Compulsive gambling is not as well recognised as other addictions such as drugs, alcohol and smoking, yet gambling opportunities continue to grow.
With the rapid development of new media, such as the Internet and interactive TV, the addiction is likely to become more widespread and affect many more individuals than it does so already. The compulsive gambler suffers with an uncontrollable urge to gamble and when the bills pile up they look back and ask themselves what they have done. Yet they continue to hide the problem, with fear that others will discover how much they have lost on a game of chance.
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Thought processes of a gambler
Often the compulsive gambler will begin to panic and see no way out, but then the slightest amount of good news will bring the individual back their optimism, so the gambling begins again. The struggle to control the addiction becomes harder each day and emotional outbursts are common with sufferers. However the gambling will continue as it involves escaping from reality and living in a fantasy world where the addiction is not an issue. The gambler begins to feel they are more comfortable when gambling and inevitably the addiction will become more severe; the compulsive gambler uses their addiction as a method of escaping from the effects of their addiction.
Ultimately, the addiction brings the individual despair and humiliation and causes deterioration in almost all areas of their life. However this does not prevent the person from dreaming of a life filled with money, friends, an expensive car and house. In reality though, no amount of money will ever be enough as the individual has the irresistible urge to gamble any winnings they do ever make. Enormous amounts of debt are accumulated but there is the common delusion amongst compulsive gamblers that the next risk will be the one that wins them big money and will put everything right. When the gambler finally realises they have a problem, help is available but the addiction is usually severe by this time, as the individual will have done their best to hide it for so long. Depression, drinking and taking drugs often accompany compulsive gambling. Nevertheless, treatment is highly effective and sufferers can be restored back to normal functioning and happiness.
Signs of compulsive gambling
- Spending an excessive amount of time gambling
- Increasing the frequency of gambling
- Continuing to gamble despite negative outcomes
- Borrowing money to gamble
- Increasing the amount of money spent gambling
- Frequent mood swings
- Secretive behaviour
- Absence from work or family problems due to gambling
- The irresistible urge to gamble and take larger risks
Causes of compulsive gambling
Some research has suggested the cause of gambling addictions to be partly due to physical or hereditary predispositions, however this has never been proven. Many experts also believe a person's experiences and personality type play a large part in the addiction.
Treatment for compulsive gambling
The compulsive gambler must admit to their addiction before any treatment can be successful. Gamblers Anonymous is a self-help group available for addicts and Gam-Anon is a group available for family and friends of the addict. A counsellor may also be effective, which involves talking about and understanding the gambling urges and how to handle them. Treatment may also be required for depression or substance abuse if necessary.
What should I be looking for in a counsellor or psychotherapist?
Whilst there are currently no official rules and regulations in position to stipulate what level of training and experience a counsellor dealing with gambling addiction needs, we do recommend that you check your therapist is experienced in the area for which you are seeking help.
There are several accredited courses, qualifications and workshops available to counsellors that can improve their knowledge of a particular area, so for peace of mind you may wish to check to see if they have had further training in matters of addiction.
In regards to psychological treatment NHS Choices suggest cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to be used as tool to break the habit of addiction.
Find out more on the NHS Choices website.
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