Gambling addiction affects millions of people in the United States. While men make up the largest percentage of those addicted, the number of female gambling addicts is on the rise. Gambling is considered an addiction when it is ongoing, requires more and more money, becomes a source of escape and interferes with employment, family and friends. The need to finance gambling debt can lead to criminal activities, such as stealing.
Gambling Addiction Diagnosis
If you suspect you or someone close to you is addicted to gambling, the first step is to get a psychological and physical examination. There are overlapping indicators between gambling addiction and some medical conditions that cause erratic behaviors. Factors that may contribute to a diagnosis of gambling addiction include thoughts of suicide, family members with gambling problems, and alcohol and drug use. Some types of mental illness should be ruled out before reaching a conclusion of gambling addiction. For help with a gambling addiction, call our free addiction hotline for rehab options.
How Is Gambling Addiction Treated?
Gambling addiction treatment is not so different in concept from treatment for other addictions, such as drugs and alcohol. The first step is to remove the addict from the opportunity to participate in any gambling activity. This requires an inpatient setting for the severely compulsive gambler where various treatment modalities provide a multidisciplinary approach tailored to the individual and family needs of the addict. Some of the elements in gambling addiction treatment include:
- Medical care for any underlying or contributing illness or disease
- Psychiatric care and counseling to work through the cause of the addiction
- Individual and family therapy to help the addict live without gambling addiction
Therapy and Support for Problem Gambling
Once you make it through the separation from gambling opportunities and understand your mental and social dependency on gambling, building a life free of gambling is an ongoing process. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is essential to teach ways to deal with the urges to gamble and all the consequential issues that arise, such as those with relationships and finances. Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, requires a sponsor who is a former gambler with a proven history of living free from addiction to guide newly recovered addicts.
Helping the Family of Gambling Addicts
It is vital for the family to be included in treatment for gambling addicts. Some of the areas covered in family therapy include:
- Learning to make the right choices emotionally and financially
- Understanding the importance of reaching out for support when you need it instead of becoming overwhelmed with shame
- Taking over and managing the family finances to keep funds unavailable to the recovering addict
- Recognizing the importance of letting the addict know you see their good qualities
- Realizing gambling addiction treatment is an ongoing process