By Tom Gonzalez, PhD, LPC, LCPC
Gambling is an activity that is enjoyed by many people looking for entertainment and fun. Most people who gamble will never develop a gambling problem; however, some people who gamble will find that a once innocent and harmless activity has begun to take more and more time and energy, and more of their money than they ever might have imagined. Some of those individuals will try to recoup their losses through “chasing” behavior. “Chasing” occurs when someone tries to even out losses with new winnings.
A gambling problem may also include cravings. The problem gambler will feel a rush of energy once a notion (or craving) for gambling comes about. Fortunately, cravings or impulses can be addressed and the person can resist the cravings by distracting themselves with other healthy thoughts or activities. The individual can postpone urges by waiting five, 10 or 15 minutes, and so forth until the urge begins to dissipate. Other suggestions include imagining how you might feel after fulfilling the craving to gamble, how you might feel the next day after gambling or how you might have disappointed others who care about you.
Eventually, people who once simply “chased” their losses and can’t seem to get past the cravings will find that their gambling has gotten out of control. Gambling will then continue that spiral until the gambling itself becomes an addiction. Not everyone with a gambling problem will develop a gambling addiction. These individuals will continue to maintain a serious gambling problem yet still find themselves preoccupied with gambling and will spend more and more time gambling, chasing losses and continuing to gamble despite the risk of adverse consequences in their lives.
A gambling problem or gambling addiction may also be associated with other problems, or mood disorders. A problem gambler may also suffer from substance abuse, undiagnosed depression, anxiety issues, attention-deficit disorder or even bipolar disorder.
What can an individual with a gambling problem or addiction do? First, recognize that you need help. If your life is getting unmanageable, help is available – seek a professional therapist, Gamblers’ Anonymous meetings or outpatient or inpatient facilities that provide treatment.
If you or someone you care about wants to address a gambling problem, BJC EAP can help. To learn more, call 314.747.7490.