Problem gambling is an addiction that has remained in the shadows for many treatment providers and consumers. Whether a person bets online or in a casino, plays poker or slot machines, buys scratch cards or spins the roulette wheel, problem gambling can affect every area of a person’s life. Relationships are frequently in crisis because of the financial problems that are uncovered when the addiction has taken over a person’s life. They do things they never thought they would do, like stealing money to cover their debt or to continue gambling. Many problem gamblers simply think they can’t stop but with treatment, a person can take back control of their own life and become the person they want to become again. The first step is about how to recognize and acknowledge the problem.
You don’t have to gamble daily to have a problem. When gambling affects your daily life, there is a problem. Gambling addiction is sometimes referred to as the “hidden illness” because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like there are in drug or alcohol addiction. Problem gamblers typically deny or minimize the problem. They also go to great lengths to hide their gambling. For example, problem gamblers often withdraw from their loved ones, sneak around, and lie about where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to. If a problem gambler builds up a debt, the important thing to do is not to help them get out of the financial problem. Quick fix solutions are often attractive to everyone involved and may appear to be the right thing to do but unfortunately, that only enables the person to continue their gambling without any consequences.
Aspire has several problem gambling therapists who provide treatment and support for someone with a problem gambling disorder. Every gambler is unique and each person needs a recovery program tailored specifically to him or her. The biggest step in treatment is about acknowledging that you have a problem with gambling. It takes great strength and courage to talk about an addiction, especially if you have been dishonest, lost a great deal of money, or if you have broken the trust in relationships along the way. Don’t despair, and don’t try to go it alone.
—About the author: Susie Maier is Director of Outpatient Services at Aspire Indiana. Follow her on Twitter @SusieMaier. Learn more about Aspire Indiana at http://www.aspireindiana.org/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AspireIndiana or atwww.facebook.com/AspireIndianaProblemGambling.