Competition is a driving force in human nature and with it, comes gambling opportunities we see from our earliest of years. We gamble in sports, games, the stock markets, lotteries, casinos, in future developments, and on the internet, but, for most of us, we risk no harm to ourselves or others by doing so.
Gambling addiction affects millions of people and is a serious problem that can destroy individuals and their families if left untreated. The methods of treating gambling addiction are much the same as treating drug addiction because the adrenaline rush one gets from gambling is similar to the “high” one get from using drugs.
Recognizing the Signs of Addiction
Gambling has been called the “silent addiction” because so often, the signs are only visible to those who know the addict well. Gambling addiction can be recognized when the person’s quality of life suffers from their inability to control their gambling habits despite the negative consequences.
They don’t have to be a pathological gambler where they suffer withdrawals when they stop gambling, or they go to high extremes to be able to continue gambling. Problem gamblers gamble more than they should by compromising, disrupting, or damaging their personal or family life, vocational pursuits, or finances.
Treating the Addiction
While it is possible for the gambling addict to suffer consequences to their physical health, the core symptoms of gambling addiction involve cognitive distortions about gambling behaviors, impulsiveness, loss of control, and continuing to gamble despite negative consequences.
According to a publication by the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, “Pathological gambling often occurs co-morbidly with a variety of psychological disorders such as depression, personality disorders, and impulse control disorders.”
Addicts must learn to cope with urges to gamble, find alternative ways to enjoy their life, and deal with mental health instabilities that may contribute or be associated with their addictive behaviors.
- Behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy help to identify the negative thoughts, emotions and behaviors of the gambling addiction and exchange them for positive and productive ones that promote a healthier and more stable lifestyle.
- Psychotherapies can help the addict to discover the meaning of their behaviors and habits and to focus on problem solving skills. They involve teaching the addict avoid issues of denial, rationalization, or minimization of their addiction. Instead, they will learn positive defense mechanisms and coping strategies to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health disturbances that would lead to relapse.
- Individual counseling affords the addict of the ability to relate their concerns with a therapist who can help to guide them in their recovery goals.
- Group counseling encourages the addict to interact with others undergoing similar experiences where they can gain valuable knowledge and support.
- Family therapy involves the family in the addict’s recovery, helping them to re-stabilize and re-strengthen the family unit and to be resistant to co-dependency behaviors that would perpetuate further addiction behaviors.