How to recognize when gambling is an addiction

Courtney Evans, M.Ed, LCPC, CCS, NCC, Clinical Counselor, NLH Addiction Care, Northern Light Acadia Hospital recently offered her insight on this topic.

1. What are the key signs and symptoms of gambling addiction that individuals or their loved ones should be aware of?

Answer: There is typically a preoccupation with gambling (planning activities and how to get more money to engage in these activities). There may be some signs of irritability if attempts to cut down on gambling are made; negative consequences with relationships, employment, and schooling; they may feel the need to gamble with more money to experience the thrill.

2. What treatment strategies have you found most effective in addressing gambling addiction, and how do these approaches vary based on individual needs?

Answer: Gambling affects individuals differently, so it is important to work with them to create a personalized plan of care. Using a combination of therapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy), including not only individual therapy but also group and family therapy as well. There are also support programs such as Gamblers Anonymous should someone wish to explore that route as well. There may be underlying mental health needs that are unmet; if this is the case, medication management may be an option as well.

3. Could you share a successful case where an individual overcame gambling addiction, highlighting the key factors that contributed to their recovery?

Answer: Absolutely! One success story that comes to mind includes an individual who took advantage of services available, including individual therapy, family therapy, and support groups. They worked with their treatment team to identify their unmet biopsychosocial needs while incorporating healthy coping strategies into their recovery focused lifestyle.

4. How do you believe society can better prevent gambling addiction, particularly considering the increasing accessibility of gambling platforms?

Answer: Education and awareness campaigns are critical to spread information including into school curricula when discussing addiction. Promoting responsible gambling practices will help; gambling is no different than any other addiction, as the biological response in the brain when engaging in the act is just as significant as the effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain.

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