Gambling addiction is the most common impulse control disorder in the world. It’s considered a “hidden illness” because it’s harder to spot than other addictions tied to drugs and alcohol—there are no obvious physical signs or signals. When someone has a gambling addiction, they can’t control the overwhelming urge to gamble and they will often go to great lengths to get the thrill they crave. At Compassionate Interventions, we want to help you understand what a gambling intervention entails and when to get someone help.
What is Involved?
Gambling addiction interventions are similar to other kinds of interventions. Friends, family, and co-workers hire a professional interventionist to help them confront the compulsive gambler in an attempt to get them to agree to treatment. The intervention is conducted in a controlled environment with a process and agenda focusing on stories, thoughts, and ultimatums. It’s best to hire a professional because interventions are emotionally exhausting and if the addict responds aggressively, they’re trained to deescalate the situation.
The day before the intervention, the interventionist meets with the participants to discuss the format and agenda—they conduct a run-through of the intervention for practice. Ensure that you’ve made treatment plans before the intervention occurs—a successful intervention ends when the addict admits to their problem and agrees to get help, and the best way to be sure they do it is if they go directly to a treatment facility as soon as it’s over.
What Happens During a Gambling Intervention?
A gambling addiction intervention will rely on the addict’s family, friends, and coworkers to make the gambler aware of the damage they’re doing to their relationships. All individuals participating during the intervention must be calm and clear about how they’ve personally been affected and hurt by the addict’s behaviors. This usually involves writing a letter to the addict the day before and practicing reading it out loud. Each participant should make their own list of specific incidents followed by an ultimatum. This ultimatum can be anything from a conditional return to work or reduced contact with family and friends.
What is a Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction is when the social activity of gambling progresses into a pathological and compulsive problem. Compulsive gamblers gamble even if they’re broke and the odds are against them, so it’s important to get them help as soon as possible to prevent accruing more debt. They may deny or minimize their attraction to the behavior despite the negative social, financial, and psychological consequences because they feed off of the thrill. You know it’s time to get them help when they cannot stop.
Why do People Get Addicted to Gambling?
Like drugs and alcohol, gambling triggers the brain’s reward system to produce more dopamine. Substances and gambling can release up to 10 times more dopamine than normal, which when used in excess, leads to the development of a tolerance, which requires more and more dopamine to overcome. The body behind to inhibit the natural production of dopamine, so addicts must find other ways to get the same rush. There are a few factors that can contribute to the development of gambling addiction:
- Desperation for money
- The thrill of betting
- The atmosphere of the gambling scene
Signs of Gambling Addiction
Gambling addictions don’t produce physical, visible signals that you can easily notice, so it’s critical to look and listen closely to the things that the gambler is doing and saying. Here are some signs of gambling addiction that you should look for:
- Obsession with gambling
- Loss of control and inability to stop or reduce spending
- Gambles more and more money
- Restless and irritable behavior when unable to gamble
- Use as a way to escape feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, and depression
- Reliance on it for the thrill
- Attempts to get back lost money
- Loss of important relationships and job
- Commits theft or fraud to acquire more money to gamble with
The promise of treatment gives hope to those with gambling addictions and their loved ones. Treatment can vary dependent on the compulsive gambler’s circumstances and usually comes down to the following options:
- Inpatient treatment
- Outpatient treatment
- Gamblers Anonymous (GA)
- Therapy and counseling
The best results for recovery are seen when the addict is removed from their environment and its distractions and temptations. Facilities like Oregon Trail Recovery offer a one-on-one approach to rehabilitation, which allows for an intimate relationship between the addict and their counselor. These meetings will help the addict dig deep and unearth the underlying causes of their addiction while facilitating their healing and development of new behaviors.
Support for Loved ones
There are also resources available for the addict’s family and friends. These resources include GA support groups and individual or group therapy, which can help educate them on gambling addiction and its treatment. These resources can also help family, friends, and co-workers prepare for the addict’s return from treatment. When they complete treatment, it’s important to keep them away from any card playing, bingo, casinos, lotto, and other forms of betting.
Take the First Step Today
If you think someone in your life might have a gambling problem, please call Compassionate Interventions in Portland, Oregon for a free consultation. Visit our addiction treatment resources page for more information. In addition, learn more about Compassionate Interventions and our services.