Have you ever wondered if you’re walking the path into a gambling addiction? In this article, we’re going to explore what a typical journey into addiction can look like.
It’s a useful read if you’re a gambler because you might be able to see some red flags in your own behaviour.
If you do recognise the signs, there’s plenty of help available. We have several articles that explain how you can get help with problem gambling. You can also follow the link to BeGambleAware that you will find on the side of every page of our site.
Before we get on with the journey, I just want to explain that there are more ways into problem gambling than I talk about here. Still, many people tend to follow the same path into gambling addiction, so let’s have a look at the typical journey.
The start of the journey: gambling from a young age
Whether it’s gambling your Pokemon cards (or if you’re older, Pogs, maybe even Garbage Pail Kids) on a game of conkers or betting on the Grand National with your Nan, most problem gamblers have been gambling in one form or another since their youth.
Think back to your first gambling memory. I’ve never had a problem with gambling, so my first memory is probably playing the National Lottery in 1996 when I first turned 16. But maybe your earliest gambling memories are of picking football teams for your dad or playing for toys (or smokes) in the playground?
Gambling is just a normal part of life…
Being so young, gambling is just a bit of fun when you’re with your school friends. It’s normal. You don’t even think about it in any kind of meta/analytical way. It’s just a fun thing you do with your friends, no different to playing British bulldog or knock down ginger.
You don’t want to get caught playing them by your teachers, but you play them anyway.
In fact, just the other day I was sat in my lounge and two little girls wandered up the path. They looked to be around 8 years old at the most. Why were they walking up to my door? I was confused. Then they knocked. I was about to get up, but before I could get up, they were off running out the gate, laughing their heads off with their pigtails swishing in the wind.
Rather than being mad – as I liked to imagine the adults were in my day – I just thought they were cute! I had a good mind to go out there and shout “Oi! Never darken my doorstep again, you hooligans!” just to give them some drama as a pay off for their bravery.
Anyway, I’ve gone off topic a bit there. The idea is that gambling is just seen as a normal part of life to the young eyes of a future gambling addict.
The grown-up gambling starts…
You know, those childhood games and gambling escapades generally are nothing to worry about. Gambling starts to become a problem when you start playing real games for real money.
It might start with a trip to the bookies, or buying a couple of scratchcards from the local newsagents. Before you know it, you’re getting up extra early before work so you can go to the bookies. You’re spending a huge chunk of your disposable income on scratch cards.
And that’s probably more of the old-school way into gambling addiction. Today, easy access to online casinos means that you don’t even need to get out of bed in the morning before you start gambling.
I think a good tip is that if you’re gambling from the comfort of your bed, you probably are slipping into addiction. It’s the same thing with other modern additions too, like redditing/facebooking/twittering/tiktoking in bed – not good.
Still, these are things most people do.
We’re a world of addicts!
You start getting out of bed in a bad mood…
Whether you’re in a bad mood because you gambled and lost before the day started, or you ended up in a petty pol argument online, it’s not good. It’s not good to be in a foul mood first thing in the morning caused by something external like gambling or the internet.
When it happens regularly, it’s definitely time to start asking questions.
And the siren songs when you get up in a good mood…
A common trait when developing addiction problems is that there are times when you feel great. Amazing!
E.g., Starting your morning off with a big win can set you up for the day.
But, just as the sirens lure sailors onto the rocks with their tempting songs, these little wins do the same. You pay more attention to the wins than you do the losses. You chase the pleasure of winning.
The problem is that when you actually tot it all up, it turns out you’re losing far more than you win. You’re in a bad mood far more often than you’re in a good mood.
In the early days, you were losing £10 or £20 a day, but now you’re losing £50 (or more) an hour.
Next time will be different, though. You feel it in your bones. You’ve put so much money into gambling that the dice must be stacked in your favour by now. You must be due a win?
Nope. That’s the Gambler’s Fallacy.
If you’re always thinking, “This time it’ll be different”, “This time I’ll win”, it could mean you’re a little deluded about your habit. That sounds rude, but gambling addiction sort of is a delusion – a delusion that your chances are better than they are, that gambling somehow solves a problem for you.
You’re hiding your spending…
Yeah, it’s embarrassing to admit that you lost a week’s wages playing slot machines or making sports bets. You know other people are going to judge hard for that.
So what do you do? Start to hide it. It’s quite a rational thing to do, really. No one likes to be judged like that.
But this is when it starts to become real, and probably the time when it’s most important to talk to someone about it. Isn’t it funny how sometimes the thing that will help make it better is also the thing that’s the hardest to do? Admit that something’s got out of your control, urgh.
That’s how it is, though. Hiding your gambling habits means that you’re ashamed of something, and that probably means that you’re doing something you know you shouldn’t be.
Starting the journey out of addiction…
It’s around that point that it dawns on people that they have an addiction. That’s when you need to get help. We are extremely lucky in the UK that there’s a ton of help for problem gamblers, with more help on the horizon.
The internet is full of stories of people overcoming their gambling addiction.
The first step is to contact someone who can help – that could be your GP or one of the UK gambling helplines.
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