How to Treat Problem Gambling

From colorful slot machines to strategic table games, casinos are highly effective at luring people in with the promise of winnings. When gambling is approached responsibility, it can be a fun and exciting pastime.

However, when a person is unable to resist the temptation to gamble, it becomes a compulsion or addiction.

Not all people who suffer from problem gambling are alike. This means that their treatment plan should also differ to ensure the most satisfactory outcome. Some people with minor gambling problems have the ability to recover on their own with support from family and friends. More severe cases may require help from counselors, cognitive behavioral specialists, or professionals in an in-patient treatment center.

While there are many reasons people gamble, the outcome is often the same when the activity goes from being an occasional form of entertainment to a lifestyle choice. Problematic gaming behavior can negatively affect a person’s relationships, career, and finances. In some cases, it can also result in legal issues. Fortunately, treatment is available for people with all forms of gambling problems and disorders.

Diagnosing Problem Gambling

Many people who have compulsive gambling habits do not realize that they have a problem until it’s too late. If you suspect that you may have a gambling problem or know someone who may have a gambling addiction, talk with a physician about undergoing an evaluation.

During an evaluation, the doctor or mental health professional will likely ask questions related to your gambling habits. If you do not want your family or friends to know about your compulsive gambling, don’t worry. Confidentially laws prevent medical professionals from sharing this information without your consent.

The doctor may perform a psychiatric assessment to get a better understanding of any symptoms, feelings, thoughts, or behavior patterns the person may have. To acquire a diagnosis of a gambling disorder, a person must have consistently displayed certain red flags during the last year. Some of these red flags include the need to gamble with increasing money, irritability when trying to cut down on gambling, frequent thoughts about gambling, “chasing” losses, and lying to conceal gambling activities.

Treatment Options

The first step to treating problem gambling is admitting that you have a problem. Once you can be honest with yourself and realize that treatment is the best course of action, you are on the right track towards recovery.

While there are a number of treatment options for compulsive gambling, some of the most effective include:

Counseling

– Through counseling, you can gain a better understanding of why you gamble and how it affects areas of your life, such as your relationships. Counseling can also help you get control of your problem behavior, deal with your urges to gamble, help heal family and friend relationships, and get your finances in order.

Therapy

– Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be beneficial in curbing excessive gambling habits. This type of therapy focuses on identifying irrational or unhealthy beliefs and replacing them with positive, healthy ones. Behavior therapy can also be helpful. This type of therapy uses systemic exposure for behaviors you would like to unlearn. It also teaches essential skills for reducing your urge to partake in gaming.

Medications

– When problem gambling is caused by an underlying health condition, it is important to get that condition under control. Mood stabilizers and antidepressants can help manage the conditions that often coincide with gambling addiction, such as depression, ADHD, and OCD. Narcotic antagonists, which are used in substance abuse cases, may also be effective in treating problem gambling.

Self-Help and Support Groups

When recovering from any type of addiction, it is important to learn the best ways to deal with your “cravings.” Start by building a support system of family and friends that you can count on to provide emotional aid and encouragement when times get tough. You may also find support from other people dealing with the same compulsive behaviors as you in Gamblers Anonymous meetings.

Find healthy activities to replace gambling. During recovery, you want to avoid isolation which could trigger a relapse. Find fun ways to socialize, such as going to local events or festivals, joining a club or gym, or taking up a hobby like cooking or cycling.

Support groups can be very helpful, especially to people who do not want to depend on their family or friends for support. Gamblers Anonymous is one of the most well-known support groups which consists of a 12-step program, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. In addition to providing peer support, participating in a support group may help you better understand why you gamble compulsively.

Preventing Relapse

Even with treatment, there is a risk that relapse could occur. To lower this risk, avoid spending time with other people who gamble and block online casinos on your computer, phone, and other internet-enabled devices. If you feel the urge to start gambling again, contact your sponsor or mental health professional right away.

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