There are around 40,000 problem gamblers in Ireland today, and 12% of Irish adults bet with a bookmaker each week.
In fact, gambling addiction is one of the fastest-growing addictions in the world.
As the addiction develops, the gambler becomes obsessed with gambling and getting their next ‘fix’. This compulsive behaviour triggers feelings of depression, shame and fear. Because of their guilt and denial, many gamblers will not seek help for their problem until it is a major issue and they have already wasted a large sum of money.
In many cases, the problem gambler will experience additional behavioural addictions, or alcohol and drug abuse disorders at the same time. In these cases, it is important that all addictive behaviour is treated at the same time. If one of their conditions remains untreated, it is likely that the addicted person will relapse.
What’s the Difference Between Recreational Gambling and Problem Gambling?
There are several differences between recreational gamblers and problem gamblers. Those who play for fun understand that gambling is a game and that they are unlikely to win. Despite this, they play for entertainment.
Some characteristics of recreational gamblers:
- Set a budget that they stay within
- Hope to win but know that they will probably lose
- Gamble as a form of entertainment with friends, and only for certain amounts of time
- Understand that it is a game
Unlike recreational gamblers, problem gamblers believe that they can control the outcomes of the game by influencing the odds. They may have strategies they believe will help them to succeed. For example, if a number has not come up for a while, they may believe that it is sure to come up soon, despite the probability being the same each time.
Problem gamblers also bet more than they can afford to. For problem gamblers, gambling may begin as entertainment but soon develops into an obsession. It may quickly become the top priority in the problem gambler’s life.
The gambler’s spending may cause conflict within their family. In addition, their lying, secrecy and denial may also become sources of tension within their family and friendship groups. The gambler is likely to feel shame about their behaviour, as well as experiencing depression, guilt, and isolation.
Some of the characteristics of problem gamblers:
- Experience financial difficulties
- Willing to invest an unlimited supply of time and money in their gambling habit
- Try to make up for losses by betting more
- Take out loans to fund their gambling
- Become obsessed with gambling
- Be certain that they must be about to win
- Borrow money from family and friends to fund their gambling
- Sell their belongings to raise money
- Lie about their gambling behaviour to family and friends
- Suffer from depression, mood disorders, and loneliness
- Deny to themselves and others the extent of their problem
Last updated & clinically assessed 2 March, 2022