Gambling addiction is a serious problem that people cannot break easily or break on their own. When people who suffer from it want to stop, gambling addiction therapists can help. They are professionals who are trained to understand the unique aspects of gambling addiction and are qualified to treat it. For those who struggle with gambling, it helps to understand which treatments are effective. Also, it helps people to know how to identify signs that it is time to ask for help.
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What Is a Gambling Addiction?
Also called a gambling disorder, compulsive gambling occurs when a person cannot control the urge to gamble. If the problem becomes a chronic disorder, it is called pathological gambling. The individual is unable to stop even after experiencing negative effects. Being unable to stop doing something pleasurable despite negative effects is addiction.
It may take a long time for some people to realize the problem exists. In one real-life story, an attorney developed a gambling addiction and did not realize what was happening. After the addiction worsened, the attorney faced serious consequences. The individual was convicted of stealing a considerable amount of money from clients to fuel the gambling habit. To understand how a person can get to that point, it helps to know how addiction works.
How Gambling Addiction Works
The specific causes of a gambling disorder that leads to addiction are still not thoroughly understood. There may be genetic, psychological, environmental, and other factors. Modern research shows many similarities between people who misuse drugs and people who compulsively gamble. Two of the key similarities are reward-seeking and impulsivity. Both types of people also tend to make riskier choices.
As an example, a person using drugs may take higher doses over time. Alternatively, a person who gambles may wager higher amounts over time. Just as the higher dose creates the satisfying feelings a person on drugs craves, the thrill of riskier bets may satisfy someone who gambles compulsively over time. Also, someone with a gambling addiction can experience symptoms similar to drug withdrawal when the person stops gambling.
People often ask why some gamblers can control themselves and others cannot. Studies show that the reward center in the brain may be underactive in many compulsive gamblers. This also occurs in people who are more susceptible to developing a substance addiction. To satisfy the reward center, they seek activities like gambling, drugs, or something else that creates pleasurable or rewarding feelings.
Signs of a Gambling Addiction
When a person develops a compulsive gambling disorder, there are several possible signs. It is important to remember that not all these signs may be present. Some people may display a combination of several signs, and others may show different signs. These are some common gambling addiction signs:
- Preoccupation with gambling or planning gambling trips
- Trying unsuccessfully to stop or cut back on gambling
- Wagering higher amounts over time to maintain a thrill
- Gambling more frequently to try to win back lost money
- Irritability, mood swings, and other negative emotions when trying to quit gambling
- Using gambling as an escape from anxiety, depression, or guilt
- Asking others for money to cover expenses after losing money from gambling
- Lying to others to cover up gambling activities
- Willingness to risk losing relationships because of gambling
- New financial or legal problems tied to gambling
- Continual denial of a gambling problem when others frequently mention it
When people who gamble for fun lose a certain amount, they stop. People who are addicted may want to stop but are unable to quit. As gambling problems become a pattern, a person may experience more destructive problems in life. For example, some people resort to stealing like the attorney in the earlier example. Although some people may be able to stop gambling for a while, they may also relapse. Chronic or pathological gambling that becomes an addiction requires professional treatment. Without that high-level help, people cannot break the addiction.
Therapies Used by Gambling Addiction Therapists
Denial can make it hard for people to realize they have a problem. Also, it can be a hindrance to taking the first step, which is asking for help. When people do ask for help or agree to seek it, there are several treatments. Some modern treatments that are also used in substance addiction treatment or behavioral therapy have shown positive outcomes for gambling addiction sufferers.
These approaches help people develop more motivation to make positive changes. Also, they help lower resistance. These strategies connect therapeutic benefits to motivators that may already exist. Through the help of gambling addiction therapists, people can overcome insecurities and ambivalence. Since one outcome is changing behaviors, a motivational approach is helpful when combined with other behavioral therapy methods. Studies have shown motivational interviewing or enhancement to be effective in helping gamblers change problematic behaviors.
With this type of intervention, people see comparisons of their behavior to the behavior of others in similar situations. Using computer programs, professionals provide individuals with detailed comparisons of their behaviors and how most people behave. There may also be discussions about the findings and individual behavior.
Commonly referred to as CBT, this therapy is helpful for everything from addiction to mood disorders. When thoughts and behaviors lead to negative choices or outcomes, it is important to change them. CBT is designed to accomplish that. Studies show that it can help improve quality of life. In gambling addiction treatment, therapists use CBT to help people change behaviors associated with excessive gambling. To do this, therapists help people develop problem-solving skills and correct gambling-related cognitive distortions. Also, they help people learn social skills and ways to prevent relapse.
This is a type of psychosocial intervention that puts a positive focus on mental health. Research shows that it can help reduce levels of distress, improve psychological functions and improve overall well-being. For gambling addiction treatment, this approach may include workbooks and self-guided activities. There may also be staff involvement. As a therapy that works well with other treatments, it may be combined with motivational interviewing or enhancement. Also, it may include explanatory discussions with therapists or other professionals overseeing the treatment plan.
Recovery training and relapse prevention are important parts of treatment that gambling addiction therapists use. They do this to help people understand high-risk situations and learn how to cope with them. Some examples of high-risk situations for gamblers include casinos or places with lottery tickets. Also, therapists use the Inventory of Gambling Situations tool, which helps people understand high-risk circumstances. When combined with other behavioral therapies, relapse prevention has been shown to be an effective treatment component. Many people have been able to reduce their gambling or quit.
A brief intervention includes negotiating and encouraging in a short discussion. It may involve follow-up support or referrals for other types of help in some cases. In many cases, a brief intervention only takes a few minutes. One common type for gambling addiction treatment is brief advice. For example, there may be a 10-minute conversation about gambling issues or consequences. Limited motivational enhancement therapy may also be applied in a brief intervention approach. However, this is not always the case. Studies show that brief advice may reduce problematic gambling behavior in as little as six weeks.
Although there is no single drug that is effective for all people, there are some options. These are some of the common medications clinicians may prescribe as part of a gambling addiction treatment plan:
The above drugs all have a different main purpose. Those purposes range from treating seizures to treating nerve pain. The right medication depends on a variety of individual factors. One factor that can affect a medication recommendation is a co-occurring disorder. For instance, some people find out that they have depression during treatment.
Depression may be a factor that contributes to gambling in some cases. People with depression often experience rumination, which is dwelling on negative feelings or thoughts. Studies show that rumination may be a common link between gambling and depression. If depression is not properly treated, a person is more likely to relapse. Treating the whole person by addressing psychological, spiritual, and physical needs is important.
Gambling Addiction Therapists in Illinois
Many people who struggle with pathological or compulsive gambling are able to overcome it with professional treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with gambling, Northern Illinois Recovery Center in Crystal Lake can help. We offer a variety of treatment programs, structures, and therapeutic approaches. Everyone has unique needs and a different history, and we consider those needs during planning. Our comprehensive and personalized approach ensures that everyone gets the dedicated care and support they deserve. To learn more about our programs or how gambling addiction therapists can help, please contact us.
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