What is Compulsive Gambling?

Where many people enjoy gambling as an occasional social or recreational activity, for others it becomes a real struggle. Problem gambling is an urge to gamble despite experiencing negative consequences or continuing to gamble despite a desire to stop. An estimated 15 million Americans have problem gambling with more than 3 million of them having severe problematic gambling. Problem gambling is not a bad habit or moral weakness, but a serious condition that is treatable. Although it is commonly referred to as gambling addiction, it is actually categorized as an impulse control disorder. However, like chemical addictions, it is a progressive and chronic condition. Problem gambling tends to strain relationships, affect one’s ability to fulfill responsibilities at work, home, or school, and can lead to financial catastrophe. It can lead people to do things they never thought themselves capable of such as borrowing or stealing money from partners, employers, and even their children.

Symptoms & Features

Pathological Gambling Disorder is a persistent and recurring maladaptive gambling pattern as evidenced by five or more of the following symptoms: 1) a mental preoccupation with gambling, 2) a need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement or effect, 3) repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut down, or quit gambling, 4) restless and irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling, 5) gambles as a way of escaping problems or alleviating depressed feelings, 6) after losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (chasing loses), 7) lies to family and others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling, 8) has committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance gambling, 9) has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of gambling, 10) relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.

Problematic gambling does not discriminate. It affects men and women of any age, race, or religion. Those with problem gambling are also prone to having issues with drinking, drugs, and depression. Warning signs of problem gambling include: denying there is a problem, lying about where the money is going, borrowing money to pay off debts, taking time off work to gamble, or losing touch with friends. You might have a problem with gambling if you feel the need to be secretive about your gambling, can’t control your gambling (spend more than intended or stay longer than intended), gamble even when you don’t have money, or family and friends have told you they are worried about your gambling.

Compulsive Gambling Treatment

Pathological gambling is typically treated with abstinence-based treatment programs. People are either directed to in-patient (28 days typically) or out-patient (60 hours occurring 3-4X weekly for 4-5 weeks) gambling programs.  Treatment occurs in a group therapy format with a focus on breaking through denial of one’s problem, education around pathological gambling, and providing people with tools to remain abstinent. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to identify and challenge distorted thinking and beliefs around gambling. There are also some medicinal treatment aids that are occasionally used such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or anti-craving or opiate blockers such as naltrexone.

What Can I Do To Help Myself?

If you think you may have a gambling problem consider an assessment by a specialist who performs gambling evaluations.  In addition, you can read about problem gambling and its treatment. You can also check out community resources such as Gamblers Anonymous (GA) for assistance in remaining abstinent. There are also online peer support groups for gambling problems that provide greater anonymity.

If you are concerned you might have a gambling problem, please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can help you determine if you are struggling with a gambling disorder and what the best course of action is for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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