Approximately one percent of the United States adult population struggles with an addiction to gambling, according to the National Center for Responsible Gambling. If you’re in the ranks of people who have lost control of their life to a gambling addiction, now is the time to take back the reins.
Here are the six steps you need to know to treat a gambling addiction.
1. Acknowledge that it’s time to get help
You know the saying, the first step in solving a problem is admitting that you have one. Once you accept that your gambling is inhibiting your day-to-day functioning, damaging relationships or causing financial stress, you can get started making necessary changes in your life.
Here are some signs that casual gambling has turned into an addiction.
- Being constantly preoccupied with gambling (talking about it, thinking about it, making plans about it)
- Having a compulsion to gamble online or through apps
- Trying to hide a gambling habit
- Making up excuses to friends and family
- Difficulty funding a gambling habit
- Frequently asking to borrow money
- Going into debt to sustain a gambling addiction
- Partaking in risky behaviors to get money
- Having an overwhelming sense of guilt after gambling
- Experiencing depression or hopelessness
- Gambling interferes with being successful at work
- Trouble maintaining relationships
- Avoiding social commitments
- Feeling irritable when unable to gamble
- Inability to stop gambling
- Feeling like gambling is necessary to feel normal or happy
These signs are not a comprehensive list, but a general idea of the common signs and symptoms of a problem. Even if the list doesn’t resonate with you, if gambling has prevented you from living your daily life, it’s time to get help.
2. Talk to a professional
Whether you talk to your primary care physician or a licensed therapist, doesn’t matter, as long as you have a conversation about problematic gambling with a professional who can connect you to the right kind of help.
These conversations can be difficult, but a few minutes of courage is all it takes to open up about your gambling problem to get started with the healing process. As soon as you share about your struggles and your intent to end the cycle, your doctor or mental health professional will know what questions to ask and how to ensure you get the support you deserve.
3. Start gambling addiction treatment
Once you have a referral for problem gambling treatment you can get started with your journey towards freedom. Generally, treatment will begin with an assessment, so you can be paired with the most appropriate level of intervention. While all compulsive gambling can be addressed in treatment, more serious cases may require additional services and wraparound support.
4. Collaborate on your treatment plan
Treatment for gambling usually takes one of the following routes, or a combination: therapy, medication or self-help groups according to Mayo Clinic. Psychotherapy, or talk-therapy, is typically attempted first. If success is limited, medications are added. Self-help groups are a beneficial adjunct treatment.
When you are in gambling addiction treatment, your mental health professional will typically generate a treatment plan with the aid of your input. Gambling treatment is goal-oriented, so you’ll create realistic and measurable expectations as part of your treatment plan so you have something to work towards. That way you’ll know when you’ve made progress.
5. Try out Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is one of the more common and most evidence-based forms of treatment for a variety of mental health and addiction issues. According to the American Psychological Association, CBT operates with the underlying belief that negative behaviors contribute and reinforce poor behavioral patterns. The goal of CBT is to identify and change those thoughts in order to increase productive behaviors.
For problem gambling treatment, CBT will help you end your addiction by pinpointing those compulsive thoughts like “I just need a win and then I’ll quit.” Often, a gambling habit is so ingrained that these thoughts may not consciously register, so learning to notice them and replace them with healthy thoughts can work wonders in dismantling an addiction.
6. Engage in new hobbies
A gambling problem is a behavioral addiction, much like an online gaming or pornography addiction. A common thread in the treatment of behavioral addictions is that you need to develop replacement behaviors in order to successfully move on from the dysfunctional habit.
In order to move past gambling, then, you’ll need to take up a new hobby or two. This step is especially effective if you replace it with something that fulfills the same need as gambling did. For example, if you gambled to address feelings of loneliness, plan social outings instead. If you seek gambling to deal with boredom, start crafting or cooking. New, healthier hobbies will help in your recovery from gambling addiction and add meaning to your life.
Get your life back
Take back control of your life and start gambling addiction treatment now. Chances are that you reading this article is a sign that you’re coming to terms with needing help for an addiction, and reaching out for help is the next step you need to take. Talk to a professional today at Pyramid Walden. Compassionate and qualified therapists can help you in your recovery and renew a sense of purpose in your life. Call (301) 997-1300 today.