More Hong Kong residents are at risk for gambling addiction than ever before. As advertising becomes more targeted, certain groups are particularly vulnerable. We explore some of the causes, risks and symptoms of gambling addiction, and what to do if you or your loved one is struggling.
Ten years ago, it was controversial to even suggest that gambling could lead to addiction the way that alcohol and substance abuse can, but most experts now agree that compulsive gambling is a very serious disorder. Many people have gambled away their life savings, ruined personal relationships, lost their jobs and even taken their own lives in severe cases, and the gambling industry is growing in most countries around the world. Hong Kong is no exception.
Indeed, gambling is a multi-billion dollar industry that boomed during the global recession, and it is set to expand even further as advertisements become more targeted and individuals in a large number of nations become more affluent. While gambling can be a harmless form of entertainment for those who know their limits and only gamble what they are willing to lose, it can take over some people’s lives if they cannot stop or keep pushing it too far.
Unfortunately, gambling addiction can be difficult to spot because many sufferers keep their habit a secret, and physical symptoms that are easy to recognise in those abusing drugs or alcohol are not usually present. Because the industry is estimated to grow and symptoms are not always obvious, it is vital to learn how to recognise whether you or your loved one might be at risk for gambling addiction. But those who struggle with compulsive gambling do not need to suffer in silence, because effective gambling addiction treatment is available in Hong Kong.
Risk Factors for Compulsive Gambling
According to a variety of recent studies, certain groups of people may face an increased risk of developing a gambling addiction – a disorder that has a similar effect on the brain’s reward centre to substance abuse. However, as advertisements become increasingly prevalent and effective, more and more people are at risk.
Gambling Addiction Hits Young People the Hardest
Worryingly, an increasing number of youngsters are getting involved in gambling, and those who start gambling at a young age are more likely to develop an addiction later in life. In Hong Kong, there is a growing trend of young people partaking in gambling activities, often under the age of 20. Many believe it can be a quick way of making money. However, as the odds are not in your favour, gambling rarely makes a person rich.
In 2014, UK citizen Ryan Myers took his own life as a result of his gambling addiction, a move unforeseen by his parents. Says John, his father: “What had happened? You couldn’t understand – our Ryan was such a happy, bubbly character.” This addiction can have devastating consequences for those who ultimately wager everything they have.
More Women are Gambling than Ever Before
Gambling used to be seen as a rather ‘manly’ activity to partake in, but women are closing the gender gap and gambling with vast sums of cash in some cases. This is due in part to the rising popularity of online bingo, a game whose demographic is 85 per cent women.
Mental Health Issues and Compulsive Gambling
Sufferers of ADHD and other mental conditions face a higher risk of developing a gambling addiction. According to the US National Institute of Health, “Data suggest that early age at gambling onset might influence mental health functioning later in life. For example, young adult gamblers who initiated gambling behavior as adolescents were found to be more likely to report substance use problems than were young adult gamblers who started gambling as adults.”
Parents Can Pass Compulsive Gambling Behaviour onto Their Children
Various studies have shown that children face a higher risk of gambling addiction if their parents are sufferers, too. Those who are exposed to gambling or partake in gambling activities while they are young are more likely to develop an addiction as adults than those who try gambling for the first time during adulthood.
Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
There are a few tell-tale signs that might help you to identify whether you or your loved one has a problem. Similar to many other types of addictions, sufferers often do not seek help by themselves or open up to others. It is important to understand how to spot the signs of gambling addiction early on so people can get the help they need. Common symptoms include:
- Preoccupation with getting more gambling money
- Gambling with increasing amounts of money to achieve the same high
- Heading to the casino when feeling anxious, depressed or irritable
- Feeling distressed when trying to reduce gambling habits
- Chasing losses – always trying to win back the money you have lost
- Lying to others to hide your gambling habits
- Taking part in criminal activities to acquire gambling money
- Ruining relationships or underperforming at work due to gambling
- Asking to borrow money from others in order to sustain the habit
Treating for Gambling Addiction
Though many Hong Kong addiction treatment centres focus solely on chemical dependence, there is help available for those who want to overcome their gambling addiction. At The Cabin Hong Kong, we provide specialised treatment for process addictions like gambling in a confidential outpatient setting. Our central location and flexible treatment options allow you to fit treatment into your busy schedule. If you or someone you know is suffering from gambling addiction, contact us today to find out how we can help you.