What is a Gambling Addiction?
Gambling involves risking something of value on an uncertain probability of a greater return, typically based on luck or chance rather than pure skill. Common gambling forms involve casinos, lotteries, betting and bookmaking on sports or racing, and even the stock market. When individuals have a gambling addiction, they experience an uncontrollable urge to engage in gambling behaviour despite the many negative psychological, physical, and social repercussions that they may experience. Pathological gambling can happen to individuals from all walks of life. This is because gambling stimulates the secretion of neurotransmitters in your brain that causes you to derive pleasure from your experience. Consequently, this drives you to gamble again to experience the same rewarding feelings. Thus, even those who gamble as a casual diversion can potentially develop an unhealthy obsession.
It may be challenging to distinguish a gambling addiction from a keen interest in gambling. The key differentiator is that a gambling addiction disrupts your life. Individuals who are compulsive gamblers often pursue their gambling behaviour at the expense of their lives and interpersonal relationships. They also often experience other accompanying conditions such as substance abuse, stress, depression, anxiety, or mood disorders. These conditions and underlying factors contributing to gambling behaviour typically need to be addressed during treatment to help individuals overcome their gambling addiction effectively. To determine whether you have a gambling addiction, you can make use of online addiction tests or schedule an appointment with experienced therapists at gambling addiction treatment centres, such as the team from Visions by Promises for a more accurate assessment.
What Contributes to a Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction can be driven by a combination of factors that exploit the brain’s reward system and cognitive vulnerabilities. These factors create a potent cocktail of impulses and motivations that can lead to compulsive gambling behaviour. Understanding these contributing factors is essential in addressing and treating gambling addiction effectively.
Ease of Accessibility
The rise of online gaming and gambling sites has revolutionised accessibility, enabling 24/7 engagement at the click of a button. Unlike traditional forms that could be controlled by restricting physical access, online platforms have made it incredibly convenient for individuals to indulge in gambling activities without any time constraints. This ease of access has magnified the allure of gambling, contributing to the increasing prevalence of gambling addiction.
Reward System and Dopamine Release
As in the case of other forms of addiction, gambling activities reinforce the neurotransmitter dopamine. A fast speed of play combined with the short time between placing a bet and winning creates a gratifying connection between the activity of betting and receiving the reward of a dopamine hit. The mind is tricked into chasing the risk in anticipation of a dopamine reward, leading to impulsive loss-chasing behaviours. Gambling addictions can often lead to disastrous financial, emotional and mental consequences.
Inaccurate Analysis of Pros and Cons
Research has found that persistent gamblers often rely on emotional decision-making and have distorted beliefs in their skills, statistical probability, and randomness of chance. Gamblers tend to overestimate the likelihood of outcomes with a low probability of occurring, leading to decision-making that does not accurately take into account the risk involved in their bets. Known as the gambler’s fallacy, this distortion causes one to assume that a small number of random outcomes (e.g., getting four tails in a row in a coin toss) reflects a consistent and enduring rule that will continue to apply to following events and make decisions on this assumption. In addition, game makers construct an illusion of control by providing choices or devising near-misses which make one feel more motivated to put down that one last bet for a big win.
Other Non-Monetary Incentives
Virtual or offline games which provide points, advantages or rewards based on luck or chance, for instance, can also lead to gambling behaviour. The popular TV series ‘Squid Game’ showed the dark side of gambling, where even human lives were used as stakes in the game. When the individual finds it difficult to disengage from the activity despite it causing problems in relationships, work, personal and emotional life, or financial responsibilities, it is time to seek professional counselling and treatment from experts in Singapore.
Signs and Symptoms of a Gambling Addiction Requiring Treatment and Counselling
- Feeling the need to be secretive about your gambling activity.
- Feeling the need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to feel enjoyment.
- Being unable to stop or control gambling or feeling that you need to try it “just one more time”.
- Gambling even when you cannot afford it or have exceeded your budget.
- Gambling to avoid or escape difficult, stressful, l or negative emotions and situations.
- Feeling anxious, irritated, or distressed when thinking about stopping or when told to seek treatment for addiction.
- Spending significant amounts of time thinking about or planning to engage in the gambling activity.
- Experiencing relationship, work, or emotional and mental problems due to gambling, including neglecting other responsibilities or jeopardising relationships.
Additional Risk Factors Include
- Other addictions, such as alcohol or substances.
- Emotional upheaval, trauma or existing depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.
- Being around others who gamble frequently or may have a similar addiction.
- Illegal borrowing, other financial debts.
How Does Visions Make an Assessment for Gambling Addiction?
At Visions by Promises, our comprehensive assessment process involves a multi-faceted approach to understand the complexities of gambling addiction and tailor an effective treatment plan. Our experienced professionals utilise various assessments to gain insights into the individual’s psychological, emotional, and behavioural patterns.
Psychological and Mental Health Assessment
Through a series of structured screening and standardised assessments, our specialists evaluate the individual’s psychological well-being and mental health. This assessment helps identify any underlying conditions that may contribute to gambling addiction. By understanding the broader context of the individual’s mental state, we can develop strategies to address these co-occurring issues.
Gambling Behaviour Analysis
Through addiction tests, we determine the frequency, duration, and severity of gambling activities. By examining patterns of gambling, triggers, and situational cues, we gain valuable insights into the factors that drive the addiction.
Social and Environmental Assessment
Understanding the individual’s social and environmental factors is essential for a holistic treatment approach. We assess the individual’s relationships, support network, and living environment to identify potential stressors or triggers that contribute to gambling behaviour.
Gambling addiction often leads to significant financial strain. Our financial evaluation assesses the extent of financial damage caused by the addiction, including debts, losses, and other related issues. This information guides our planning to help individuals regain control of their financial stability as part of the recovery process.
Co-Occurring Disorders Assessment
Many individuals with gambling addiction may also struggle with co-occurring disorders such as substance abuse. Our assessment process includes a comprehensive evaluation of these potential dual diagnoses. This allows us to provide integrated treatment, such as drug addiction treatments or alcohol addiction therapy, that addresses all underlying factors contributing to the addiction.
Customised Gambling Addiction Treatment Plan
Based on the findings from the aforementioned assessments, our team collaboratively designs a personalised treatment plan. This plan encompasses various therapeutic modalities, counselling approaches, and interventions tailored to the individual’s unique needs. The aim of our gambling addiction treatment is to provide comprehensive care that addresses all aspects of gambling addiction and promotes lasting recovery.
Aftercare Services at Visions by Promises
At Visions by Promises, our commitment to your well-being extends beyond the initial phases of treatment. We recognise that the journey to recovery from gambling addiction is ongoing and requires continuous support to maintain lasting positive change. Our comprehensive aftercare services are designed to provide individuals with the tools, guidance, and resources needed to navigate the challenges of post-treatment life.
Continued Counselling and Therapy
We offer ongoing group and individual counselling sessions to reinforce coping skills, address relapse triggers, and provide a safe space for sharing experiences. Our experienced therapists work collaboratively with individuals to navigate challenges and celebrate successes.
Supportive Peer Community
Engaging with a community of peers who have faced similar struggles can be a powerful source of encouragement and motivation. Our aftercare group therapy groups provide a platform for individuals to connect, share insights, and build meaningful relationships.
We believe that family support plays a crucial role in the recovery journey. Our aftercare services, such as the Visions Family Programme, extend to involve family members, providing education, communication strategies, and a supportive environment to facilitate healing within relationships.
Gambling Addiction Treatment Process at Our Treatment Centre
While some may rely on online checklists for self-assessment, the clearest first step is to undergo an evaluation with a trained clinical professional, who can assess the extent of the gambling addiction and develop a treatment plan suited to each person’s circumstances.
1. The Intake Assessment (Usually a 1 hour session)
The first visit with a clinical psychologist at Visions by Promises usually entails a detailed assessment of the extent of the gambling problem, contributing factors of the addiction, contextual history, and any other relevant personal background.
Based on these, the clinician will develop a treatment plan that centres on finding the most effective approach based on the underlying drivers and reasons for gambling behaviour. The clinician will also work with the individual to address these issues and develop coping and behavioural strategies for different situations and triggers.
2. Further Management
Where appropriate, medication may be prescribed to help manage impulsive or compulsive gambling behaviour. Underlying issues for the addiction will also need to be addressed, and where appropriate, family members or loved ones may be involved with the client’s consent. This enables better mutual understanding and a more supportive environment. Part of the treatment plan will also involve helping the individual develop life skills and strategies to manage relapses or slips so that the long-term recovery pathway remains intact.
Dr Sandor Heng
- Specialises in Substance Use Disorder, Alcohol Use Disorder, Gambling Disorder, Other Addictive Disorders, Co-occurring Disorders, and Individual & Group Therapy.
- Doctor of Psychology (Clinical), Griffith University, Australia and registered with Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency (AHPRA), PSY0001623535.
- Certified Substance Abuse Counsellor, APSAC and Gambling Addiction Counsellor, under APSAC and IC&RC.
- Extensive experience in dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders.
- Former lead psychologist at the National Addictions Management Service (NAMS) in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).
Dr Andy Leach
- Specialises in Substance Use Disorder, Alcohol Use Disorder, Gambling Disorder, Gaming Disorder, Families affected by Addiction.
- Has a Master of Arts, Counselling and Psychotherapy Practice and is a Certified Master Addiction Therapist (APCB) SA201502233TH.
- An Advanced Practitioner Member of Addiction Professionals: 2407 and Accredited Practitioner (Level 4S) under the Association of Psychotherapists and Counsellors Singapore (APACS).
- Over 15 years of experience in the addiction and mental health field.
- Established Outpatient Programmes in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Sydney and led the development of various addiction-focused programmes.
Dr Juliana Pang Siew Yun
- Specialises in Substance Addictions, Behaviour Addictions, Partners and Family affected by Addictions, Relapse Prevention, Recovery Support Groups.
- Has a Master of Counselling from Monash University, a Master’s in Management from Macquarie University, and a Diploma in Psychotherapy and Counselling from The School of Positive Psychology.
- Is a Certified Practitioner under the Association of Psychotherapists and Counsellors Singapore and a Certified Addictions-Informed Mental Health Professional.
- Has in-depth experience in addiction treatment, both inpatient and outpatient settings.
- Conducts 1-to-1, couples therapy, and group therapy sessions.
Frequently Asked Questions About Gambling Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation (Rehab) in Singapore
Similar to alcohol and substance abuse, gambling exerts a similar effect on your brain. When you gamble, the brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine that causes you to experience feelings of euphoria. This rewarding experience encourages you to continue to gamble to experience that same feeling of pleasure again, creating favourable conditions that promote gambling addiction. Moreover, as your body continues to trigger this neurological response even when you lose a gamble, it serves as an additional barrier to deter you from quitting gambling. External interventions and treatments are often required to help individuals to recover from a gambling addiction effectively.
There are various forms of treatment for gambling addiction. These may include:
Often, individuals engage in gambling to cope with the pressure they experience in other aspects of life. Thus, treating your gambling addiction can involve finding different ways to manage your stress. This can include finding new activities that you enjoy doing or rekindling old hobbies.
Professional counselling: Identifies factors that fuel your gambling addiction before a tailored treatment plan involving psycho-education and goal-setting is formulated to address the root causes effectively.
Recovery groups: Led by experienced therapists through which you can learn skills required to develop resilience and obtain access to a support network that increases your motivation to persevere through the treatment.
Among these options, recovery is often most successful when you seek the help of third-party professionals in Singapore. This is because professionals can provide the much-needed support to help you stay on track in your journey to recovery. The extra guidance and helpful resources they offer can also make recovery easier.
While it may be challenging to recover from a gambling addiction, it can be achieved, and many resources and treatments are available to help you on your journey. Among them, visiting a rehab centre or seeking counselling from professionals in Singapore, such as Visions By Promises, may be the quickest way to regain control of your life. With third parties involved to hold you accountable, it reduces the likelihood that you will give in to your old habits and drop out of your journey to recovery. With patience and perseverance, you can overcome your gambling addiction and start afresh.
Family members and partners of a gambling addict can access support through our comprehensive family therapy sessions at Visions by Promises. These sessions are designed to help loved ones understand the complexities of gambling addiction, develop effective communication strategies, and learn how to provide constructive support to the individual in their recovery journey.