In the fifth edition of Gabbard’s Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders, edited by Glen O. Gabbard, M.D., and published by American Psychiatric Publishing, gambling disorder has been placed in a new section on behavioral addictions. Like substance-related disorders, it is similar in its clinical expression, brain origin, and physiology. Consequently, it has similar characteristics and treatment approaches. This article will address the symptoms and signs of gambling disorder, as well as the prevention and treatment of the condition.
While gambling is a great pastime when done in the spirit of fun, problem gambling can damage a person’s life in a variety of ways. This condition is often referred to as a ‘hidden addiction’, as it rarely presents any outward symptoms. The ‘high’ that comes from playing the casino is nothing compared to the damage that can be done to one’s finances. Problem gamblers may also isolate themselves from family and friends, and may even borrow money to fund their habit.
Problem gambling is a disorder characterized by an intense urge to gamble, despite negative consequences. The problem usually starts small, but can escalate to an extremely destructive level. In most cases, problem gamblers conceal their habits and skip family and friends events because of their gambling. As the condition progresses, it can become much more serious and impact a person’s relationships. If untreated, problem gambling can lead to financial ruin and a lack of control in everyday life.
Signs of a problem
While the symptoms of a gambling addiction are not as obvious as those of a drug or alcohol addiction, they can be indicative of a more serious issue. In some cases, a gambler may begin to feel irritable or on edge, and they may have a change in their sleep patterns or even mental health. These symptoms can also affect their relationship with others. If you notice any of these signs in someone you know, it’s time to seek help and get professional help.
The most obvious sign of a gambling problem is financial trouble. The gambler will often max out their credit cards, spend more than they earn, and neglect other areas of their life. These problems can even lead to financial insecurity and the loss of a job, home, or business. Eventually, they may even file for bankruptcy. Young people who suffer from gambling problems may become more likely to become depressed or suicidal.
While treatment is available for individuals who are experiencing a gambling problem, residential rehab is often recommended. Residents can expect to spend a significant amount of time with a professional therapist, who will help them address the impact of their gambling habits and identify triggers for addictive behavior. Treatment may also involve learning coping skills, such as establishing healthy boundaries. The best treatment for gambling addiction is usually a combination of therapy and holistic healing, which includes CBT.
Gambling and substance use are often coupled, and the two can lead to a dangerous cycle of physical and mental damage. Unfortunately, compulsive gambling is often left untreated and a person may not seek help until it is too late. While substance use may mimic the high associated with gambling, it also has the side effect of taxing the body and negatively affecting the individual’s mood. Treatment for gambling addiction should begin with identifying these triggers and limiting them, which is often easier than one may think.
The current evidence base suggests that several interventions can effectively prevent gambling-related harms. One of the best-known approaches is on-screen pop-up messages, which could be endorsed by government and medical agencies. There are few reviews on industry supply-reduction measures, but adherence to these interventions is improving. Twelve reviews of therapeutic interventions examined the effectiveness of various types of approaches, including cognitive and behavioural therapies, motivational interviewing, and self-help and mutual-support interventions.
The Commission’s recommendations acknowledge the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach to combating gambling harms. Some gambling products are relatively benign, such as raffles. Others, however, can be extremely harmful. These activities involve a high degree of skill, and require strategic engagement and collaboration across multiple stakeholders. The Commission will evaluate progress toward this public-health approach by looking at barriers and gaps. The Commission’s recommendations also outline specific initiatives to improve prevention efforts.