Can Compulsive Gambling Be Cured?
Can Compulsive Gambling Be Cured?
A small percentage of the people who gamble become so-called “compulsive gamblers.” These are the rare individuals who gamble too much and for too long, despite suffering losses that would cause others to stop. Left untreated, the results can be increased emotional isolation and financial disaster. Fortunately, it does appear that numerous successful treatments do exist to bring problem gambling under control, although in many cases it may require quitting gambling entirely.
What is Compulsive Gambling?
Millions of Americans gamble for fun and profit every day. For the vast majority of them, gambling is merely an entertaining diversion, something they do to socialize or relax. However, for a small number of gamblers, perhaps two to five percent, their ability to judge the amount they are gambling and how often they are gambling becomes impaired. They gamble too much money and devote too much of their time to gambling activities, to the point where their behavior almost appears to be addictive.
Can Gambling be Addictive?
Although compulsive gamblers often display behaviors considered characteristic of people suffering from an addiction, problem gamblers differ from drug and alcohol addicts in that there is no substance to which they become physically dependent. Compulsive gambling is therefore a psychologically based condition, rather than a physical one. That makes it generally easier to treat than physical addictions, because unlike drug addictions there is no craving for an actual physical substance. Psychological dependencies can be quite powerful, but they generally do not have the power of physical addictions.
Gambling as a Psychological Substitute
People who develop compulsive gambling habits are often found to be suffering from psychological disorders that are not directly related to gambling. They may be using gambling as a way of escaping psychological discomfort, which can be as simple as a desire to escape boredom, or something as serious as suppressing deep-seated emotional pain and forgetting past traumas. In this sense, compulsive gambling becomes a way of escaping personal problems that should be dealt with in a more healthy way.
Identifying Compulsive Gambling
To some degree, compulsive gambling is in the eye of the beholder. Whether or not one is gambling too much often depends upon the specific circumstances of the person involved. What may be too much gambling for one person may be fine for another. Therefore, many prefer the simple definition of, “Gambling is a problem if it causes problems.” Recognizing that something is wrong is the first step towards taking actions that can bring compulsive gambling under control.
Treating Compulsive Gambling
Once a gambling compulsion has been recognized by the gambler, treatment usually takes the form of getting to the root of the problems that the compulsive gambling is a symptom of. The means of gaining this understanding can include group therapy, where talking with other problem gamblers can help identify the potential causes and help to relieve the gambler’s social isolation. Sometimes a psychiatrist is enlisted to aid the problem gambler in exploring the past incidents and feelings which may be compelling them to gamble compulsively. In some cases, a period of treatment in a hospital or residential setting can free the gambler from bad influences and offer positive reinforcements to break their destructive habits.
Most compulsive gamblers benefit from receiving long term counseling, even after the compulsive gambling behavior has stopped. When compulsive gamblers sincerely seek to change, these treatments do indeed help to transform their behavior in a positive way. So the answer is yes, compulsive gambling can be cured, although it may require the aid of professional services that can successfully identify the compulsion’s underlying causes.