Gambling addiction is very destructive and not only dismantles the person but has severe consequences for their partners and family. Addiction to gambling often starts off in a small way with minimal stakes and occasional betting. It develops over the years increasing in regularity and with increasing stakes. Gambling used to be about dog racing, horse racing, casinos, and football pools; today there are so many more options for the gambler. The internet has provided virtual online casinos with a host of games, betting shops have now introduced fixed odds machines, the lottery and scratch cards offer a host of options – between these and the original formats of gambling the gambler now has 24 hour access. Online and fixed odd machines are highly addictive and destructive as the person loses all sense of value – often increasing their stakes and maxing out their credit and debit cards. Gamblers often report “chasing their losses” or “the thrill of the chase”.

Consequences of this addiction to gambling can be that the person becomes isolated, unable to ask for help and support, surrounded by debt with no way out, with personal needs falling by the wayside along with family needs such as repairs to the house, holidays, and hobbies. Many gamblers lose their houses unable to pay their rent or mortgage. The family is often devastated.

As in all addictions the gambler can replace the intensity of playing the game for the intimacy they are lacking in their own life. The act of gambling often acts as a substitute for self-esteem and self-worth, replacing them with that particular moment of placing a bet. The gambler is confused and cannot see why they keep repeating their actions. Their denial prevents them seeing the consequences and insanity of their addiction; they remain hollow in themselves and hence feel the need for repeating the behaviour.

Support for gambling addiction is based on looking at the reality of the person’s situation. Listing and owning the consequences – facing the reality of their actions. If a client sees they have a gambling addiction then abstinence from all forms of gambling is the way to recover and counselling initiates this recovery. There is never a situation where a compulsive gambler can just have “one small bet”; they need to accept that they have had their last bet. Therapy helps a client achieve this abstinence and allows them to see what the emotional triggers were that lead them to isolation within this addiction – understanding the triggers allows them to enter long term recovery.