Issues Treated in Therapy:
People addicted to gambling cannot control their impulse(s) to gamble even if they know their actions are hurting themselves and others. The addiction is also characterized as an urge to gamble despite a desire to disengage from the activity.
Generally, psychodynamic models of therapy view gambling and other impulsive, uncontrollable, and self-destructive behaviors as an attempt to avoid or numb painful or difficult feelings. The rush and adrenaline that comes with the risk and potential reward of gambling may provide biochemical and emotional relief to whatever thoughts or feelings a person may be struggling with. Most treatment for problem gambling or addiction involves self-help programs, peer support, counseling, step-based programs such as Gamblers Anonymous, or a combination of several treatment techniques. Programs like Gamblers Anonymous (GA) are modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous as a 12-step program.
As far as research has illustrated, psychotherapy appears to be more effective than medications in treating gambling addiction. In addition to psychotherapy, financial and/or debt counseling, as well as self-help interventions are important aspects of the care for persons with gambling addiction. In some cases, medication may be helpful for persons with a compulsive gambling problem. Some medications that have been found helpful in decreasing the urge to gamble or the thrill involved in gambling include antiseizure medications, mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and medications used to address addictions.
Gambling addiction is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) as an impulse control disorder which is considered to be part of the obsessive-compulsive disorder spectrum. Obsessive-compulsive disorders are listed under anxiety disorders in the DSM-IV, so the dynamic of gambling addiction is that of possibly many different mental or emotional conditions. Problem or pathological gambling is a personality trait characterized by acting on the spur of the moment or by the inclination of a person to behave without adequate forethought as to the consequences of their actions.
Henry, 43, occasionally went to the casino with some friends as a fun night out, but lately he noticed himself returning there on his own, spending hours at a time a single blackjack table. His friends asked him about it, but he brushed off their concerns. As time passed, he spent more time at the casino and often lied to his wife about it. But when he began to dip into his children's college fund to make up for his losses, he decided to see a therapist. In therapy, he learned that he wasn't even enjoying the gambling and used it as means of numbing his pain, and that if he continued, he might become disengaged from reality and threaten his family's financial future. Henry soon learned to tone down his addictive behavior, and found other activities to sublimate his urges.
Last updated: 05-14-2013
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