Gambling Addiction and Treatment

Gambling addiction is a disorder where individuals are preoccupied with either participating in a gambling activity or thinking about participating in a gambling activity.  As with other addictions, the gambling addict needs to gamble more and more to achieve the same result.  This result is often referred to as the gambler’s “high”.

If a person decides to seek help for their addiction, there are options for treating gambling problems.  Many individuals will enter treatment when there are no other alternatives or they feel they have “hit bottom.”  Some will enter treatment after only a few months of gambling activity and usually because there are associated problems with continued gambling.  Gambling addiction does lie on a continuum meaning that there are differences in what influences a person’s desire to get help.  Many in the gambling treatment field understand this continuum and are able to help the gambler where they are.

A problem gambler has options when it comes to treatment.  Some may attend gamblers anonymous (GA) 12-step meetings and find the help they need.  GA meetings are offered throughout the country and at different times and days.  If an individual believes that they might need more in terms of treatment, individual therapy is an option.  There are counselors and therapists available who specialize in the treatment of gambling addiction.  The counselor or therapist would address the negative thoughts and behaviors associated with the addiction.

It is important to note that gambling addiction is considered a process disorder.  A process disorder is a behavioral disorder where no chemicals are ingested but the individual is still addicted to gambling.  Often the gambling addict will have a co-occurring disorder such as depression or anxiety and will need to address this in treatment.  If there is a co-occurring disorder, it is important to find a therapist or counselor who can treat both disorders.

There are inpatient and outpatient treatment programs available for gambling addicts.  Inpatient programs are a good option if the individual thinks they might have difficulty staying away from casinos or other gambling activities.  Inpatient programs are structured and can be a good start for some gamblers.  Outpatient programs are increasingly being offered across the country as an alternative to inpatient programs.  An individual who enters an outpatient program will attend classes and groups throughout the day and be able to return home at the end of the day.

Any gambler who enters treatment will need to make lifestyle changes.  One common lifestyle change is turning over all financial responsibilities to another trusted family member or friend.  Problem gamblers will also need to stay acutely aware of their triggers, as gambling activities are everywhere.


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