The hidden addiction

People describe gambling as a hidden addiction. This is because gambling is not shown as physically or psychologically addictive despite being both of these things. Also, people say that gambling harm is a hidden away. The range of people affected is not visible. The extent of the problem is greater than most people are aware off. These common misunderstandings increase the stigma and shame felt by the people harmed by gambling.

Because gambling is not understood as addictive and as causing people to lose control, people are blamed and told they should just stop. It also means people do not recognise when they are developing an addiction. And they do not want to tell people about their difficulties because they think no one will understand why they can not just control their gambling.

It’s not like, “Oh, you should be able to stop doing that.” It’s not as easy. It’s not as simple as that… It’s a recognized mental illness now. I know people who judge people for gambling and it’s not right… There’s other different kinds of addictions, and they don’t get judged like gamblers seem to do. I call it the silent addiction. The other ones are really talked about, and rightly so, don’t get me wrong, but this one seems to go under the radar for people and it’s like encouraged. All the adverts, “Come bet with us.” Don’t do that about drugs or alcohol, would they? It’s just seems to be about gambling, encouraging it.

It’s all you can think about. It takes over your brain 24-7 and you do awful things. It doesn’t make you a bad person, honestly. And in your heart, you don’t want to do these things. But it’s like, I say, it’s like being hijacked. Your brain is hijacked, and it makes you do stuff, even though you know there’s so many negative consequences. And you know when you’re doing it, you’re there feeding the money into the machine. I used to call myself an idiot all the time. Like, you idiot, you idiot. And you’re still doing it like, you’re unable to stop yourself.

I’m still not completely open because I know most…I mean, they can’t understand, and I don’t blame people for not understanding because it does seem absolutely crazy. People say to you, just stop. Like, they just don’t understand what it’s like. So, I don’t, I’m not completely open with a lot of people about it.

People discuss how difficult it is when so few friends or professionals understand that gambling is addictive. People would be more likely to seek help if gambling was understood as an addiction or mental health issue. This is because there would be less shame felt by the person suffering, and the support around them would be more understanding.

A lot of families don’t really understand. Even in certain ethnic groups, gambling’s seen as– you can’t talk about, can you? You can’t even talk about it to anyone. You’re basically on your own, you can’t talk about it in public or talk about it at home or get help. I just think GPs and doctors need to be made aware of it. Obviously, the issue with that is you have to actually go through it, if that makes sense, to be able to understand what they’re going through, people who have gambling problems. That’s the only issue.

My stepdad had come around, and he was like, “Well, something’s up. It’s obviously not drinking, it’s not drugs, because I know that, I can tell by the way you are, there’s something else. Have you been gambling?” I just went, “Yes, a little bit.” I didn’t say how much, how long, how often or anything and he’s like, “Well, you should go to GA.” That’s when I joined GA, and it was the best thing ever. Literally, it’s been the best thing ever… He said that because I think, him in his personal life, he’d had addiction issues in the past. He’s done this 12-step programme and everything like that.

I think it’s vitally important if we can make people realize that you know, someone’s got a problem with gambling addiction, it’s not because they’re a bad person, they’re not evil or whatever. They’ve got a problem which they don’t want. They don’t want to have this problem. And believe me, they’re suffering. They’re not enjoying it. So, yeah, I mean, if people are more understanding about it, then people would be more free to open up and talk about it, and then it won’t get as out of hand.

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If you feel like you need support or someone to talk to about your own or someone else’s gambling, there are several organisations who can offer help, support and answer any questions you may have.

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