What Gambling Addicts Need to Know

Addiction comes in many forms, tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, hard drugs, but one of the best-disguised addictions may be gambling. This could sound odd, any body can recognize that the man who has been sitting in front of the slot machines for eight hours non-stop has a problem. But the elderly woman who spends every other night out playing BINGO for charity could also have a problem. The same goes for a housewife who stays up playing Internet poker into the wee hours of the morning. Gambling is an addiction that tends to slip under the radar, it is legal (in gambling establishments), it does not threaten one's life, and can be disguised as "entertainment" or giving to a good cause. But the reality is, a gambling addiction is just as serious as alcoholism or any other substance abuse.

There are a few warning signs to look out for if you are concerned that you or a friend has a gambling problem. The first sign is that the problem gambler just cannot walk away from a game. I have seen instances where a single player has dropped over three thousand dollars gambling, all the while swearing they would win soon. And when one of these gamblers wins money, they are secretive about the amount. This is another warning sign, being secretive about all money, including winnings, loses, and even bills. This becomes all too evident when the only reason the gambler keeps going is to win money to gamble away.

There are two main ways of dealing with a gambling problem. The first is the traditional twelve step-program, or gamblers anonymous (GA). This is exactly like alcoholics anonymous or any other twelve-step program that walks the addict through a series of steps that are meant to guide them towards sobriety. The other approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This therapy focuses on changing the thought process associated with the urge to gamble. This could be anything from associating the urge to gamble with pain to associating it with the feeling of loss.

If the addict is reluctant to go to a therapist or twelve step group meeting, there are a few life changes that can be made to reduce gambling urges. Obviously the first change you can make is deciding not to gamble. This is harder than it sounds, but the addict can use several tactics to accomplish it: a few are simply calling a friend or thinking about the consequences of excessive gambling. Another way to avoid gambling is to give control of your finances over to a trusted other party. This can be done by using a bank's auto payments for bills and only allowing someone other than the addict to access direct withdrawals from the bank. An addict can also distract themselves with positive activities like exercise, house chores, or just watching television. If all else fails, addicts can request that casinos no longer allow them on the premise.