"Life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is.
 The way you cope with it is what makes the difference."


-Virginia Satir

Compulsive Gambling


Counseling for Compulsive Gambling

Problem gambling affects people from all walks of life. Whether you bet on sports, buy lottery tickets or scratch cards, plays roulette, poker, or slots, in a casino or online, problem gambling can strain your relationships, interfere with home and work, and lead to financial catastrophe. For those considered severe problem gamblers, otherwise known as gambling addicts or pathological gamblers, you may even do things you never thought possible, like stealing money to gamble or taking money meant for your children. Gambling addiction can even lead to an increased risk of suicide.
You may think you can't stop, but problem gambling and gambling addiction are treatable. If you're ready to admit you have a problem and seek help, you can overcome this problem.

Understanding Gambling Addiction and Problem Gambling

Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers can't control the impulse to gamble, even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones. Gambling is all they can think about and all they want to do, no matter the consequences. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they're up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Even when they know the odds are against them, even when they can't afford to lose, people with a gambling addiction can't "stay off the bet." Take the Gambling Addiction Self-Test.


Myths & Facts about Gambling Addiction and Problem Gambling

MYTH: You have to gamble every day to be a problem gambler.
FACT: A problem gambler may gamble frequently or infrequently. Gambling is a problem if it causes problems.

MYTH: Problem gambling is not really a problem if the gambler can afford it.
FACT: Problems caused by excessive gambling are not just financial. Too much time spent on gambling can lead to relationship breakdown and loss of important friendships.

MYTH:b Partners of problem gamblers often drive problem gamblers to gamble.
FACT: Problem gamblers often rationalize their behavior. Blaming others is one way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, including what is needed to overcome the problem.

MYTH: If a problem gambler builds up a debt, you should help them take care of it.
FACT: Quick fix solutions may appear to be the right thing to do. However, bailing the gambler out of debt may actually make matters worse by enabling gambling problems to continue.


Relieving Unpleasant and Overwhelming Feelings without Gambling

Unpleasant feelings such as stress, depression, loneliness, fear, and anxiety can trigger compulsive gambling or make it worse. After a stressful day at work or after an argument with your spouse or coworker, an evening at the track or the casino can seem like a fun, exciting way to unwind. But there are healthier and far less expensive ways to keep unpleasant feelings in check. These may include exercising, meditating, using sensory relaxation strategies, and practicing simple breathing exercises.

Treatment for Problem Gambling

Every gambler is unique and so needs a recovery program tailored specifically to him or her. What works for one gambler won't necessarily work for you. The biggest step in treatment is realizing you have a problem with gambling. It takes tremendous strength and courage to own up to this, especially if you have lost a lot of money and strained or broken relationships along the way. Don't despair, and don't try to go it alone. Many others have been in your shoes and have been able to break the habit.

Overcoming a gambling addiction or problem is never easy. But recovery is possible if you stick with treatment and seek support.


Group support for gambling addiction and problem gambling

Gamblers Anonymous is a twelve-step recovery program patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous. A key part of a 12-step program is choosing a sponsor. A sponsor is a former gambler who has time and experience remaining free from addiction, and can often provide invaluable guidance and support.


Therapy for problem gambling

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for problem gambling focuses on changing unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts, such as rationalizations and false beliefs. It also teaches problem gamblers how to fight gambling urges, deal with uncomfortable emotions rather than escapes through gambling, and solve financial, work, and relationship problems caused by the addiction.

The goal of treatment is to "rewire" the addicted brain by thinking about gambling in a new way.

Seeing a therapist does not mean you are weak or can't handle your problems. Therapy is for people who are smart enough to realize they need help. It can give you tools and support for reframing your thoughts that will last a lifetime.