Gambling addictions can take hold of people’s lives, compromising their financial stability, destroying relationships and even damaging health. If you suspect that you or someone you know has a problem, it is crucial that you take action.
Recognising a gambling addiction
The NHS estimates that there are 450,000 problem gamblers in Great Britain, yet many of these people believe that their habits are harmless and fail to identify themselves as an addict, potentially leaving their problems to escalate with life-damaging consequences.
If it has ever crossed your mind that you have a gambling problem, or if a loved one has shared concerns about your betting, this should set alarm bells ringing. Do not be ashamed to question yourself or admit you have a problem.
One of the most common problems, and one which should encourage immediate action, is gambling when you cannot afford to. Spending money you do not have, getting into arrears simply for the thrill or tiny chance of a big win, is a telling sign of addiction.
You should also be concerned if gambling is constantly on your mind, if you find yourself betting to try and claw back previous losses, or if you find yourself hiding habits or spending from people you would otherwise be open with.
The importance of tackling the problem
One of the most obvious consequences of a gambling addiction is the impact it has on your finances. Very few people make a profit when betting, and those obsessed with the practice rarely do, since they are often chasing their losses.
When you are obsessed with betting, it can be easy to run up hundreds or thousands of pounds of debt. The habit can therefore seriously compromise your ability to pay for essentials like food and accommodation.
Many people lose their house and face bankruptcy as a result of their addiction – financial issues that can seriously impact your own and your family’s lives. These issues frequently lead those affected to depression or worse.
The issues you have are likely to cause a rift between you and loved ones, so failing to address an addiction can mean sacrificing relationships. Friends and family who continue to support you are likely to be extremely distressed as a result of your actions.
Who you should talk to
There are numerous organisations that provide support for people with gambling addictions, with experts who understand the issues you are working through and the difficulties that lie ahead.
GamCare is the leading organisation for problem gamblers in the UK, and those seeking help can speak to a trained advisor about their issues by calling the freephone number 0808 8020 133 or using the NetLine service on the website Gamcare.org.uk.
There is also the option to speak to fellow addicts in the forum or chatroom – services which are available on other support websites such as Gamblers Anonymous. It can also be beneficial to get concerns out in the air and talk them through with loved ones.
When it comes to tackling the arrears you have accumulated as a result of gambling, you should speak to a debt advice expert. These people will help you lay out a repayment plan that instils you with more confidence in your future and enables you to regain financial health.
Fighting the temptation
As you might expect, one of the best ways to avoid temptation is to simply stay away from gambling opportunities. Don’t put yourself in compromising situations until you are confident that you can fight the compulsions.
This means that you should avoid going to the horse races even if you promise yourself that you won’t make a bet, delete your account from and remove bookmarks for gambling websites, and take a different route home to avoid your local bookmakers.
A productive way to fight temptations is to identify the reasons behind your gambling and attempt to substitute the problematic habit with a healthier behaviour. Talking through the potential causes of your habits with a counsellor can be beneficial.
For example, if you think that you got into gambling or developed an addiction in the effort to combat arrears, it is far more productive to develop a debt management plan and a budget. Taking control of your money will give you more confidence in your fiscal future.
It is also important to recognise that betting is an irrational way to improve your money situation – the chance of making a profit when gambling is tiny; the chance of securing a huge win that will clear your debts is slim to none.
Stef got into serious debt due to her gambling addiction. She turned to Debt Free Direct who supported her throughout her financial difficulties. Stef now writes articles about money saving tips in order to help other people stay out of debt.