Gambling Addiction

Updated: July 23, 2022

Gambling addiction, also known as pathological gambling, is a compulsive and uncontrollable urge to gamble despite harmful consequences, often leading to financial, emotional, and interpersonal problems.

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What Is Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction, also known as pathological gambling or compulsive gambling, is a severe mental health disorder characterised by an irresistible urge to gamble despite adverse consequences. It can manifest in various forms, from betting on sports to casino games or even online gambling. Those affected find themselves trapped in a cycle of wagering ever-increasing amounts of time and money, often leading to financial ruin, strained relationships, and deteriorating mental health.


On the mental health side, gambling addiction can lead to severe anxiety, depression, and feelings of hopelessness. The constant chase for the next big win and the inevitable losses can create intense emotional turmoil. Many individuals with gambling addiction also struggle with self-esteem issues, as they grapple with guilt, shame, and the belief that they’ve lost control of their lives.


Effective therapy for gambling addiction aims to address both the compulsion to gamble and the underlying emotional and psychological factors contributing to the addiction. It helps individuals regain control over their behavior, rebuild their lives, and develop healthier coping strategies for managing stress and emotional challenges.

What Are The Symptoms?

Bailouts And Financial Distress

Requiring financial bailouts from friends or family due to gambling-related debt.

Borrowing Or Stealing Money

Resorting to borrowing money, taking out loans, or stealing to fund gambling.

Chasing Losses

Trying to win back lost money by gambling more, often leading to deeper financial troubles.

Chasing Wins

Continuing to gamble even when winning, in an attempt to achieve a “big win.”

Escape As Coping

Gambling as a way to escape from stress, anxiety, depression, or other emotional problems.

Failed Attempts To Quit

Repeatedly trying to cut down or quit gambling without success.

Guilt And Shame

Experiencing intense feelings of guilt, shame, or self-loathing related to gambling behaviour.

Illegal Activities

Engaging in illegal activities, such as embezzlement or fraud, to finance gambling habits.

Increased Wagering

Needing to bet larger sums of money to experience the same level of excitement or satisfaction.

Loss Of Interest

Losing interest in activities and hobbies that were once enjoyable.

Lying And Deception

Hiding the extent of gambling activities and losses from loved ones.

Neglecting Responsibilities

Neglecting work, school, or family responsibilities due to gambling pursuits.

Preoccupation With Gambling

Constantly thinking about gambling, planning the next bet, or reminiscing about past wins or losses.

Relationship Strain

Strained relationships with loved ones due to deception, financial problems, and emotional withdrawal.

Restlessness And Irritability

Feeling restless or irritable when attempting to reduce or cease gambling.

What Causes Gambling Addiction?

Genetic Predisposition: Genetic factors can play a role in gambling addiction susceptibility, as it can run in families.

Brain Chemistry: Imbalances in neurotransmitters like dopamine, which are associated with pleasure and reward, can contribute to addictive behaviour.

Psychological Factors: Certain psychological traits, such as impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and a need for excitement, can make individuals more vulnerable to gambling addiction.

Early Exposure: Exposure to gambling at a young age or within the family environment can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction.

Environmental Factors: High availability and accessibility of gambling opportunities, such as casinos or online betting platforms, can contribute to addiction.

Mental Health Issues: Co-occurring mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, or substance abuse can increase the risk of gambling addiction.

Positive Reinforcement: Early wins or positive gambling experiences can reinforce the behaviour and lead to addiction.

Peer Influence: Social pressures and peer influence can play a role in the initiation and maintenance of gambling behaviour.

Stress and Coping: Gambling may serve as a coping mechanism for individuals dealing with stress, financial difficulties, or other life challenges.

Family and Cultural Norms: Family values, cultural norms, or societal acceptance of gambling can impact an individual’s perception of the behaviour.

Trauma and Past Experiences: Traumatic experiences or past financial success with gambling can contribute to addiction.

How Phinity Therapy Can Help

When working with individuals who have gambling addiction, we offer a comprehensive therapeutic approach that addresses both the behavioural aspects of the addiction and the underlying psychological factors. Our approach will take account of your unique needs and circumstances, foster a non-judgmental and empathetic therapeutic relationship, and provide a safe space for exploring the underlying emotional and psychological factors contributing to the addiction. The goal is to help individuals regain control over their behaviour, rebuild their lives, and maintain a healthy, gambling-free lifestyle. Below are some of the ways we might work, depending on your needs:

Assessment: We will begin with a thorough assessment to understand your gambling habits, triggers, and the impact on their life, including financial, emotional, and interpersonal consequences.

Motivational Interviewing: We may use motivational interviewing techniques to explore your readiness for change and to elicit your motivations for seeking help.

Psychoeducation: We will offer psychoeducation about gambling addiction, its impact on mental health, and the potential consequences.

Identifying Triggers: We will help you to identify gambling triggers and develop strategies for avoiding or managing them.

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT): Implement CBT to identify and challenge irrational beliefs and thought patterns related to gambling. Develop coping strategies and relapse prevention plans.

Stress Management: We can teach stress management techniques to address underlying stressors that may contribute to gambling addiction.

Mindfulness and Self-Regulation: If helpful, we will teach you mindfulness techniques to enable you to recognise and manage cravings, urges, and emotional triggers.

Financial Counselling: We collaborate with financial experts or counsellors to address financial issues and help individuals create responsible financial plans.

Family Involvement: We may encourage family involvement in therapy to address the impact of gambling addiction on relationships and provide support for recovery.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment: If there are co-occurring substance abuse or mental health disorders, we will provide integrated treatment for all of your difficulties.

Monitoring and Accountability: We will establish a system for monitoring gambling behaviour and maintaining accountability.

Long-Term Support: We recognise that recovery is an ongoing process, and will provide ongoing support and therapy to address any relapses or challenges.

Relapse Prevention: Together we will develop a relapse prevention plan that includes strategies for dealing with high-risk situations and setbacks.

What Causes Gambling Addiction?How Phinity Therapy Can Help

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