Why So Many Different Views About “Compulsive Addicted Gambling”?

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A Share of my Addictionland.com Blog Post

Hello Recovery Friends, Followers & New Visitors,

As a regular person in recovery for almost 7 years from addicted gambling, I’m baffled on HOW many different views there are about addicted gambling. It really can be a bit confusing to those seeking Recovery. I say this because as I work on two follow-up books I’m currently writing, I do a lot of research from Blogs, Websites, and rely on Google Search A LOT. If you happen to Google “Facts” about addicted gambling, you get MANY views of What it’s about, and How to treat the illness. So I thought I’d share a few of the “OPINIONS” out there about this addiction. They first is from a “MEDICAL VIEW” about this cunning addiction, and in the very 1st paragraph, it calls this addiction a, “Mental-Health problem”, which I seem to STRONGLY disagree with…….

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*A MEDICAL VIEW*

What is a gambling addiction?

Gambling addiction is a *mental-health problem* that is understood to be one of  many kinds of impulse-control problems a person may suffer from. The types of  gambling that people with this disorder might engage in are as variable as the  games available. Betting on sports, buying lotto tickets, playing poker, slot  machines, or roulette are only a few of the activities in which compulsive  gamblers engage. The venue of choice for individuals with gambling addiction  varies as well. While many prefer gambling in a casino, the rate of online/Internet  gambling addiction continues to increase with increased use of the Internet. Gambling addiction is also called compulsive gambling or pathological gambling.

Estimates of the number of people who gamble socially qualify for being  diagnosed with a gambling addiction range from 2%-5%, thereby  affecting millions of people in the United States alone. Although more men than  women are thought to suffer from pathological gambling, women are developing  this disorder at higher rates, now making up as much as 25% of individuals with  pathological gambling. Other facts about compulsive gambling are that men tend  to develop this disorder during their early teenage years while women tend to  develop it later.

However, the disorder in women then tends to get worse at a  much faster rate than in men. Other  apparently gender-based differences in gambling addiction include the tendencies  for men to become addicted to more interpersonal forms of gaming, like  blackjack, craps or poker, whereas women tend to engage in less  interpersonaly based betting, like slot machines or bingo. Men with pathological gambling tend to receive counseling about issues  other than gambling less often than their female counterparts.

The first step to obtaining  appropriate treatment is accurate diagnosis, which requires a complete physical  and psychological evaluation to determine whether the person may have a gambling  addiction. Since some medical conditions, can cause an individual to develop  erratic, impulsive behaviors, including problem gambling, the examining  physician should rule out (exclude) these possibilities through an interview,  physical examination, and applicable laboratory tests, as well as implementing a full mental-health evaluation.

A thorough diagnostic evaluation includes a  complete history of the patient’s symptoms. A diagnostic evaluation also includes a mental-status examination to  determine if the patient’s speech, thought pattern, or memory has been affected,  as often happens in the case of a many forms of mental illness. As of today,  there is no laboratory test, blood test, or X-ray that can diagnose this or any other mental disorders……………

*Now the second View of what “Compulsive Addicted Gambling” is by a * Rehab, Treatment Centers* point of view………..

Definition?

As with many types of addiction, it can be tricky to precisely define what constitutes a gambling problem. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), gambling becomes problematic only once it begins to negatively affect one or more parts of a person’s work, family life, or personal relationships. This population can be further divided in “problem gamblers” and “pathological gamblers”….. Problem Gambling:

A recent survey showed that 86 percent of Americans have gambled at some point in their lives. Of this 86 percent, though, only about two or three percent are what would be called “problem gamblers”. These are people who may exhibit one or several symptoms of a gambling addiction, but who have a lower risk of their problem deteriorating into full-blown addiction.

Pathological Gambling:

Accounting for only one percent of gamblers, those with a pathological condition can be recognized by the severity of their symptoms and how strongly those symptoms affect their lives.

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Informal Support Groups:

There are two tracks available for treatment and both may be used simultaneously. The first is an informal support group, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. The twelve-step program in Gamblers Anonymous (GA) is free and gives the addict access to a large support group of peers who understand the problem. The atmosphere is non-judgmental and supportive.

Cognitive-behavioral Therapy:

The second track is based on cognitive-behavioral therapy. It seeks to change the way the gambler sees his problem and his situation. Unhealthy beliefs and rationalizations are confronted. Patients are taught techniques to fight urges and deal with stressors (financial and emotional) that lead to compulsive acts. The goal is to change the way gambling is understood by the patient in order to alter behavior.

An advantage of cognitive-behavioral therapy over group support is that it is individualized and can address other life issues that might be acting as triggers. The main disadvantage is cost and the unfortunate mislabeling of therapy as something appropriate only for the weak or those who have a mental disorder.

Treatment will also attempt to limit the material supports that allow gambling to occur: Money; Time; Venue – these are all required for the activity………

**Now the third opinion is from a “Psychologists” point of view about what “Addicted Compulsive Gambling” is, which is a view of more Science than “Medical”**

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IN THE past, problem gambling has been viewed in many ways as a disease, an addiction or a learned behavior. The literature mostly originated from the United States and was based on in-patient and male samples. A strong bias towards the medical model and the conceptualization of problem gambling as compulsive was evident.

More recently, psychologists in Australia and around the world have begun to understand that there are different ways that people develop problems with gambling. “Researchers from a range of disciplines have revitalized the way we look at gambling,” says Richard Spence-Thomas, PhD candidate at RMIT University’s Department of Psychology and Disability Studies, “and psychology is at the forefront of attempts to understand problem gambling from a research perspective.”

One explanatory model of problem gambling that has gained widespread acceptance is Sydney clinical psychologist Professor Alexander Blaszczynski’s ‘Pathways Model’. Blaszczynski identifies three main sub-groups in the problem gambling population: the ‘normal’, ’emotionally disturbed’, and ‘biologically based impulsive pathological gamblers’.

The ‘normal’ gamblers are people who develop a problem from a positive reinforcement perspective, but don’t have any pre-existing mental illnesses. “Usually they are people who start gambling because their social group frequents gaming venues, or they live in an area where clubs with gaming machines are common places to go out,” Richard says.

“Psychological science suggests that intermittent reinforcement is the most powerful type of reinforcement. In the gaming machine context, a person might have a couple of random wins and get a bit hooked on it – continuing to play in the expectation that they can win again. They are further reinforced to return by the social environment (relaxing music, attentive and obliging staff, free tea and coffee, inexpensive meals).”

People in this group may go on to develop mental illnesses as a result of their gambling, most commonly depression as they lose control of their finances, relationships fail etc., which can put them into the next classification.

Blaszczynski’s second subgroup, the ’emotionally disturbed’, has predisposing psychological vulnerability and possibly a family history of gambling. They display depression, anxiety, substance dependence, and deficits in their ability to cope with and manage external stress (Blaszczynski, 2000). These people use gambling as an attempt to solve or avoid their underlying issues.

The third and perhaps smallest group, the biologically based group, may have biological issues that make them more vulnerable to pathological gambling. “These people are highly impulsive and therefore can’t resist the urge to gamble, which is perhaps associated with a biological impulsivity,” Richard says.

“They may have a range of impulsivity or attention deficit issues, which can be associated with poor behavioral control. It may also be possible that there is something about poker machines that they find relaxing – although we don’t know enough about this yet.”

Tailoring treatment

Using an empirically validated model such as the Pathways Model is clinically very useful, according to Richard, because it means counseling services can tailor treatment to the particular types of clients. It helps to direct resources appropriately.

Psychologist and Manager at Gambler’s Help (Melbourne City Office), Tim McCorriston, says that Blaszczynski’s model “intuitively feels accurate” and certainly offers an acknowledgment that there is a broad range of different types of gamblers.

“It is a fallacy to lump them all in together. While there are obvious reasons for people interpreting problem gambling as an addiction (being enslaved to a behavior), I steer away from that notion because it conjures a medical  notion of problem gambling. The disease model does not provide a great platform for individuals to envisage mastery over the urge.”

Tim says the ‘normal’ gamblers often respond fairly quickly to an examination of the cognitive distortions around gambling, such as the odds of winning, the truth behind the win/loss ratio, beliefs about skill in non-skills based games and the likelihood of chasing one’s way back to financial security.

Tim says financial counseling is an important addition to therapy that helps to contain the gambling behavior. “If a financial counselor can help people find other pathways to financial recovery, this can release them from the notion that gambling is their only financial salvation,” he says.

Tim says people who have stumbled into gambling can very quickly lose control of their finances. “You’ve had a win, gone back, got a bit behind and feel the need to chase back your losses. Maybe you have a bill you have only half the money for, and think, “Well I can’t pay it, so I might as well try my luck to make it up.”

“Of course the odds dictate that the more you gamble, the closer you get to the average result – that you lose. So the pattern becomes one of consistent losses and by this time, you might be in debt $2000. You are now in a mess and the option to come clean with your partner or family produces much anxiety.

“Some might be ready to fix the problem, others might not stop chasing until they are significantly more in debt, in many cases tens of thousands of dollars. This might finally be the point when a problem gambler accepts that they are not going to be able to make up the debt and seeks help; others get involved in criminal activity as a measure of their desperation.”

The belief that they can still win, rather than accepting a debt cannot be won back, is a contributing factor to a significant drop-out rate in this client group. Many problem gamblers approaching counseling are notably ambivalent, Tim says. “Our center has an intake system that is designed to engage our clients effectively – every day a counselor is on duty to respond to new client enquiries to help people feel more comfortable with the notion of seeking assistance.

“Some problem gamblers may just generally teeter in their acknowledgment that the behavior is problematic or that they need to seek help. In many cases a crisis may trigger someone to call Gambler’s Help, but often, as the immediate crisis passes, so does the acknowledgment of the problem and the motivation to address it. For us, intake is a critical opportunity to crystallize the client’s motivation to make changes.”

Gambling as an escape:

Tim says the ’emotionally disturbed’ group described in Blaszczynski’s Pathways Model feature prominently as a client group at his center. “These people gamble to manage their emotional state. The dissociative quality of the gambling experience feels like respite from their problems, but meanwhile, they are not attending to the underlying issues in their lives.”

With this group, Tim says a two-tiered approach seems to work well. Firstly, cognitive behavioral approaches can help “get things under control” for the client, and once that has been achieved, he says, then intrapersonal work looking at how emotional functioning and personality characteristics link in with gambling behaviors can also assist.

“We try to understand the purpose and meaning of the gambling behavior by looking at the client’s history, issues and themes in their lives. We usually start to find formative experiences that have led to certain coping strategies. An example is someone who might have grown up in a family in which there was a constant threat of physical violence. Running away and hiding from that could set up early patterning of escape and cacooning, which might later in life be mirrored in their gambling response.”

Tim says this contextual work helps people “unhook” themselves from gambling.

If the issue is anxiety associated with demands at work and at home, treatment might involve assertiveness strategies, time-management skills and the client creating time for themselves. If the issue is depression associated with unemployment and social isolation, then CBT with some practical strategies to link with the community and work on how the client sets up relationships might be the key…….

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*MY THOUGHT AND OPINIONS*…..

This Article went on to mention another study of Women who chose to use a “CONTROL” method to slow or stop the “ADDICTED” part of the behavior of addicted compulsive gambling, and I GOT TO TELL YOU, THAT METHOD WOULD HAVE NEVER WORKED AS AN OPTION FOR ME!

Granted it was done as a “Women’s Study” but one of the “Major Problems” with this METHOD I find for MYSELF, is that I spent JUST AS MUCH TIME thinking I was “Controlling” my addicted gambling as the actual time in action, and once I started gambling, I didn’t or COULD NOT STOP. This to me leaves a very WIDE DOOR OPEN to the person afflicted to use BLAME, DENIAL, and LIE about what, when, where, and HOW MUCH MONEY they have wasted on this Cunning Disease.

SO, I think you get the picture of “JUST HOW CONFUSING” it can be for those who reach out for” HELP * HOPE” from this INSANE ADDICTION………..

I guess all I can say is RESEARCH ALL OPTIONS on how to Start your Recovery from addicted gambling. “GAMBLING” cost me many things in my LIFE. It cost me lost jobs, lost money, lost hours of a day, a criminal record, jail, almost took my 24yr Marriage, and it almost TOOK MY LIFE, TWICE BY Suicide attempts.

I also have to add that I chose “Out-patient Treatment”, after my last release in 2006 from an Addiction/Mental Crisis center stay, worked with an Addiction Specialist and a Psychiatrist for Medications, as I also was suffering from Bipolar 2 disorder, and Therapy over a year with both. Gamblers Anonymous Meetings, and several SUPPORT Websites like www.Addictionland.com  and another that’s just other Recovering Compulsive Gamblers at http://gamblersanonymous.org
and also www.myaddiction.com where I tend to get much updated facts about “Compulsive Addicted Gambling”…

I truly hope this gives others insight as to the various types of Views, Insight and information about “Compulsive Gambling” and treatment options. To me the most important was learning to break and interrupt the CYCLE of the addiction. Which ever option YOU CHOOSE……The very first step to recovery?……”Is admitting to yourself that you have a Gambling Problem”!

God Bless Everyone, Author, Catherine Townsend-Lyon

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