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Do you have a problem with gambling? Is it affecting your finances, work, or relationships? Help is available.

What is gambling addiction?

Gambling addiction or problem gambling happens when a person has difficulty controlling their gambling. The behaviour often leads to severe consequences affecting their finances, relationships, and work. There can often be a pattern of winning money, losing it, and then trying to win it back. People experiencing gambling addiction may borrow money and get into debt. Help is available.

Facts about gambling addiction

According to Statistics Canada, around 2% of men and 1% of women are at risk for gambling addiction.

Gambling addiction can also co-exist with other mental health disorders, including alcohol and substance use disorders. ADHD, personality disorders, or obsessive-compulsive disorder can also be associated with gambling addiction.

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How do you become addicted to gambling?

Gambling addiction has many different causes that interact with each other. Genetics, environment, and social factors can all contribute to developing an addiction. Gambling addiction is a disease where the brain’s reward system is affected, leading to the continuation of the problem.

Sometimes neuropsychiatric conditions involving impulse control problems such as ADHD may contribute to the behaviour. Gambling can also be used to alleviate other mental health concerns such as anxiety, stress, or depression. If you have an alcohol or drug addiction, the risk of developing a gambling addiction may also increase.

Many people with a gambling addiction feel ashamed and isolated. You are not alone. Help is available.

Help for gambling addiction

If you wonder whether you have a gambling addiction or are at risk of developing one, seeking help is important. Otherwise, problems can develop and worsen over time.

Gambling addiction symptoms

Gambling addiction can manifest feelings of discomfort and restlessness when not gambling. To achieve excitement, you may increase your stakes and bet more money. You can also lose money and try to win it back, losing more. You may have tried to stop gambling but were unable to. Gambling can also interfere with your work, studies, and family life. You may also be in financial debt and may have to rely on others for financial support.

If you recognize these symptoms in yourself, it is important to reach out. There is help available.

Treatment for gambling addiction

The main psychological treatment recommended for gambling addiction is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Motivational interviewing in conjunction with CBT can also help to increase your understanding of yourself and why you are experiencing gambling addiction. CBT provides tools for changing negative thought patterns and behaviours associated with gambling, as well as working on relapse prevention. Additional treatment may be necessary, like support groups and sometimes medical treatment. If you or someone you know has problems with gambling, it is important to seek help.

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Treatment with CBT online

It is possible to get treatment for gambling addiction online. Additionally, https://canadasafetycouncil.org/gambling-addiction/ has a list of 24/7 gambling support lines for each province.

If you need more support for gambling addiction

Gambling addiction can also affect other family members. There is support for relatives and children of those with an addiction. Calling 211 can help connect you with programs and services in your area.

When professional help is unavoidable

If your substance use or a certain activity is beginning to affect your work and personal life, seeking professional help is essential. It is never too late to break free from addiction. Help is available and support is just a click away. So if you or someone you love is struggling with these issues, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. For information about addiction services and facilities near you, call 211.

From conversation to understanding and change

Talk therapy is often the first step in seeking help. By working with a psychologist or therapist, you can begin to understand your symptoms and triggers, which is essential for long-term change.

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12 common questions and answers on gambling addiction

What is gambling addiction?

Gambling addiction is a complex psychological condition where the individual feels an inability to stop gambling, despite negative consequences.

How does addiction differ from abuse?

Abuse or misuse is usually the initial stage, where we exaggerate a behaviour or consumption but still have some control. Addiction indicates a more severe problem, often with physical or psychological symptoms if one tries to break the behaviour.

Is addiction a disease?

Yes, addiction is considered a brain disease because it affects the brain’s reward system and decision-making.

Can addiction be cured?

Addiction can be treated, but it often requires long-term care and support. Freedom from addiction to gambling is possible.

What are the signs that I may be addicted to gambling?

Signs can include things like betting higher amounts of money to get a buzz, borrowing money from others to gamble, getting into financial difficulties, and feeling as if your gambling is affecting your everyday life.

What are the risks of gambling addiction?

The potential risks range from major debt problems to poor physical and mental health, unemployment, and loss of relationships.

How can I help a friend who is addicted to gambling?

The first step is to offer your support. Encourage them to seek professional help and stand by them during treatment.

What treatment options are available?

There are several different types of treatment such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and support groups.

How long does it take to recover from a gambling addiction?

It varies from person to person. Some may need a few months while others may need years of continuous care.

Is relapse common?

Yes, relapse is part of the recovery process for many people. The most important thing is not to give up. If you have relapsed, it is important to seek help as soon as possible to get back on track.

Can I be treated online?

Yes, our therapists and psychologists offer online counseling via video conferencing. You can find additional resources at https://canadasafetycouncil.org/gambling-addiction/.

How important is the support system around a person with an addiction?

A support system is often crucial to successful recovery. This includes not only professional help like therapists and doctors but also family and friends who provide emotional and practical support. A good support system can help reduce the risk of relapse and help the person maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Steps in addiction treatment to improve quality of life

Treatment for addiction or misuse differs from person to person, although they often follow a similar format. To help you understand what professional help to break a destructive behaviour might look like, we have listed examples of the different phases.

1. Evaluation and diagnosis

The first step is often a thorough evaluation by a licensed psychologist or qualified therapist.

2. Treatment planning

You and your therapist create a treatment plan, which often includes different treatment methods such as psychotherapy, drug treatment and sometimes even self-help groups.

3. Psychotherapeutic treatment

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the most commonly recommended method. It involves working with thoughts, feelings, and behaviours related to gambling. Relapse prevention is also usually part of the treatment. It may also include motivational interviewing.

4. Follow-up and Maintenance

Long-term treatment and follow-up are often necessary to prevent relapse. This may include regular meetings with healthcare providers and continued participation in support groups.

5. Lifestyle changes

Changes in lifestyle, including work, leisure and relationships, are often necessary to support long-term recovery.

The first step to change

Book a 20- or 45-minute session with a qualified coach, therapist, or psychologist today via our website booking form. If now isn’t the right time, remember that there is always an opportunity to come back when you are ready to make a change. Together we make the difficult easier.

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Written by Ellen Lindgren

Licensed psychologist

Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.