ENTERTAINMENT OR ADDICTION?
Problem gambling can begin with what seems like a fairly small, trivial act – a lottery ticket here, a slot machine there, the occasional cell phone or social media pay-to-play game, and gradually progress into an addiction. Millions of people engage in gambling without any major negative consequences other than the small loss of a limited amount of cash. However, there are millions of people who are problem gamblers, or are addicted to gambling. The urge to gamble in those with an addiction is extremely strong and can be caused by any number of factors, such as the need to escape problems, depression, low self-esteem, or feelings of helplessness and guilt. To complicate matters, a person addicted to gambling can experience extreme highs and extreme lows in their struggle to find happiness through gambling.
As with most addictions, there are signs you can look for that indicate you or a loved one may have a gambling addiction. Since each person is different, your loved one may exhibit all or only a few of the following symptoms of a gambling addiction:
- Can’t stop gambling
- Gambles with money that he or she can’t afford to lose
- Does not gamble for mere entertainment, but for more harmful reasons (i.e. “if I could just win the lottery I would finally be happy”)
- Attempts to regain gambling losses by gambling more
- Gambles with increasing amounts of money and takes larger risks
- Goes to extremes to find gambling money (theft, forgery, excessive borrowing, serious crimes)
- Prioritizes spending time gambling above anything else (i.e. family, work)
- Experiences negative emotions after gambling (remorse and frustration, decreased ambition)
- Denies having a gambling problem or acts defensive when confronted about potential problem gambling
As the addiction continues over time, the Person of Concern experiences feelings of guilt, remorse and low self-esteem, which in turn, feed the urge to gamble. The severity of the addiction will vary from person to person and is measured by what and how much the person risks in order to gamble.
Because of the gambling addict’s destructive behavior, which is bound so tightly to his feelings concerning his own self-worth, skilled and professional help, both social and psychological, is indispensable in helping the person to recover. The love and support of the addicted individual’s family and friends will help immeasurably. Your loved one does not have to hit “rock-bottom” for you to seek help.
TOOLS FOR RECOVERY
One of the most effective tools for gambling addiction recovery is through support groups. There are many support groups the world over – for example, SMART Recovery and Gamblers Anonymous, where those struggling with a gambling addiction can find support and fellowship. In these groups, the addicted individual will associate with people who share similar problems and are progressing along the road to recovery. Listening to the positive and negative experiences of others on the road to recovery from gambling addiction will reinforce the serious nature of this addiction, provide messages of hope and strength, and will hopefully motivate the addicted individual on their own road to recovery
It is also extremely important that the addicted individual seek professional help. A skilled and qualified therapist can help you or your loved one to identify the sources of their destructive behaviors, and replace those behaviors with more constructive ones. A therapist can also provide the addicted individual with coping strategies and the tools to resist the urge to gamble. The therapist may also work with primary care providers and psychiatrists to prescribe closely monitored medication to help the addicted individual. There are also many treatment centers that specialize in treatment process addictions, such as gambling, in which your loved one can enter into for 30, 60 or 90 days to help kick-start their recovery.
Recovery is possible from gambling addiction. An ARISE® Gambling Intervention can help orchestrate a non-secretive, non-confrontational, intervention that will help get your loved one to recognize the seriousness of their problem, help your family heal, and pave the path for recovery.