Gambling often begins at a recreational level and may not involve large sums of money. When this behaviour becomes unrestrained, individuals may not be aware of the damage their behaviour is having on themselves and their loved ones.
Compulsive gambling or gambling addiction is the regular urge or need to partake in gambling behaviours. This may include (but is not limited to): online betting, electronic betting games like Keno or “pokie” machines, and casino style games.
Compulsive behaviours may be driven by a desire to suppress or avoid unpleasant or painful emotions, such as stress, sadness, loneliness or fear. In some cases, underlying mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety may also contribute. Unfortunately, gambling can also exacerbate the emotional difficulties, creating a feedback loop of unhelpful behaviours.
Therapy and recovery from compulsive gambling requires a multidisciplinary approach that uncovers underlying causes, as well as equipping the individual with practical strategies to cope in a healthy, productive way. Skills in emotional management, perspective and goal setting, and rest and relaxation are all important components of recovery.
There are a variety of signs and symptoms that may indicate problematic gambling behaviours. Despite these characteristic behaviours, remember that each person has a unique experience.
Similar to many other addictions, a clear characteristic of compulsive gambling is the irresistible nature or strong desire to engage despite obvious loss and harm. This can often lead to lying and secrecy, as well as relational and financial strain. Individuals who are experiencing a gambling addiction may spend large amounts of time thinking about gambling activities, planning their moves and tactics, or obtaining necessary funds for their behaviours. In addition, significant amounts of time spent gambling may be at the expense of other responsibilities such as work, family, eating, and personal hygiene.
Our Psychologists have put together a short PDF support guide for those with a loved one experiencing compulsive gambling. The guide can be very useful in facilitating a conversation with your loved one about the importance of seeking help in a gentle and informative way.
With healthy coping strategies, tools and support, you can overcome problem gambling and rediscover freedom of life once again.