15 Steps to Successful Gambling Addiction Treatment
Gambling addiction is a difficult topic to discuss and even handle.
It affects a large percentage of the population and has a lot of the same characteristics as other addictions such as drug and alcohol.
Gambling is a truly insidious vice because of the attraction to easy money which rarely, if ever, materializes.
Most often, gambling leads to financial ruin because the odds never favor the gambler, only the gambling house.
That’s why gambling is such a successful industry.
A gambling addiction often happens when people think they are in desperate financial straits and by gambling what little money they have left, with the hope of winning more, is the best way out.
If you are close to someone whom you think may have a problem with gambling, don’t avoid it.
There are ways to approach the topic and help find a gambling addiction treatment that will work.
- 1. Have a real conversation with the gambling addict
- 2. Get to the origin/source of the gambling addiction
- 3. Get the addict to admit to their addiction
- 4. Counsel the addict
- 5. Come up with a treatment plan of action
- 6. Single out the sources of the addiction
- 7. Convince the addict of the invalidity of the sources
- 8. Motivate the addict to change their ways
- 9. Demonstrate the incentives of giving up gambling
- 10. Avoid conversations about games of chance
- 11. Avoid situations which relate to either gambling or addiction
- 12. Turn the addict’s mind on to productive tasks
- 13. Suggest potential hobbies and positive occupations
- 14. If necessary, consider medication
- 15. Maintain treatment until symptoms disappear
1. Have a real conversation with the gambling addict
When the time is right, use a tone of voice and posture that is understanding and conveys that you are hearing and paying close attention to what the addict is saying.
Here are some hints on how to start the conversation.
Tell them that you care and are worried about how their behavior.
Explain how their actions are affecting others and lay out some ideas for steps they can take.
Be specific and don’t hesitate to be direct and personal.
After you have shared your perspective and suggestions, sit back calmly and wait for a response.
Listen carefully and don’t be judgmental.
Unless you are a professional, offer your help but do not attempt to be a professional counselor.
The best role to take on is one of giving information, not advice.
2. Get to the origin/source of the gambling addiction
Being desperate for money, a desire to experience the thrilling high of winning, achieving a higher social status, and wanting to be “in” with the exciting gambling scene are just some of the factors that can be the source of the need to gamble.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy for a gambling addiction to take over and, once it has, breaking it is very difficult.
The source for severe gambling addictions is most often found with people in financial trouble who are seeking a quick fix to their trouble.
When they finally win, which usually happens at least once or twice, the size of the winning pot is rarely enough to make up for what they lost.
Breaking even happens to only a rare few.
3. Get the addict to admit to their addiction
As the saying goes, the first step to fixing the problem is admitting you have a problem.
This is very true when it comes to treating addictive behaviors.
If the addict is in denial about their addiction, they will not want to help or be willing to work on their addiction issues.
Patience is extremely important in this step because this won’t happen in the first conversation with the addict.
Many addicts are in deep denial about their addiction and will do anything to inhibit getting better because they are sure that gambling is going to save them.
Only once they are convinced that gambling won’t help them will they be able to admit they have a problem.
This is likely the hardest step in the recovery process, but it is the most important part of all.
4. Counsel the addict
If you suspect someone you know has a gambling problem there is a way you can help.
Ultimately you want to encourage them to get professional help but starting with the help of close friends and family is essential to making professional help work.
It’s never easy confronting someone about any problem, much less one as serious as an addition.
The best thing you can do is start by honestly asking if the problem actually exists.
Be aware that most addicts will deny that they have a problem, or brush the suggestion aside by saying it’s not that bad.
Keep talking with them, being patient, kind and understanding in your approach as you explain the extent of their addiction and why they need help.
Offer emotional support throughout the whole process.
Chances are that you won’t get a straight answer, nor will you know beforehand what their reaction might be.
But if you take a straight-forward and empathetic approach, you might be able to help them to seek professional counseling.
5. Come up with a treatment plan of action
Every addiction needs a thorough treatment plan to work properly.
There are three main ways to treat a gambling problem.
These include psychotherapy, medications to manage depression and impulse control, and support groups.
Depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADHD and bipolar disorder are underlying conditions that gamblers often suffer with.
If the addict has evidenced symptoms of those types of disorders, then medication or therapy is available.
Mood stabilizer medications and antidepressants have been shown to work well for some gamblers.
If it’s possible to identify an underlying mental illness that is treatable, that will help to treat the addiction as well.
No two people are alike, and a treatment method that worked for one person may not work for the other.
6. Single out the sources of the addiction
As stated before, there is usually an underlying cause of the addiction such as a mental illness.
But this isn’t’ always the source of the addiction.
The financial strain may provoke the gambling as well as stress and trauma.
Sometimes an area of the brain, the “insula”, is behind the gambling addiction.
When this region of the brain becomes hyperactive, thought patterns can become distorted; the addict will transform random results, like dice rolls, into patterns that are deceiving.
With this condition, the brain can actually trick the addict into thinking that they “just missed” a win which encourages them to continue on the same path.
7. Convince the addict of the invalidity of the sources
The addict needs to know sooner rather than later, that gambling isn’t going to solve their problems.
It may feel like it will, may give a temporary relief from whatever burden they are trying to bear, but it won’t make it go away.
Let them know that no matter what caused it, it can be fixed.
Often, once an addict discovers they are an addict, they feel as if all hope is lost.
Let them know that by fixing the primary issue, it will be easier to fix the gambling addiction.
Gambling is not going to solve the bigger issues at hand.
Gambling is not a quick fix plan, it’s only going to continue to make your life miserable. This is the most important thing to express when helping an addict.
8. Motivate the addict to change their ways
Whenever you speak to someone about their addiction, you will have to hold back emotions and judgments that you may have about them.
Even though you might feel angry, frustrated, or fed up with their behavior you will have to put those feelings aside and focus on empathy in your conversation.
Before speaking with them, try to tap into your feelings of empathy and love for them.
Put yourself in their shoes and understand where they are coming from so that you will be less likely to lash out or say the wrong thing.
Empathy should be a top priority when you are attempting to motivate someone to go to treatment.
If you realize they really are suffering from their addiction, hurting themselves more than anything, you can show compassion rather than judgment.
9. Demonstrate the incentives of giving up gambling
There are benefits to giving up the addiction and leading a better life.
Tell them about all the good things that will happen once they beat the gambling addiction such as having more money in the long run, being able to pay off bills, becoming financially stable, and having a more trusting relationship with loved ones.
The person addicted can only see the present time and the past, they are hurting too much to see a future without their addiction.
It will take some time and encouragement, but in time with the help of loved ones they can have a better life.
Once they realize the incentives to laving their addiction behind, it will be much easier for them to stay on a path towards becoming addiction free.
10. Avoid conversations about games of chance
As hard as it may be at first, avoid bringing up conversations about games of chance.
Keep temptation away from the addict until they are fully recovered from their addiction.
This is the same concept with alcoholics or drug addictions, don’t put them in a situation where they can have their addiction of choice.
Talking about gambling is just as tempting as being in the casino and can have the same high effects as actual gambling.
Avoiding the topic of gambling or games of chance is essential to keeping the addict from returning to the addiction.
Not only does it show you’re supportive but will help prevent the addict from relapsing.
11. Avoid situations which relate to either gambling or addiction
Its hard not to talk about it, it’s even harder not to get involved in the situation related to gambling or even another type of addiction.
Replacing one addiction for another doesn’t help anyone.
Learning to have control over their addiction is very difficult, forcing temptation in their face will not help gain the control needed to beat the addiction, it will only make them more likely to fall deeper into the addictive cycle of gambling.
A big part of being supportive is to help avoid temptation, so try hard to keep your loved one away from risky situations that can lead to temptation.
12. Turn the addict’s mind on to productive tasks
Don’t make the addict feel like they have lost something when giving up their gambling habit.
Addicts need to know that they will gain something from giving up their addiction not lose everything.
Help them find their purpose by doing productive tasks such as volunteering at a soup kitchen, keeping a journal, or something else that allows them to be productive when they would normally be gambling.
Being productive while recovering is essential to a good, long-lasting recovery from addiction.
Being productive can also be extremely difficult while in recovery.
The key to being productive in anything while recovering from any addiction is to manage stress and manage your workload.
13. Suggest potential hobbies and positive occupations
Help your loved one avoid going back to the addictive behavior by creating a positive atmosphere for them.
Find something they love to do aside from gambling and help immerse them in that activity.
Hobbies are incredibly therapeutic and offer a great way to escape the crushing burden of quitting an addiction.
This is not the same thing as replacing one addiction for another, this is replacing a negative with a positive.
The hobbies can be anything from painting to crafts or just joining a book club.
Whatever hobby they choose, be sure it’s one they will thoroughly enjoy and go to whenever they feel the urge to return to gambling.
14. If necessary, consider medication
Although it doesn’t work for everyone, medication can be a great choice to help manage the addiction.
Medication used to treat a gambling addiction should be supervised by a medical professional.
Since the biggest issue with addiction is impulse control, medications can be used to address the impulsive behavior.
If the gambling addiction stems from a previous mental illness, treating the illness could potentially eliminate the addiction altogether.
It’s important to understand that medications do not work the same for everyone.
While they may help some people who struggle with a gambling addiction, medication isn’t a solution for everyone.
15. Maintain treatment until symptoms disappear
Stay connected and be encouraging.
Remember the date when the addict took the first steps toward seeking treatment and find ways to celebrate milestones.
When it comes to addiction, patience is a virtue.
If the first treatment option fails, don’t give up.
There is a way out, there is hope.