Betting addictions are major problem in the American society nowadays and different techniques for overcoming it are suggested regularly.
The American Psychiatric Association categorized addictive gambling as a mental disorder a little over 30 years ago and reports show that back then around 1.1 million American citizens had an issue with problematic gambling.
The situation today is quite different as the National Council on Problem Gambling informed that approximately between 5.4 and 8.1 million people in the country have some variation of gambling addiction.
Heather Berlin, a neuroscientist at Mt. Sinai, commented for the media that problem gamblers can’t stop betting even when their habit has critical impact on their lives: “They’ll do it at the cost of losing their job, destroying their relationships, or losing their money. Gambling addicts just can’t seem to stop themselves from engaging in this negative or detrimental behavior.”
Naturally, addicted gamblers cause trouble not only to themselves, but also to their loves ones. The NCPG stated that bankruptcy, stealing, family abuse, even suicide, related to addicted gamblers costs the US around $6 billion/year.
Problem gambling is a serious issue in the USA and millions of people are trying to overcome it
• Between 5.4 and 8.1 million people in the country suffer from different form of gambling addiction in the US
• Only 3% of gambling addicts in the US seek help
• NCPG 24-hour gambling hotline received 317,000 calls in 2013
Betting addiction has a lot of similarities to other types of addictions and the seriousness of the problem is strictly individual. According to Keith Whyte, executive director of the NCPG, men usually prefer sports betting and competitive skill games, whereas women tend to choose slot machines and bingo.
Berlin explained that two things are of primary importance for any problem gambler, betting in land-based or online casinos in the US. The first one is how often they play and the other one is what their reaction is when their loved ones try to stop them. She said: “It’s a spectrum. The depth of it is really what we have to gauge. There’s no clear black or white line whether it’s pathological or not. It’s just a matter of degree.”
There is an extensive amount of advice that is available for problem gamblers and following are five major steps to getting over this serious difficulty.
Confess the existence of a problem
The moment when a person realizes they have an addiction problem marks the beginning of the long way to recovery. Unfortunately, only 3% of gambling addicts in the US look for help, and Berlin pointed out that the largest number of addicts doesn’t reach out for help until their situation is extremely complicated.
She said: “In the beginning, they may be in denial, but when it gets to a point where it’s clearly a problem, they stop trying to deny it.”
Usually, when gambling addicts seek help, they call different 24-hour gambling hotlines. On the other side of the line are educated mental health experts, who are trying very hard to provide the required assistance. Whyte reported that in 2013, the NCPG hotline received 317,000 calls, which is 10% more than the previous year, following a trend in the last ten years.
Become part of a support group
Personal therapy is extremely important when an addict is trying to overcome their problem, but there is also the opportunity to join groups like the Gamblers Anonymous, which offer a 12-step program towards “healing.”
The GA spokesperson, gave further details saying that there are more than 1,700 GA groups in the US, as well as in 86 foreign cities. There is also the possibility for affected family members to also attend support meetings (Gam-Anon), which provide information about the ways of showing support to the addicted person.
Reach out for specialized help
Berlin explained that the standard treatment for gambling addiction is cognitive behavioral therapy. During this process, the therapist and the addict work face-to-face, in order to try and change the critical behavior of the addict.
CBT is trying to help problem gamblers to build surviving skills, so that they can manage to resist their desire to gamble and survive longer periods of time without gambling, before they could completely exclude it from their lives.
Berlin said: “There’s a lot of relapse just like with drug addictions. People stop for a while, and then something might trigger them, and they’ll go on a (gambling) binge and relapse.”
CBT also tries to educate gamblers how to manage different personal or financial difficulties, instead of turning to gambling as last resort of hope.
Berlin explained that similar to drug addicts, gamblers find it difficult to experience the same feeling of being “high” when winning money, in comparison to other people who aren’t addicts.
Therefore, while trying to achieve the same feeling, Berlin suggested that problem bettors: “need more just to get the normal high as someone who’s not a pathological gambler.”
In order to deal with this issue, psychiatrists tend to prescribe SSRIs, which is an antidepressant that has an effect on the serotonin system.
Other medicines that are also used are lithium, often used in cases when the person is bipolar. Additionally, there is the nalmefene, which reduces the positive feelings caused by winning.
Often players who don’t currently have a severe problem are worried for the future. Therefore, they try to put certain boundaries on the number of times they gamble, as well as the amount of money they spend. A good technique is to bring a definite amount of money in a casino and not use any extra sums.
The situation with gamblers, who have already identified the seriousness of their problem, but are not part of any treatment program, is quite different. There are cases when the solution is to find someone they trust, playing the role of an advisor.
This person should have control over the gambler’s financial situation and often literally don’t allow them access to money for gambling in premises that follow or don’t the US gambling laws.