Gambling Addiction & Problem Gambling : Warning Signs and How to Get Help
Whether you bet on sports, scratch cards, roulette, poker, or slots—in a casino or online—problem gambling can strain relationships, interfere with work, and lead to financial catastrophe. You may even do things you never thought you would, like stealing money to gamble or pay your debts. You may think you can’t stop but, with the right help, you can overcome a gambling problem or addiction and regain control of your life. The first step is recognizing and acknowledging the problem.
Understanding gambling addiction and problem gambling
Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones. Gambling is all they can think about and all they want to do, no matter the consequences. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they’re up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Even when they know the odds are against them, even when they can’t afford to lose, people with a gambling addiction can’t “stay off the bet.”
Gamblers can have a problem, however, without being totally out of control. Problem gambling is any gambling behavior that disrupts your life. If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences, you have a gambling problem.
Relieving unpleasant and overwhelming feelings without gambling
Unpleasant feelings such as stress, depression, loneliness, fear, and anxiety can trigger compulsive gambling or make it worse. After a stressful day at work, after an argument with your spouse or coworker, or to avoid more time spent on your own, an evening at the track or the casino can seem like a fun, exciting way to unwind and socialize. But there are healthier and far less expensive ways to keep unpleasant feelings in check. These may include exercising, meditating, spending time with friends, taking up new hobbies, or exploring relaxation techniques.
For many people, an important aspect of quitting gambling is to find alternate ways to handle these difficult feelings without gambling. Even when gambling is no longer a part of your life, the painful and unpleasant feelings that may have prompted you to gamble in the past will still remain. So, it’s worth spending some time thinking about the different ways you intend to deal with stressful situations and the daily irritations that would normally trigger you to start gambling.
Signs and symptoms of problem gambling
Gambling addiction is sometimes referred to as the "hidden illness" because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like there are in drug or alcohol addiction. Problem gamblers typically deny or minimize the problem. They also go to great lengths to hide their gambling. For example, problem gamblers often withdraw from their loved ones, sneak around, and lie
about where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to.
Therapy for problem gambling
Cognitive-behavioral therapy for problem gambling focuses on changing unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts, such as rationalizations and false beliefs. It also teaches problem gamblers how to fight gambling urges, deal with uncomfortable emotions rather than escape through gambling, and solve financial, work, and relationship problems caused by the addiction.
The goal of treatment is to “rewire” the addicted brain by thinking about gambling in a new way. A variation of cognitive behavioral therapy called the Four Steps Program has been used in the treatment of compulsive gambling as well. The goal is to change your thoughts and beliefs about gambling in four steps; re-label, reattribute, refocus, and revalue. More comprehensive information about cognitive behavioral therapy and applying it to your situation is found below.
Seeing a therapist does not mean you are weak or can’t handle your problems. Therapy is for people who are smart enough to realize they need help. It can give you tools and support for reframing your thoughts that will last a lifetime.
What is compulsive gambling?
The explanation that seems most acceptable to Gamblers Anonymous members is that compulsive gambling is an illness, progressive in its nature, which can never be cured, but can be arrested. Before coming to Gamblers Anonymous, many compulsive gamblers thought of themselves as morally weak, or at times just plain 'no good'. The Gamblers Anonymous concept is that compulsive gamblers are really very sick people who can recover if they will follow to the best of their ability a simple program that has proved successful for thousands of other men and women with a gambling or compulsive gambling problem.
How do you find the right treatment center?
With our free help!
I did not know where to go when I needed help for my drug and alcohol problems. I had medical insurance but it was too confusing to figure out if addiction treatment was covered. Feeling all alone, I decided to quit on my own, and I almost died. I don’t want anyone to go through what I did. That is why I created 800 Recovery Hub.