For many people, the idea of gambling elicits romantic images of a debonaire gambler in Las Vegas beating the house and getting the big win. People crowded around a craps table, cheering on the shooter as they throw dice. They may also think of professional poker players bluffing their way into 1st place at the world series of poker and becoming instant millionaires. Harmless fun at the track or a few dollars spent on a slot machine when on vacation. And while some of these ideas may be valid, for a small percentage of the population gambling is far from fun.


It is difficult to accurately estimate the number of people who are addicted to gambling, as it is a behaviour that is usually hidden and may not be reported. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, an estimated 2-3% of the adult population in the United States has a gambling disorder, and an additional 4-5% are considered to be at risk for developing a gambling problem. However, these estimates may be higher or lower depending on the prevalence of gambling in a particular community or region. Whatever the numbers may be, for people with a gambling addiction the fun and thrill came to an end a long time ago.

Here at Horizon Rehab Center, we boast a highly accredited team of clinicians who have years of experience in treating gambling addiction. Some are even in recovery from gambling addiction themselves and can draw from their own experience to help you find a life in recovery and be free from the clutches of problem gambling.

How Addictive is Gambling Compared to Drugs?

Gambling can be considered a process addiction, which is a type of behavioral addiction characterized by an obsessive engagement in a non-substance-related behavior. Process addictions involve activities that are pleasurable and rewarding, but that can become problematic when they are pursued to excess or to the detriment of other aspects of life.

Gambling can be particularly addictive because it activates the brain's reward systems in a way that is similar to substance abuse. When people gamble they experience a rush of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and endorphins, which are associated with feelings of pleasure and reward. These effects are highly reinforcing and sometimes lead to the development of compulsive or addictive behaviours.

And it’s easy to see why for some gambling becomes problematic. Casinos are intentionally designed to keep people playing for as long as possible. They employ a wide variety of techniques to create an extremely pleasant and immersive environment. This encourages people to stay and gamble much longer than they may have intended. These techniques can include bright lights, music, sounds, and attractive décor. Many also have nice restaurants, shows, and other entertainment options.

In addition to this, casinos and other gambling venues will also generally offer promotions and incentives to keep players coming back. Games are designed with features as well that keep people playing. For example, many games have a "near miss" feature which means that players almost win but just miss out. This feeling that the big win is within reach keeps many problem gamblers playing despite negative consequences.

Effects of Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction can have serious consequences for many people and their families as well. Some of the common potential negative consequences of gambling addiction can include

Financial problems: Gambling can lead to significant financial losses and in extreme cases involves difficulty paying bills, debt, and even bankruptcy.

Relationship problems: Gambling addiction can cause problems in relationships with partners, family members, and friends. In part due to the dishonesty often inherent in the addiction as it can lead to secrecy, mistrust, and other conflicts.

Mental health issues: Alongside gambling addiction are often other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and for some even suicidal thoughts.

Legal problems: : Gambling addiction can even lead to legal problems because in desperation some people will resort to theft or fraud to fund their addiction.

Social isolation: Problem gambling can lead to feelings of social isolation. As with other many other addictions people may withdraw from activities, friends, and relationships in pursuit of their addiction

Gambling Addiction and Denial

Much like with substance abuse or other addictions denial often plays a strong role. People who have developed a gambling problem may be in denial about the extent of their addiction or possibly deny that they have any problem at all. This can be a barrier to seeking help as many gamblers may not recognize the negative consequences of their gambling or may not believe that they need treatment.

There are several reasons why people with a gambling addiction may be in denial. They may still think that they have control over their gambling. It’s common to hear a gambler using that familiar phrase, “I can stop whenever I want!” They may also minimize the negative consequences of their gambling, such as financial problems or relationship issues. There is also the fear of the stigma that is often associated with gambling addiction. Guilt and shame can play a role in denial.

Gambling Addiction Signs

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), gambling disorder is defined as a pattern of persistent and recurrent gambling behaviour that is characterised by the following:

Difficulty controlling the behaviour, including an inability to stop or reduce gambling despite a desire to do so.

Preoccupation with gambling, including frequent thoughts about past gambling experiences or planning future gambling activities.

Restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop or reduce gambling.

A return to gambling to escape problems or negative emotions.

Gambling in spite of negative consequences, such as financial problems or relationship issues.

To be diagnosed with gambling disorder, an individual must exhibit at least four of these symptoms within a 12-month period. Gambling disorder is classified as an impulse-control disorder in the DSM-5. It is important to note that not all people who gamble are at risk for developing a gambling addiction.

Why Go to a Gambling Rehab for Treatment?

Like all addictions, it is a progressive illness that will continue to get worse over time. Making the decision to come into residential therapy is not an easy one. But we have found that for people who have simply lost all control over their gambling behaviour, an inpatient program is proven to be the best solution to this destructive addictive behaviour.

Here are some of the benefits of attending an inpatient with us here At Horizon Rehab Center:

Our structured environment provides the structure and discipline that can be crucial for individuals working to overcome an addiction.

Our intensive therapy program, including individual and group therapy sessions, allows individuals to delve deeply into the root causes of their addiction and develop strategies for lasting recovery.

Our team of professionals, including therapists and counsellors, is dedicated to providing support and guidance to every individual in treatment.

By removing the distractions and stressors of everyday life, individuals in our inpatient program can fully focus on their recovery and make progress toward lasting change.

For those who may be at risk for self-harm or facing financial crisis, our safe and supportive environment can provide the protection and support needed to address these issues and work towards a healthier future.

Our team of addiction specialists can help clients recognize the signs of gambling addiction and understand the importance of helping clients come to terms with their addiction and start the road to recovery.

If you or someone you love is struggling with gambling addiction please get in contact with us and speak to our highly-experienced admission counsellor. They will be able to guide you in the right direction and offer you a no-obligation, free assessment.