Treatment for Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers cannot limit or control how much they gamble. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they’re up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed, similar to a behavioral addiction. There are no obvious signs or symptoms of gambling addiction, but they typically deny or minimize the problem by going to great lengths to hide their gambling.

Gambling addiction starts like any other addiction, with one high or just one win. The progression of the disease greatly depends on the type of gambling. For example, those playing more strategic or “skill” games like poker tend to progress slower than those playing quick, immediate gratification games like slot machines and video poker. Regardless of the addiction progression, gambling addiction has three main stages throughout the progression of becoming a pathological gambler. The winning stage of gambling addiction is still fun, with behaviors of compulsive gambling addiction subtle. In this phase, the time between gambling begins to shorten, eventually becoming a part of their life as they enjoy the high or escape that gambling provides. The losing stage of gambling addiction is where problems appear while the fun and excitement of the winning stage begins to fade. In this phase, bets become larger as the addict needs to put more on the line to feel the same high from the winning stage. The final stage, the depression stage, overall addiction and compulsive behavioral problems have taken complete control. Treatment is most successful when addressed in the winning stage.

Gambling addiction treatment cannot begin until the gambler realizes that they have a problem. Recovery is possible with treatment and support. Gamblers Anonymous was modeled after another 12 step program called alcoholics anonymous. Gamblers Anonymous utilizes the support of a large group and a set of principals to stay away from gambling all together. One of the most important things you can do in a 12 step program is chose someone to be your sponsor. Choose a sponsor who is a former gambler who has maintained a good amount of sobriety and someone you can trust who will guide you through the twelve steps. Cognitive- Behavioral Therapy (CBT) works on changing thoughts and behaviors that are associated with gambling and turning them into something positive. CBT also learns to help fight cravings and urges that deal with gambling. People also learn how to deal with their emotions in a positive way rather than masking them with gambling. The four step program is a variation on and is used to change a persons feelings towards gambling.

Internet gambling has increased from one site to 1,400 in the past six years making it easily available to move into problem and compulsive gambling. Internet gambling typically involves using an internet connected computer to place a wager on the outcome of a sporting event or game, wager and play a game that has a random number generator associated at its source, or play card or casino type games in real time with other players linked to the internet as well. With internet gambling, users can be in their own environment, gambling whenever they want, and provide anonymity. It offers convenience. Gambling opportunities are far more readily available. However, there is still substantial scientific skepticism and uncertainty surrounding internet gambling as a possible object of addiction.

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