I am amazed with the number of gambling addiction cases I know of and the damages that such behaviours can bring to the lives of people. In the recent past I was very closely involved with a case which was about to turn to a dramatic situation. The guy later told me that he was so depressed that he spent the night on his own on the cliff of Gris Gris thinking of committing a suicide.

I was very pleased today, to have spoken to the person mentioned above and to learn that he has quited gambling, done his term of community service as ordered by the courts and is now slowing rebuilding his career and life.

I have heard of yet another case this last fortnight, perhaps not as devastating as the one mentioned but still as painful for the family of the addict. This affliction seems to be very frequent in the Chinese community, I have to admit that I have a cousin who has been an over gambling experience. The son of yet anotherdistant cousin had to be expatriated to another country to save him from bad habits. How does one prevent addiction to occur? How does detect the addiction n early enough? I went through the internet to look for possible answers.

Understanding gambling addiction and problem gambling

Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones. Gambling is all they can think about and all they want to do, no matter the consequences. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they’re up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Even when they know the odds are against them, even when they can’t afford to lose, people with a gambling addiction can’t “stay off the bet.”

Gamblers can have a problem, however, without being totally out of control. Long before an addiction has fully developed, gambling can have a negative impact. Problem gambling is any gambling behavior that disrupts your life. If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences, you have a gambling problem.

There are two types of compulsive or problem gamblers. While their behaviors are similar, they gamble for very different reasons:

  • Action gamblers are addicted to the thrill of risk-taking. Gambling itself is their “drug.” They usually gamble with others, since part of the rush is beating the house or other gamblers. Action gamblers usually prefer games of skill, such as card games, craps, and sports betting. They may also play the stock market.
  • Escape gamblers gamble to escape emotional pain, worries, and loneliness. Rather than gambling to feel a rush, they gamble to feel numb. Escape gamblers prefer more isolated activities such as slot machines, bingo, and online poker. They also prefer games that don’t require much thought, so they can “zone out.”

Signs and symptoms of problem gambling

Gambling addiction is sometimes referred to as the “hidden illness” because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like there are in drug or alcohol addiction. Problem gamblers typically deny or minimize the problem. They also go to great lengths to hide their gambling. For example, problem gamblers often withdraw from their loved ones, sneak around, and lie about where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to.

Do I have a gambling problem?

You may have a gambling problem if you:

  • Neglect work or family to gamble
  • Gamble in secret
  • Lie about how much you gamble
  • Feel compelled to keep upping your bets
  • Feel remorse after gambling
  • Gamble until you’ve spent your last dollar
  • Gamble with money you need to pay bills
  • Steal, borrow, or sell things to get money for gambling
  • Dream of the “big win” and what it will buy
  • Gamble to escape worries
  • Gamble in order to solve financial problems or win back losses
  • Celebrate by gambling

While the warning signs of problem gambling can be subtle­, there are some red flags that should put you on alert:

  • Secrecy over money and finances
  • New desire to control household finances
  • Overdue or unpaid bills
  • Unexplained loans or cash advances
  • Lack of money, despite the same income and expenses
  • Unusual increase in credit card activity
  • Asking friends and family for money
  • Missing jewelry, cash, or valuables
  • Dwindling savings or assets
  • Missing bank or credit card statements
  • Calls or letters from bill collectors
  • Unexplained cash, especially when there are unpaid bills

The “four phases” of problem gambling and gambling addiction

People with gambling problems typically go through four phases, progressing from recreational gambling to problem gambling and finally to gambling addiction. Each phase can last from months to years.

  • Winning phase – The winning phase often starts with a big win, leading to excitement and a positive view of gambling. Problem gamblers believe they have a special talent for gambling and that the winning will continue. They begin spending greater amounts of time and money on gambling.
  • Losing phase – Problem gamblers become more and more preoccupied with gambling. They start to gamble alone, borrow money, skip work, lie to family and friends, and default on debts. They also begin to “chase” their losses: gambling in order to win back money that was lost.
  • Desperation phase – Problem gamblers lose all control over their gambling. They feel ashamed and guilty after gambling, but they can’t stop. They may cheat or steal to finance their addiction. The consequences of compulsive gambling catch up with them: they may lose their jobs, get divorced, or get arrested.
  • Hopeless phase – In the hopeless phase, problem gamblers hit “rock bottom.” They don’t believe that anyone cares or that help is possible. They don’t even care if they live or die. They may abuse drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. Many problem gamblers also consider or attempt suicide.

Treatment for problem gambling

Attitudes that get in the way of treatment for problem gambling:

  • “I know I should quit, but I love gambling.”
  • “Lack of money is the real problem, not my gambling.”
  • “I can learn how to manage my gambling without stopping entirely.”
  • “I’m only in treatment to appease my family or employer.”
  • “I can’t imagine life without gambling.”
  • “Quitting gambling is impossible.”

In order to overcome a gambling addiction, you must first admit that you have a problem. For many problem gamblers, this is the hardest part. But recovery won’t happen if you’re minimizing the addiction, making excuses, or blaming others.

Once you’re ready to own up to your gambling problem, the work of recovery can begin. Start by seeking professional help from an addiction specialist. This is also the time to come clean to your loved ones and ask for their support. Overcoming a gambling addiction or problem is never easy. But recovery is possible if you stick with treatment and seek support.

Treatment options for gambling addiction and problem gambling

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy for problem gambling focuses on changing unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts, including rationalizations and false beliefs. It also teaches problem gamblers how to fight gambling urges, deal with uncomfortable emotions rather than escape through gambling, and solve financial, work, and relationship problems caused by the addiction.
  • Gamblers Anonymous is a twelve-step recovery program patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous. It is widely viewed as the most effective treatment for compulsive gambling. Gamblers Anonymous provides a supportive, non-judgmental atmosphere where you can share what you’re going through and get feedback and advice from fellow gamblers who understand your problem. To find a Gamblers Anonymous meeting in your area, click here.
  • Medication won’t cure a gambling problem, but it may be helpful if depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, or another mental health problem is fueling the compulsive gambling. Medications used in the treatment of problem gambling include antidepressants and mood stabilizers. Naltrexone, a medication that reduces drug and alcohol cravings, may also reduce gambling cravings in action gamblers. Naltrexone must be carefully monitored because of serious potential side effects.

The Four Steps program: A gambling treatment that can “rewire” your brain

Jeffrey Schwartz has created a variation of a cognitive-behavioral therapy called The Four Steps Program. It has been successful in treating a wide range of conditions, including compulsive gambling. The Four Steps program takes advantage of neuroplasticity, the remarkable ability of our brains to change throughout our lives. The goal of treatment is to “rewire” the addicted brain by thinking about gambling in a new way. You can literally change your brain — developing new neural pathways and restoring brain chemical balance—by practicing the following four steps:

  • Step 1: Relabel. Recognize that the urge to gamble is nothing more than a symptom of your gambling addiction, which is a treatable medical condition. It is not a valid feeling that deserves your attention.
  • Step 2: Reattribute. Stop blaming yourself and try to understand that the urge to gamble has a physical cause in your brain. You are separate from the disease of addiction, but not a passive bystander. With practice, you can learn to control your unwanted thoughts about gambling.
  • Step 3: Refocus. When the urge to gamble strikes, don’t wait for it to go away. Instead, shift your attention to something more positive or constructive. Do something else, even if the compulsion to gamble is still bothering you.
  • Step 4: Revalue. Over time, as you practice the first three steps, you’ll gradually learn to revalue your flawed thoughts about gambling. Instead of taking them at face value, you’ll realize that they have no inherent value or power. They’re just “toxic waste” from your brain.

Self-help for problem gambling and gambling addiction

Tackling a gambling problem is possible if you avoid tempting environments, give up control of your finances (at least at first), find exciting or enjoyable activities to replace gambling, and surround yourself with people to whom you’re accountable. It’s also important to keep stress in check, since stress can trigger compulsive gambling or make it worse.

Getting Control of Problem Gambling

One way to stop yourself from problem gambling is to analyze what is needed for gambling to occur, work on removing these elements from your life and replace them with healthier choices. The four elements needed for problem gambling to continue are:

  • Decision: Before gambling occurs, the decision to gamble has been made. If you have an urge to gamble: stop what you are doing and call someone, think about the consequences to your actions, tell yourself to stop thinking about gambling, and find something else to do immediately.
  • Money: Gambling cannot occur without money. Get rid of your credit cards, let someone else be in charge of your money, have the bank make automatic payments for you, and keep a limited amount of cash on you at all times.
  • Time: Gambling cannot occur if you don’t have the time. Schedule enjoyable recreational time for yourself that has nothing to do with gambling, find time for relaxation, and plan outings with your family.
  • A Game: Without a game or activity to bet on there is no opportunity to gamble. Don’t put yourself in tempting environments or locations. Tell the gambling establishments you frequent that you have a gambling problem and ask them to restrict you from betting at their casinos and establishments.

Helping a family member with a gambling problem

If your family member has a gambling problem, you can help by encouraging him or her to get treatment and by offering your support. This doesn’t mean bailing the gambler out of trouble or covering up the problem. It’s important to hold problem gamblers responsible for their actions—including the consequences. It’s also important to take care of yourself. You have a right to protect yourself emotionally and financially. Don’t blame yourself for the gambler’s problems. You don’t control your family member’s behavior; the choice to stop gambling is theirs alone.

Tips for family members of problem gamblers:

  • Take over the family finances
  • Review bank and credit card statements
  • Request credit reports from the three main credit bureaus
  • Monitor Internet use to see if the person is gambling online
  • Be honest about how the gambler’s behavior makes you feel
  • Get counseling or join a support group such as Gam-Anon
  • Encourage the person to go to Gambler’s Anonymous

1 comment so far ↓

#1 Mr. Twenty Twenty on 08.25.08 at 9:50 am

Wake up Buckwheat!

It’s not about addiction!

It’s about helping kids and adults have goals and dreams that make them feel good, so the don’t have to gamble.

It’s about living life based on principles that would never allow the thought of gambling to become an issue.

It’s about bringing your personal power HOME.

How many commercials train people to think that they NEED something “out there” to feel good?

How many politicians tell people that the government, a power “out there” is the solution?

We need to teach our teens that the most powerful factor in their lives is themselves!

Bring the power home!

Choose powerful principles to live by!

Develop strong exciting goals and dreams to live for!

And gambling won’t ever be a problem.

Think about it!

Mr. Twenty Twenty

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