The most effective treatment options for gambling addiction
Canada is ranked number 8 in online gaming, with over 19.3 million citizens actively gambling. For such a big number of players, the number of problem gamblers is around 600,000, which makes up for 1-2% of the country’s population. Gambling addiction is a serious problem that should never be overlooked. Whether you self-diagnosed after noticing addiction signs in your behavior or you have been diagnosed by a professional, there are many ways to treat and overcome this problem.
Therapy and rehabilitation programs
As in the case of any other type of addiction, gambling addiction is not a problem that should be taken lightly. Seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness and is strongly recommended. A professional can help you overcome this problem and the ones resulted from it.
Every gambler is unique and responds to different stimuli. That is why it is important to discuss your treatment options with your doctor or mental health professional and join the program that is tailored to your needs.
Inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs
A rehabilitation program is very helpful and you have two options to choose from if you decide or are advised to join one:
- The inpatient rehabilitation program – when dealing with compulsive gambling, it may be hard to stay away from this activity and it is essential to do so, because even casual gambling may lead to a relapse. In the case you have a hard time refraining from engaging in gambling activities, an inpatient rehabilitation program could be the right choice for you. This is done in a treatment facility and you may choose to spend from 30 days to an entire year there. In the facility, there is no access to gambling and you will follow a structure. This structure contains medical and psychological supervision, therapeutic activities, treatment for associated disorders, and programs that help treat psychological and behavioral issues. This type of program also offer 24/7 care for its patients;
- The outpatient rehabilitation program – the main difference between this program and the inpatient one is that this does not require you to stay in the facility. You may continue to live at home, but you will join treatment programs and groups such as Gamblers Anonymous or other 12-step programs. This may also be recommended after you have checked out of an inpatient rehabilitation program, as it continues to offer support and guidance as you go on with your life.
How to find the right treatment facility for you
If you decide to join a facility either for an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program, make sure to go over everything they offer and see if they cover everything you need. It is very important to have constant access to someone who can help you, be it in person or via phone call. A good therapist and programs tailored to your needs are also going to make a huge difference in your experience.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychotherapy
Efforts to deal with and overcome gambling addiction have to be backed up by therapy with a mental health professional. There are two types of therapy you can go for:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – this type of therapy has helped many gamers see great progress in their fight against addiction. The entire therapy plan will be adapted to your needs, but it contains identifying and addressing the root causes of gambling addiction. You may find out what makes you gamble compulsively, how and why your moods came to depend on the results of our gambling activities, and of course, you will find ways to correct and overcome these together with your therapist;
- Psychotherapy – this deals with the gambling triggers and can be done in either individual or group counseling. Psychotherapy will help you isolate causes and reverse misperceptions about gambling, so, in many ways, it may lead to the same results as the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Self-help against gambling addiction
Professional help is always recommended when dealing with problem gambling and having the support and help of your family and friends is also important. However, the one person who can do the most to help you overcome this issue is yourself. You do not have to do anything alone, but there are aspects you can work on by yourself as you go on with therapy and support groups.
Your old lifestyle contains the factors that led you to gamble compulsively so it would be very helpful to try and make some changes. You may identify more aspects you would like to change and improve over time, but it is a good idea to start with:
- Turning over the financial responsibilities to a family member or trusted friend, since this is the aspect that is most affected by your addiction;
- Start avoiding places where gambling is available or that may trigger your need to gamble;
- Avoid people who also gamble, be them friends or family, at least until you are in control of your addiction;
- Start spending more time with your close ones, rediscover your other passions and hobbies, or try new ones to keep you distracted from your need to go to the casino;
- Close all online casino accounts and block these websites from your browsers. Spending less time online should also help.
Dealing with the need to gamble
In your process to recover from gambling addiction, the hardest part will probably be to refrain from gambling. There will be times when you will feel a strong need and desire to play casino games for at least a couple of rounds. In order to be able to resists these urges, you can:
- Postpone gambling by five minutes, then ten minutes, then tell yourself you will do it tomorrow, and the need will eventually fade away;
- Do not spend too much time alone. Call your friends or family or you may even choose to attend a Gamblers Anonymous meeting;
- Engage in an activity that distract you such as playing sports, watching a movie, or reading a book;
- Visualize yourself losing your money while gambling and think about how you would feel after such an incident.
These may not always work, so calling your therapist or support group is also always an option.
Replacing gambling with healthier options
|What makes you gamble||What to replace it with|
Boredom and loneliness
Indulge in your old hobbies, find new ones, and find people who have the same passions and interests
To escape problems and negative feelings
Learn to control your emotions via therapy or talk to your friends and family
To make money and solve financial problems
Seek a credit counselor
The need for excitement and adrenaline
Try sports such as rock climbing or mountain biking
To overcome shyness or social isolation
Go to counseling, volunteer or take a public speaking class
To relax after a long and stressful day
Exercise can relieve stress as well as massage and meditation
Sometimes, gamblers use this activity to fill up certain voids in their lives. To them, it may feel like gambling satisfies a lot of their needs, but here are healthier ways to do that. These may not apply for everyone so if you find that these are not the right alternatives for you, you can think of others together with your therapist and close ones.
Tips for friends and family– how to help someone stop gambling
Gambling addiction does not only affect you, it also affects your family or it may be someone in your family that needs help with their gambling habits.
Here’s what the family and friends of someone who is dealing with gambling addiction can do to help:
- Do not blame yourself – the gambler’s addiction is not your fault nor could you have seen it coming. Also, you should pay attention to how much energy you invest in helping, because ignoring your own needs is not a good way to go;
- Reach out for support – you should not deal with this alone. Helping someone who is dealing with addiction can be difficult and emotionally consuming;
- Take over the gambler’s finances – be responsible of keeping their finances safe, but do not try to micromanage everything;
- Decide how you are going to handle money requests – giving up on gambling can be difficult and the gambler may relapse multiple times before they successfully give it up. They can resort to a variety of methods, from begging you to give them money to attempting to manipulate you into giving them the money.
What you should not be doing is lose your temper, because sometimes things can get to a point in which you may think a lecture or an ultimatum could help. They do not, so refrain from that. Also, do not ignore the gambler’s positive qualities or isolate them from your or the rest of the family or friend group.
Prescription and over-the-counter medication
Medication may be a valuable part of the gambling addiction recovery but it should always be recommended by a professional, even when it comes to the over-the-counter ones. Sometimes, compulsive gambling appears as a result of an underlying issue, which can be treated with both therapy and medication. However, self-medication can open a gateway to other addictions, which is why it’s important to only take drugs as prescribed by your doctor.
A study conducted by the University of Minnesota shows that medications used against substance abuse addictions such as naltrexone have a positive impact for compulsive gamblers. Mood stabilizers and antidepressants may also be used to help with problems that usually go hand in hand with gambling addiction such as OCD, ADHD, and depression.
Conclusions and references
There are many ways to overcome and recover from gambling addiction. Every step is important, from learning to make better lifestyle choices, to therapy, and even medication. Seeking help from a professional and from family or friends is not a sign of weakness and can help you go back to having a normal life quicker than if you decide to handle this addiction on your own. Plenty of progress has been made in this area and compulsive gamblers can now benefit from various programs that make giving up on gambling much easier.
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