Are you preoccupied with the thought of your next gambling adventure? Have you spent money on gambling instead of paying your bills? Did you lie about your gambling habits? If so, you may be a compulsive gambler.
Some people can do all of those things and still be able to control their gambling the majority of the time. Others, however, discover their gambling is out of control. Gambling disorder is a non-substance behavioral disorder that can be as harmful to one’s life as alcohol and substance abuse.
How Does a Gambling Addiction Happen?
The simple answer to how gambling addictions happen is when a person begins gambling. For some people, once is all it takes.
After the initial gamble, addiction encompasses four components:
- Continuing the gambling behavior, fully knowing the consequences
- Loss of self-control over gambling behavior
- Compulsive gambling engagement
- Craving to continue gambling behavior
There becomes a need to gamble with larger amounts of money to feel the same thrill. You may become irritable and experience anxiety when attempting to slow down your spending, and you are usually unsuccessful. Then you continue to gamble despite feelings of guilt and consequently experience depression.
This whole process repeats on what seems a never-ending cycle. So, a compulsive gambler is a person whose gambling causes continuing hardship in any facet of their life. The only person who can stop the cycle is the gambler. Fortunately, there is hope and treatment.
Compulsive gamblers often have problems with alcohol and substance abuse and co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and other disorders. Studies show that alcohol abuse is four times more likely to occur when a person is gambling.
Drinking and gambling are dangerous and create a tough cycle to break. Gambling encourages more drinking, and the more alcohol consumed, the more the gambler wants to gamble, and so on. Such a cycle can end very badly.
Many compulsive gamblers who have admitted they can no longer control their gambling and want to heal go to a Gamblers Anonymous (GA) meeting. During the meeting, which may be online but is normally in person, the attendees share their experiences and listen to others. The interactions provide support and inclusivity of their addiction instead of struggling through it in lonely desperation. Gamblers Anonymous employs a 12-Step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
In GA, the recovering gamblers share their stories, if they wish, of how their compulsive gambling started, its progress, and the ultimate realization that things had to change. The stories are as varied as the attendees. One person may confess to losing their whole paycheck in one evening at a casino. Another might share their story of losing their house, car, and ultimately, family by gambling them all away. Others have stories about prison, homelessness, and other relevant behavior to tell. There are no fees or applications to attend. A person has to possess the desire to quit gambling.
Other Treatments for Gambling Disorders
Research shows that positive effects are realized using psychotherapy and behavioral treatments for gambling and co-occurring disorders. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a treatment approach that challenges the irrational thought processes that govern compulsive behavior. The individual learns to interrupt the addictive behavior and applies skills to change the behavior. Talk therapy, family therapy, and mindfulness meditation are other therapies and techniques sometimes incorporated along with other treatments and therapies.
How Can I Help a Loved One Recovering From a Gambling Disorder?
When you think your loved one is ready to reclaim their life back, the following tips may help you in helping them:
- Talk with them. Speak the truth, but gently. Your encouragement and forthrightness may be what they need to pull them out of denial.
- Offer judgment-free support. Judgment can make matters worse.
- Timing is key. If you feel angry, postpone the meeting until you are calm. Your words are important, and you don’t want them to appear offensive.
- Talk about the adverse outcomes. There are consequences they will encounter if they continue gambling.
- Stay calm. Remain patient throughout the conversation.
- Provide resources and support. Make suggestions for alternatives to gambling and the benefits of support groups.
If your loved one consents to dialog with you about their gambling, accept it as a good sign and make the most of it. You provide a much-needed support system, and everyone in addiction recovery needs support.
If a conversation with a loved one is not an option, an intervention by several friends, loved ones, or colleagues is an alternative. One-on-one conversation is preferable, but intervention may be in order in extreme circumstances. A professional may be a good person to include to help the meeting along, having answers ready that the person seeks. If this method is chosen, plan thoroughly, and execute with patience, empathy, and encouragement. It will be well worth the effort.
Your mental health plays a crucial role in living a fulfilling life. When things do not go as planned and mental health concerns surface, SoCal Mental Health is here to help. Compulsive gambling is a treatable and manageable disorder with the right resources and support. You do not have to struggle through this struggle by yourself. Our staff can provide supportive therapies, treatment, and guidance with a program designed to fit your individual needs. Here, you will meet others in recovery and develop invaluable relationships to help you through your struggles. Please do not delay; call SoCal today and talk with a knowledgeable representative for more information at (949) 502-2041.