Compulsive Gambling Addiction: Causes, Signs & Treatment

A Guide To Compulsive Gambling Addiction

There is assistance available if you or someone you care about struggles with gambling. The compulsive impulse to stake something of value in order to gain something of greater value is known as compulsive gambling, also known as problem gambling or gambling disorder. Addicts to gambling get a powerful rush that can be seen as comparable to drug use. Problem gambling is when gambling persists despite causing issues in other aspects of life, such as relationships or professional reputation.

Gambling addiction is a chronic disease that, like addiction to other substances, gets progressively worse if left untreated. You can halt the addiction in its tracks by seeking help for gambling problems on behalf of yourself or a loved one.

Getting Help for a Gambling Problem

Often, people seeking professional treatment for compulsive gambling end up quitting for good and having fulfilling lives. From self-help support groups to inpatient holistic treatment, there are many different types of treatment choices accessible.

Substance abuse may contribute to gambling addiction if you or a loved one utilizes drugs or alcohol while gambling. Inpatient holistic treatment is one sort of treatment that can help with both substance addiction and gambling problems at the same time. Whether or not a person has a drug abuse issue, the sooner they enter gambling addiction treatment, the easier it may be to recover.

Given that there are sometimes no physical symptoms associated with gambling addiction, unlike those associated with substance abuse, it can be challenging to accept that you or a loved one needs help. Nevertheless, gambling addiction ruins families, livelihoods, and reputations. Losses from gambling have an impact similar to how lying, hiding, and denying do. If gambling results in issues, it is a problem. Planning a compulsive gambling intervention may be necessary if someone you care about needs assistance.

Tips For Convincing a Loved One to Get Help With Problem Gambling

When it comes to addiction, problematic people are sometimes the last to acknowledge a problem. This occurs because particular feel-good neurotransmitters are released in the brain differently as a result of behaviors like drinking, using drugs, and gambling. These hormones alter how a person who is addicted evaluates danger, makes choices, and recalls outcomes and positive experiences.

You or your loved one will eventually form a solid mental association between gambling and feeling at ease or high. When a gambling addiction takes hold, gambling is the only way you or a loved one can feel normal. You or your loved one will experience anxiety and irritability without gambling or treatment, and you will want the deceptive pleasures that gambling brings. The brain is retrained to find pleasure in healthy choices thanks to gambling treatment, which resets cognitive processes.

The largest challenge before treatment is typically persuading the addicted person that help is accessible and necessary. Choosing the appropriate time to talk to your loved one about their gambling addiction is crucial.

People that are addicted are frequently quite sensitive. Never publicly criticize your loved one’s gambling in a moment of rage in front of others, as this can cause significant embarrassment or humiliation. This can cause your loved one to distance themselves from you and make the situation worse. Instead, pick a moment when the two of you can be alone and silent. It would be a good idea to have a conversation if the person just experienced a significant gambling loss or another traumatic life event that has a connection to gambling.

Make sure your loved one isn’t inebriated or otherwise impaired before speaking with them. Avoid being around when your loved one is actively gambling, such as when they are playing online poker on the computer.

Prepare your talking points in advance. Choose specific instances to show how gambling addiction led to issues. Try caring and supportive phrases like “I worry about how gambling is impacting our family” or “I felt hurt and lonely when you neglected our anniversary because you were gambling.” Avoid using hostile, accusatory, or judgmental words that can turn the conversation into a fight.

Bring information on support groups and counseling to your chat, so you are ready if you loved one requests immediate assistance. Sadly, these discussions don’t usually go well the first time. Regardless of how carefully you conduct your debate, you should be ready for it to end in a disagreement.

Particularly if you engage in gambling yourself, be prepared to hear denials and accusations. As much as you can, try to keep your loved one in mind. It could be necessary to organize a proper intervention if the discussion is unsuccessful or if the person vows to get help, but the situation only worsens.

Staging an Intervention

Interventions are a potent tool that can encourage someone struggling with gambling addiction to seek treatment. Interventions are formal discussions that take place between you, your loved one who is struggling, and a small group of people who have been impacted by the gambling problem. The meeting should be overseen by a qualified interventionist. Parents, older children, coworkers, friends, clergy, and other pertinent people can attend. Without counting the interventionist, there are usually five to six members in the group as a whole.

Persuading your loved one to seek treatment is the goal of the intervention. All participants in interventions have emotional difficulty, but the addicted person is particularly vulnerable. While maintaining focus can be challenging, doing so is essential to the meeting’s success. That is why a lot of people decide to work with expert interventionists.
You and the loved one’s friends/family will softly but firmly confront the addict about the conduct during the intervention. Your loved one will be offered the option to get treatment right away or face repercussions.

It is important for each participant to provide and bring up specific examples of times when gambling resulted in major issues. Participants will also commit to assist the troubled person fully if they agree to seek immediate compulsive gambling treatment. The participants will implement the pre-determined consequences if the struggling person chooses not to seek assistance.

Because of the nature of an intervention, it is common for your loved one to feel surprised and on guard. That’s one reason why you might want to think about having a private conversation with them before the encounter. It’s another justification for employing an interventionist. You can choose participants with the interventionist’s assistance, and you can also schedule a time and place. After the meeting, the interventionist can also accompany your loved one immediately to treatment.

Interventions don’t always work out as planned. If your loved one rejects therapy, keep in mind that many people who once struggled with gambling addiction cite a “failed” intervention as one of the main catalysts for their decision to seek treatment eventually.

Treatment for Compulsive Gambling

Gambling addiction may not have the same severe physical withdrawal symptoms as substances like heroin, but stopping abruptly can still have significant negative mental health effects. If you have a gambling issue, you might experience anxiety or depression. You might discover that your want to gamble is so strong that you have trouble focusing on critical duties. It could be difficult to fall asleep.

You could have a growing problem with substance misuse if you drink or take drugs. The time to get treatment is now if you’ve tried to stop gambling in the past but found the emotional withdrawal symptoms to be too distressing – especially if you turn to alcohol or drugs to mask these unpleasant emotions.

Alcoholism, in particular, shares a high correlation with compulsive gambling when it comes to substance misuse. There is strong evidence, according to numerous studies, that as a gambling issue gets worse, so does drug misuse. Most people who have a gambling addiction also show symptoms of an alcohol use disorder. You can receive therapy for your gambling problem and your concerns about how alcohol or drug use will impact your life at the same time.

There are numerous options for counseling, self-help assistance, and treatment. Making a public commitment to stop gambling and joining a self-help group like Gamblers Anonymous may be sufficient if you are still in the early stages of a gambling problem.

Try one-on-one counseling if you’ve tried self-help support before but ended up relapsing. Counseling offers individualized care. It invites you to consider the factors that led to your decision to gamble and to look at how you felt before, during, and after. Counseling can also teach you specific strategies and methods that might help you cope with frequent difficulties in recovery, such as stress and cravings.

It might be time to think about comprehensive inpatient therapy if you or a loved one has a pathological gambling addiction. Holistic care yields the best overall treatment outcomes, according to addiction specialists from reputable nonprofit organizations like the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The term “holistic” refers to overall well-being, which includes mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Numerous holistic treatment facilities offer assistance for gambling addiction, depression, and anxiety in addition to substance abuse issues. This enables you to handle several issues concurrently.

If you also struggle with substance misuse, you can start inpatient treatment with a medically supervised detox. Physical withdrawal symptoms are alleviated through detox, which also eases the adjustment to sober living.

If you don’t use drugs or alcohol or have finished detox, your treatment team will create a personalized recovery plan for you based on your individual requirements. Psychotherapy for co-occurring illnesses like depression or anxiety may be a part of this. Along with family and group counseling, behavioral therapy is another option. You’ll spend your downtime engaging in pleasurable, life-affirming activities that serve as a constant reminder of how much fun sobriety can be.

You will go home once your inpatient treatment is through. When the previous options are no longer viable, making this shift might be challenging. After your inpatient care is over, a top-notch treatment facility will continue to keep in touch with you and assist you in creating a support network.

This support network could consist of trustworthy family members and friends that genuinely want what’s best for you. Additionally, it will connect you with local experts who can give you outpatient care. Similar to chronic illnesses like diabetes, addiction is a sickness that can come back if it is not addressed. You can maintain your commitment to abstinence if you make a lifelong care commitment.

Transforming Your Life After Gambling Addiction Treatment

Although receiving help and completing treatment may end up being two of the hardest things you’ve ever done, maintaining abstinence over the long term also offers its own unique difficulties. Many addicts discover that in order to maintain sobriety, they must fundamentally alter their life.

Making incredibly painful decisions, such as ending harmful relationships, may be necessary in some circumstances. Giving up financial control, moving to a new job or residence, or simply earning back the trust of loved ones who fear you will be injured again could also be part of the process.

To succeed, you may need to make bold decisions, but the decisions may be easier than the acts themselves:

  • Block access to gambling sites – Ask a friend or family member to ban online gambling websites from your computer before you get home if you gamble online.
  • Avoid social circles that center around gambling – If your friends ask you to gamble right after you return from treatment, don’t go. Instead, consider whether they actually have your best interests in mind.
  • Avoid gambling locations – Avoid gambling locations; if you frequently pass one, consider taking a different route.
  • Prioritize positive and healthy relationships – Develop wholesome connections by spending more time with those who don’t gamble or use drugs. When you want to gamble, make a supportive friend call or go for a run.

These decisions won’t feel natural at first. However, when you recover, your brain will be retrained to think wholesome thoughts, and you might discover that you are less motivated to gamble.
Remember that addiction is a disease that lurks and waits for your weakest moments. When you think you have the need to gamble under control, it could return stronger than before. Because you haven’t gambled in a while, you might think you can resist it. You aren’t. Ask for assistance if you’ve been abstaining from gambling for a while and are concerned about doing so again. People who recognize addiction as an illness that requires lifelong treatment are more likely to maintain sobriety.

Recovery from Gambling Addiction Is Possible

Men are more likely to have compulsive gambling than women. However, women develop gambling addictions more quickly, and the proportion of female problem gamblers is growing.

Addiction is a chronic, advancing illness. Waiting to get assistance can have very serious medical, psychological, and social repercussions. Nevertheless, gambling addiction is treatable, and behavioral therapy has been shown to be successful in assisting troubled people in coping with unpleasant psychological issues. Many gambling addicts who receive treatment go on to lead better, healthier lives.

At Addiction Experts, our team of professionals is compassionate, experienced, and standing by to help! Regardless of the extent of your or your loved one’s issue, we are confident that we are well-placed and competent enough to help you find the pathway forward to recovery and reclaiming your life. Don’t waste a moment. Contact us today to get started!

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Reviewed By:

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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