Practice A Patient’s Journey

Gambling addiction

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 30 December 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7789
  1. , patient1,
  2. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, consultant psychiatrist2, lead clinician3, honorary senior lecturer4,
  3. Sanju George, consultant, senior research fellow, and honorary senior lecturer in addiction psychiatry5
  1. 1UK
  2. 2Addictions Directorate, Central North West London NHS Foundation Trust, London NW1 2PL, UK
  3. 3National Problem Gambling Clinic, London W1D 3HZ
  4. 4Department of Medicine, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ
  5. 5Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham B37 7UR, UK
  1. Correspondence to: H Bowden-Jones h.bowden-jones02{at}
  • Accepted 28 October 2011

This man struggled with a gambling addiction for some years before eventually seeking help. He describes how his condition seriously affected his relationship with his partner and talks about the treatment that finally helped him to stop gambling

I graduated from King’s College, London with a BSc in human biology so I’m not a stupid man, and I’m aware of some of the psychobiological science behind addiction. Despite this, I am evidently capable of stupid acts; illogical, irrational, and emotional acts that undermined my future, my relationship, my family.

I’m 32. I am a financial services head hunter—a well paid job if it goes well but risky too as deals that would generate big fees often fail at the last minute beyond my control. I have a love-hate relationship with this type of stress as it’s 24 hour but also exciting and full of possibilities. The clients and candidates I mix with often run global franchises and earn millions, and this rarefied environment became the norm I aspired to. I undervalued what I had in my life (for example, health, family, relationships, job) and overvalued what I perceived I didn’t have (success, money, material things).

My earliest memory of gambling is playing the children’s card game “top trumps” at primary school, in which the winner takes all. As a child I spent a lot of time at a working man’s club where my alcoholic father took my brother and me. In a large smoky room, we’d play 20p stake dominoes with Frank, “Doughnut” (the baker), and their old cronies. They were happy to have us in the game. Sometimes we’d win and they’d complain that kids shouldn’t be gambling. It was all light-hearted and is a fond memory. Later, my brother and I started to play on the fruit machines. …

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