6 Helpful Tips From Experts – Forbes Health
Untreated gambling addiction can be devastating, says Sternlicht. In addition to financial loss, strained relationships, and impaired job or school performance, Sternlicht notes that GD can also cause significant damage to mental and physical health. “This is due to the psychological effects that gambling addiction can cause, such as feelings of deep despair, hopelessness, helplessness and shame,” she says, noting that individuals with gambling addiction have high rates of suicidal ideation. “It’s important to address a gambling addiction as soon as possible.”
Here are six expert tips to help you fight a gambling addiction.
1. Recognize the problem
Before you can embark on the road to recovery, you must first recognize that your gambling habits are the source of your suffering. “The first step in combating gambling addiction is awareness of the problem and the desire for change,” explains Sternlicht. According to Sternlicht, once you’ve acknowledged your gambling addiction, there are many avenues to recovery, such as addiction counseling and 12-step programs.
2. Remove the stigma
There’s a significant social stigma associated with gambling addiction, says Sternlicht, sharing that individuals with GD are often stereotyped as weak-willed, irresponsible, and culpable for their addiction. Internalizing these labels can lead to shame and low self-esteem, which in turn discourages people from seeking the treatment they need, Sternlicht adds.
Breaking down that stigma isn’t easy, Blitenthal says, although he adds that sharing what you’re going through helps. “The more problem gamblers share about themselves and their experiences, the more likely they are to influence and expand the understanding of others,” he notes. “This process transforms one person and one community at a time. As conversations about gambling addiction become less stigmatized, the stigma decreases reciprocally, both on an individual and on a societal level.”
3. Confide in a loved one
After acknowledging your gambling problem, Sternlicht recommends confiding in a friend or loved one. “If you feel overwhelmed or otherwise unable to seek professional help, ask your loved one if they can help,” she says.
Share your condition and ask for help accessing the resources you need. This can help you in your recovery. “It’s a tremendous pain not only to have an addiction, but to bear the pain yourself,” adds Blitenthal.
4. Seek professional help
If you’re having trouble controlling your gambling habits, Sternlicht says it may be time to seek professional help. To find an addiction specialist in your area, she recommends searching online, contacting your insurance provider, or contacting the National Council on Problem Gambling for a local referral.
“If you’re concerned about not being able to afford professional care, know that there are always options,” says Sternlicht. Many gambling addiction specialists accept health insurance, she notes, adding that a call to your insurer is a good place to start for a list of resources on the network. “Other gambling specialists who don’t accept insurance can operate on a sliding scale and be able to lower the cost of their services in line with what you’re doing [can] afford,” she adds.
5. Join support groups and 12-step programs
Don’t underestimate the power of community support. Finding a support group or participating in a 12-step program can be critical to recovery, Blitenthal says. “Connecting with others who are struggling with addiction—even if it’s not gambling—helps us know we’re not alone and that freedom from addiction is possible,” he says. “If there isn’t a Gamblers Anonymous meeting in your area, attending an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting that is open to other addictions can be just as helpful.”
6. Adjust as needed
Your path to recovery may need some calibration as your needs change. “It’s important to constantly re-evaluate whether you’re getting the right kind of help or whether you need to change your approach to treatment,” says Dr. Hochman. “For example, I see people start with support groups or addiction coaches, but over time realize they need to address the underlying issues.”
No matter where you are in your addiction healing journey, know that help is out there. If you or someone you know is going through a mental health crisis, call or text 988 for free, confidential and immediate help. You can also call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to access the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s 24/7 helpline.