Gambling may seem like a harmless way to spend time, and for many people, it is. However, there are people who may develop problems with gambling if it gets out of hand. In the USA alone, there is an estimated 15 million people who have gambling problems, 20 percent of which are considered severe, otherwise known as gambling addicts or pathological gamblers.
The most obvious repercussion that can befall a problem gambler is financial. Problem gamblers usually get more of a ‘high’ the higher the stakes are, regardless of whether they can actually afford to place a bet. They may end up gambling away their house, their savings or even their children’s educational fund. This leads to another serious consequence of problem gambling: straining relationships. Even if a problem gambler can actually afford his high-stakes addiction, relationships are usually strained with his family or friends because the gambling takes precedence over his personal relationships.
Problem gambling is something that is not quantifiable as say, problems with meth or cocaine. A gambler does not have to gamble everyday or gamble a certain amount of money to be considered a problem gambler. If their gambling is causing personal problems or strains in relationships, then he has a gambling problem. This is the reason why many gamblers will be in a state of denial over their condition, looking at their addiction as merely a hobby rather than something destructive. Or some will acknowledge the situation, but will feel that there is nothing they can do about it, it’s just the ‘way they are’. Others may try to look for a scapegoat, blaming people around them for his compulsive behavior.
As with any addiction, a gambling addict will need to acknowledge that he does have a problem before he can make any effective changes. Compulsive gambling is an impulse control disorder and explaining it in medical terms may help a problem gambler come to terms with it better which is why the help of a professional counselor is important. The roots of compulsive gambling will be different from person to person, so a solution will also need to be tailor fit to an individual. This is where a counselor can help.
A counselor will usually address the issue using behavioral therapy, by changing the way a compulsive gambler views the habit, his rationalization about doing it and his reward system. Substitutions can be recommended by the counselor, depending on the reason why a gambler chooses to gamble in the first place. For instance, if a gambling addict says that he gambles for the excitement of winning, this can be rechanneled into equally exciting activities such as rock climbing, or competing in marathons. If he says his main reason for gambling is to alleviate boredom or loneliness, his energy might be channeled into other hobbies such as painting, photography, etc.
Getting over an addiction is easier said than done. It will take a village to help a compulsive gambler kick his destructive habit. If a compulsive gambler finds himself faced with a situation that might pull him back into gambling, he should take note of the following steps.
Call someone. Reach out for support in the form of a friend, family member, or your counselor. By discussing the problem with someone, you can be given healthy advice or even rechannel your thoughts into something else entirely, taking your mind off the situation.
Peel yourself away and do something else. Consciously turn away and focus on another task, such as work, exercising, watching TV or doing chores.
Take a moment to think about your loved ones. Try to think outside of yourself and imagine the disappointment that you will be bringing to your loved ones if they found out that you have regressed back to your old behavior.