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Gambling is the wagering of money or something or material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and/or material goods. The most common forms of gambling are betting on sports, betting at the casino, and playing the lottery. Excessive gambling most often interferes with one’s home life, career, and relationships.

In most cases, excessive gambling leads to financial hardship. Individuals who are considered to be gambling addicts are often driven to illegal activities out of desperation; such as stealing money and putting others in danger in order to fund their addiction. Gambling addition can lead to an increased risk of suicide and has deleterious effects on the gambler’s family.

Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers cannot control their impulse to gamble, even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones. Gambling controls their thoughts and behaviours; it is all they can think about and all they want to do, no matter what the consequence. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they are up or down, happy or depressed. People with a gambling addiction still feel that they must continue to gamble even when they know the odds are against them and even when they can’t afford to lose.

Unpleasant feelings such as stress, depression, loneliness, fear, and anxiety can trigger compulsive gambling or make it worse. A compulsive gambler can be use gambling as a release and way to unwind after a stressful day, an argument, or a challenging situation.

Gambling addiction is sometimes referred to as the "hidden illness" because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like there are in drug or alcohol addiction. Problem gamblers typically deny or minimise the problem, as well as going to excessive lengths to hide their gambling.

Every gambler is unique and therefore treatment needs to be tailored specifically to the individual. The biggest step in treatment is the individual recognising that they have a gambling addiction.

Therapy is very important for individuals with a gambling problem. The practitioners at VCPS can help individuals with an addiction in various ways:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - learning to identify the thinking that causes the individual to gamble; identifying triggers and high-risk situations; reducing access to money or venues; modifying routines
  • goal setting - creating action plans and alternative activities
  • coping with negative emotions - learning alternative ways of dealing with strong emotions (e.g. improving problem-solving skills and relaxation techniques)
  • relapse prevention - helping to maintain changes over time in order to avoid returning to gambling in the future; developing plans for future situations; and how to recover from a slip.

Dr Russell Deighton, Clinical Psychologist, at our practice provides treatment for gambling and other addictions.

To see Dr Deightons profile, and also those of our other practitioners, click here

To make an appointment with one of our practitioners click here or phone (03) 9419 7172