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Gambling Addiction

When gambling turns into an unhealthy obsession it affects relationships, work, and usually leads to financial ruin. As with other forms of addiction, gambling addiction is associated with a release of dopamine in the brain. This is a “feel good” neurotransmitter active in the reward centres of the brain. Included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition (DSM-5), gambling addiction is a progressive disorder harmful to both someone’s psychological and physical health.

Gambling is a diverse activity, and is not restricted to slot machines, cards and casinos. Any form of gambling by playing games and making risky bets to experience the emotional high associated with taking high risks is considered a gambling disorder.  Due to its harmful consequences, gambling has become a significant health concern. It is important to understand the signs and symptoms to get help.

Diagnosing Gambling Addiction

In order to diagnose a gambling disorder, at least four of the following in a 12-month period:

  • A need to gambling with increased amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.

  • Is restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling.

  • Often gamble when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, anxious, depressed, guilty).

  • Has jeopardized or lost a significant job, relationship, career or educational opportunities because of gambling.

  • Is often preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning next venture, thinking of ways to get money which to gamble).

  • Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.

  • Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.

  • After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses).

  • Has made repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop or cut down gambling.

Behavioural Signs

  • Performance at work is affected

  • Seem worried or upset for no apparent reason

  • Reporting feeling depressed, hopeless or suicidal

  • Changes in personality – sexual relations patterns, eating, sleeping

  • Controlling or manipulative behaviour

  • Using threats, lies or charm

  • Withdrawing from family or friends

  • Is gone for long periods of time

  • Neglects personal responsibilities

  • Increase in drug or alcohol use

Financial Signs

  • Alternates between being broke and flashing money

  • Takes a second job without a change in financial situation

  • Cashing in savings accounts or investments

  • Valuables and appliances disappearing

  • Frequently borrows money or asks for salary advances

Treatment for Gambling Addiction

  • Self-help organizations – Talking with others who also have a gambling disorder has proven to be very effective. Most commonly found is Gamblers Anonymous.

  • Therapy – Behaviour therapy or cognitive behaviour therapy is a proven evidence based therapy teaching skills to reduce the urge to gamble. Find a licensed practitioner.

  • Medications – Studies suggest that some medication may be effective for the treatment of gambling addiction. Speak to a psychiatrist specialised in addiction treatment for an evaluation and recommendations.

  • Treatment programs – Many in-treatment and outpatient programs can assist with a gambling disorder.

Why choose PRC Recovery? We are a registered treatment centre specialising in the treatment of addictive disorders. Our individualised approach to treating addiction is based on international standards and includes the many proven modalities in the treatment of addiction.​

Key focus areas for an effective program:

  • ​Family involvement – family participation in the treatment of any addiction is vital.

  • Individualised approach – underlying issues prolonging any addiction is based on the individual and therefore individual treatment plans are an important component to effective treatment of addiction by a qualified professional counsellor.

  • 12 step program – Twelve step programs have proven highly effective in the treatment of addiction and starts forming the solid foundation in early recovery. It is also used as the platform to the introduction of self-help organisations, forming part of the aftercare

  • .Aftercare – Stopping the addiction is only the foundation phase in the treatment of addiction. A well thought-out aftercare plan is crucial to sustain long-term recovery.


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