Opportunities to participate in legal gambling have exploded over the past twenty-five years. The explosion of those opportunities has created a parallel growth of people who succumb to gambling addiction, which is characterized by an uncontrollable psychological urge to gamble. When gambling addicts are kept away from gambling venues, they might experience symptoms that are analogous to withdrawal from addictive substances, including headaches, severe depression, irritability and an inability to focus. Gamblers might argue that their problems are personal and that they have no effect on anyone else, but if you have a problem gambler in your family, you know that the opposite is true. Fortunately, you have many options to seek assistance for a problem gambler who is a close friend or family member.
How to Identify a Gambling Addiction
Before you seek assistance, make an objective assessment of the situation to confirm that your concerns are justified. Determine if the gambler is borrowing money or spending more than he should on his gambling activity. Is he avoiding work or family obligations to participate in his habit? Is he spending more and more time on gambling, or attempting to hide his gambling activities from you and other people? The profile that you draw of the gambler will tell you the nature and extent of his problem, and direct you to seek assistance if that problem has gotten out of hand.
Getting Help for Gambling Addiction
Your first attempts to confront a problem gambler will likely be met with denials, and possibly with angry rejection of your accusations. Be prepared for these denials and rejections and stay as objective as is possible. Many state governments maintain gambling addiction hotlines. If you are unable to convince the problem gambler in your life that he has a problem, you can contact one of those hotlines for assistance.
In addition to hotlines, you can find support groups that can provide additional assistance in getting through to a gambling addict. Those support groups can direct you to counselors and therapists who can work with you and the gambling addict in your life to break the gambling habit and to prevent relapses. The relapse risks with gambling addiction are analogous to substance addictions. Even one small bet can push a recovering gambling addict back to his problem behavior. Gambling addiction recovery can be a long process. Therapists and counselors will give the addict strategies to avoid relapses, including tips on how to stay away from triggers that will pull a gambling addict back into the gambling world. More importantly, they will delve into any deeper problems that might have created the addiction in the first instance. If, for example, a gambling addict is using gambling as a mechanism to address a depression or anxiety disorder, a counselor will diagnose and treat that disorder while simultaneously working on preventing a gambling relapse.
Gambling can be a legitimate recreational activity if it is pursued for recreation and not to satisfy an inherent alternative need for stimulation.
The Last Resort Recovery Center near Austin, Texas, has experience with helping individuals to distinguish between recreation and stimulation, and to break their gambling addiction problem. Please call us at 512-360-3600 for advice and assistance in getting help for the gambling addict in your life.