great comfort. Peer support and mutual aid groups such as Gamblers Anonymous enable you to connect with like minded others. Mutual aid meetings are also a safe place for you to share your true thoughts and feelings without the fear of harming or causing worry to those close to you.

4. Learn new ways of coping with your emotions

Stress and strong emotions can be a trigger for addiction making an active comeback. In order to avoid gambling relapse it is important that you learn to manage your emotions in a healthier way. Healthier ways of coping with and managing emotions include: meditation, mindfulness, yoga, breath work, attending counselling for gambling, fitness, writing thoughts and feelings down and talking things through with someone who understands. We recommend trying different things so that you can gain as many tools to help you with your recovery from gambling as possible.

5. Face your problems

In order to overcome a gambling addiction it is necessarily to face the consequences the disorder has caused in your life. We understand that this is the hardest part of recovery for most. However, the pay off of facing up to your problems is immense. Try to tackle one problem at a time making a list of people or institutions you owe money too. Seeking help and advice from a debt resolution company or citizens advice will be very helpful.

6. Seek professional help for mental health problems and trauma

To give yourself the best chance of successfully overcoming problem gambling at home, it is essential that you seek professional help for anything that may hold you back or cause you to relapse. Most individuals who suffer from addiction have issues that are unresolved or a mental health illness that has not been correctly treated. Your GP will be able to arrange some counselling sessions for you and if deemed necessary, refer you into your local mental health services for further assessment and treatment.

7. Try to resolve problems in personal relationships

Addiction causes loved ones to suffer also. If you are close to your family or have a significant other, it is likely that they have bore the brunt of your gambling problem. Apologies and promises mean very little when they have heard it all before. We suggest showing them through your actions that you are serious about change. It may take time for them to trust you, do not be surprised if this time is lengthy. Be patient and suggest that they also seek help and support to help them heal too.

8. Be kind and forgiving of yourself

This is very important as feelings of shame, guilt and self hatred can really eat a person up. Understand that you suffer from an illness that gravely affects the way that you think and behave. Try to show yourself some compassion and do not be hard on yourself when you make mistakes. Part of recovery is learning from mistakes. As humans we are all fallible, there will be times that you will say or do the wrong thing. Try to right these matters wherever possible and then move on. It is also important to let go of expectations and timeframes. Recovery from addiction is a journey, not a destination.

For some, recovery in the community doesn’t work, they need to press the pause button on life whilst they start their recovery and undergo treatment. By admitting to a gambling rehab clinic such as Delamere this then becomes possible.

If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances in confidence with one of our Delamere addiction experts, please call and have a chat with us.

How does gambling rehab work?

Gambling addiction always has a catalyst, and working through this with the right help is where real, lasting progress is to be found. To begin the process we offer a free initial gambling addiction assessment with one of our counsellors during which you can discuss your situation in confidence, ask any questions that you might have on the gambling addiction treatment process, and begin to develop an understanding of how you can escape the downward spiral. During your stay you will work with your dedicated therapist on a one-to-one basis and also with expert facilitators in a group setting. You can expect a wide range of activities and therapies which help you really heal and re-set your goals. We offer a mix of traditional and evidence-based therapies, enhanced by innovative treatments, to make your experience uniquely effective and ensure that you receive on-going support to prevent any slide back into gambling ways.

If you are worried that gambling addiction has become a problem in your life, or in the life of someone you care about contact our team for a free assessment.

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Frequently asked questions

If gambling addiction is costing you more than just money and is affecting your relationships, work and mood, then it is time to take action before things get worse. Professional treatment is required once an individual suffering with a gambling disorder has lost the ability to control their gambling.

No one is responsible for the development of a gambling addiction. Certain individuals are more vulnerable to developing it but it is not their fault. However, seeking the correct treatment for a gambling problem is the responsibility of the person that has the problem. Family and friends can only encourage and support them in doing this

Gambling disorders fall into a broad spectrum from mild problem gambling or professional gambling to a full blown gambling addiction. If you or your loved ones gambling problem cannot be controlled or overcome using community based resources then inpatient residential treatment would be the next logical step.

Admission to any private residential facility for gambling addiction treatment has to be voluntary. No rehab facility is allowed to keep a patient against their will. If you have serious concerns for someone who has a problem with gambling you may want to consider a gambling intervention, which is something we at Delamere can facilitate.


NCBI – The neuroscience of gambling and gambing addiction –J Neurosci. 2013 Nov 6; 33(45): 17617–17623. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3231-13.2013
PMCID: PMC3858640 PMID: 24198353