Updated on May 3, 2024
6 min read

Gambling Addiction Recovery: Paths to Healing

Gambling addiction is a treatable condition with several effective interventions available. You can start by getting a comprehensive evaluation from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or addiction specialist. They’ll diagnose the severity of your addiction and design a treatment plan suited to your needs.

We recommend finding a therapist who understands the disorder's specifics. You can use online resources like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to find a treatment facility nearby.

Treatment Options for Gambling Addiction

Depending on your needs, your treatment might involve a mix of different methods. You might also require residential treatment, so consider the cost and how much your insurance covers.

Here’s a breakdown of treatment options for gambling addictions:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A short-term therapy technique that explores the link between thought patterns and addiction.
  • Motivational interviewing (MI): A therapeutic approach that focuses on helping people make healthy behavioral changes. 
  • Medications: Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or other medications may help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms that often fuel addictive behaviors.
  • Dual diagnosis treatment: A treatment program that addresses co-occurring mental health conditions like depression or anxiety alongside addiction
  • Support groups: Sharing your story with others in groups like Gamblers Anonymous (GA) in recovery provides a powerful support system, breaks isolation, and offers accountability.

Before committing to any treatment, we highly advise consulting a doctor or an addiction specialist for recommendations.

The Consequences of Untreated Addiction

A gambling addiction is like a slow fire. It’ll start small, but over time, it can consume your entire life. Here are some ways an untreated addiction can affect your life:

  • Crushing debt and bankruptcy
  • Legal problems
  • Job loss or career damage
  • Broken relationships with loved ones
  • Mental health problems (depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation)

Strategies for Long-Term Recovery and Relapse Prevention

Recovering from a gambling addiction isn’t just about quitting; it’s about learning how to live a life outside of treatment. Here are a few things that can help you prevent a relapse:

  • A strong support network: Trusted loved ones, doctors, and support groups can help keep you accountable, preventing a relapse.
  • Alternative activities: Find new hobbies and activities to fill the time you used to spend on gambling.
  • Mindfulness techniques: Mindfulness techniques like meditation and deep breathing help reduce anxiety, a common trigger for relapse.
  • Aftercare support: Consider ongoing therapy or support groups, and stick with medication for co-occurring conditions. 
  • Identify and avoid triggers: Understand and avoid certain situations, emotions, places, or even apps that can trigger a relapse.
  • Take care of yourself: Eat healthily, sleep well, and exercise regularly to focus on recovery.
  • Celebrate milestones: It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate your achievements to stay motivated in recovery.

Online resources, self-help materials, and forums can also help you navigate the recovery process. Additionally, if you’re struggling, consider contacting crisis hotlines like SAMHSA’s national hotline 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Coping with Relapse

Recovery can sometimes have setbacks. However, relapses are a normal part and are not personal failures.

If you do gamble again, here are some important things to remember:

  • Be kind to yourself: Don’t let one slip-up erase your progress, instead, use it as a learning opportunity to avoid triggers in the future.
  • Get help immediately: Contact someone from your support network right away, and don’t isolate yourself with guilt or shame.

Recovering from any addiction takes time. But it’s possible to recover from one with enough support, treatment, dedication, and a willingness to keep learning and growing.

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Different Causes of a Gambling Addiction

For most people, gambling seems like harmless fun, but for some, it can quickly turn into a serious addiction. If you want to understand a gambling addiction, you’ll need to know the complex mix of factors that can make someone vulnerable:

  • Thrill-seeking and impulsivity: People who get a rush from taking risks or have trouble controlling their impulses might be more drawn to gambling.
  • Escapism: For some people, gambling can be a temporary escape from stress, anxiety, or depression, but ultimately it just creates more problems.
  • Thinking traps: Believing in luck, “hot streaks,” or thinking you can control the outcome can fuel gambling behavior.
  • The brain’s reward system: When people gamble and win, the brain releases a “feel-good” chemical called dopamine, which makes them want to gamble again. 
  • Genetics: Studies show that gambling addictions can be hereditary, and having close relatives who struggle with it might increase your risk of developing the addiction as well.
  • Easy access: The more casinos, betting shops, and online gambling platforms around, the easier it is to get hooked.
  • Growing up with it: Kids who see parents or other adults gambling are more likely to develop problems themselves.
  • Peer pressure: Friends who gamble, especially in teens, can normalize the behavior and make it seem less risky.

The Complexity of Gambling Addictions

Although there are multiple risk factors and causes for developing a gambling addiction, it rarely stems from one place. For example, an impulsive person with a stressful job might start gambling to unwind. 

In some cases, winning might create a positive association with gambling and make someone think they can beat the odds. This can keep you hooked even after you start losing.

If any of this is happening to you or someone you care about, consider getting help. It’s also important to understand that developing a gambling problem isn’t a personal failure. It’s a chronic condition that requires treatment.

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Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

A gambling addiction often hides in plain sight. But it’s important to recognize the signs early because an untreated addiction can devastate a person’s life.

Here are some signs that you should look out for:

Behavioral changesFinancial problemsEmotional impact
Constantly talks about betting and spending time thinking about gamblingHaving unpaid bills, credit card debt, stealing, or taking out loans without a clear reasonGamblers often struggle with shame and have a strong desire to hide their addiction
Lying about how much time or money they spend on gamblingDisappearing funds or valuables go missing to fund gambling activitiesThey might start chasing losses to win back lost money, taking riskier bets
Becoming restless or irritable when they can’t gamble or becoming overly excited when they canThey become evasive about money, hide bank statements, or overreact to financial discussionsEngaging in reckless behavior outside of gambling potentially because of a distorted sense of risk assessment
Neglecting work, school, and social events to go gambling

If you notice any of these signs, consider getting professional help. It might be a difficult conversation, but reaching out for help is the first step in recovery.

Raising Awareness On Gambling Addiction

Preventing gambling addiction is a shared societal responsibility. It requires contributions from educators, policymakers, and community leaders.

Here’s how we can prevent or reduce gambling addictions:

  • Education: Incorporate age-appropriate education on the risks of gambling and the nature of addiction. Teachers should also be trained with the knowledge and resources to address gambling issues.
  • Policy: Make policies to limit advertising that normalizes gambling and restrict access to gambling venues and apps. They should also allocate funds for research, treatment, and prevention methods for gambling addiction. 
  • Community support: Have open dialogues regarding gambling addictions to help destigmatize those seeking help. It’s also important to target at-risk groups like teens, the elderly, or those with mental health conditions.

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Updated on May 3, 2024
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Updated on May 3, 2024

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