How common are gambling addictions

Gambling addiction

Treatment of gambling addiction

The "first talk" before the treatment
Before starting therapy, there is a so-called initial interview in which the person concerned describes the course of the addiction and the consequences that gambling addiction already has for him (e.g. debts, loss of job, separation from the partner). In addition, the conversation is about how great the suffering is that the person concerned feels, in other words: is the situation so stressful that he really wants to change his life now? It often takes years and severe crises for gambling addicts to realize that they are dependent and urgently need help.

The conversation also deals with the question: What is the most important reason for those affected to get rid of the addiction? Above all, does he want to have control of his life again? Save his marriage and friendships? Reduce your mountain of debt and prevent poverty? This reason can be decisive in generating the necessary motivation for the therapy and persevering in it. Psychologists speak of clarifying the motivation for therapy.

Withdrawal is a long and difficult process. While the motivation to get rid of gambling addiction is usually still high at the beginning, it can become more difficult over time and the patient relapses. This can still happen even after successful therapy. Participation in a self-help group is therefore strongly recommended.

Find the right therapy method
The treatment usually consists of individual and group therapy sessions. An important part of the treatment is to recognize why one became addicted to gambling, what feelings arise when gambling, why these are perceived as so enormously positive (e.g. the thrill) and what healthy alternatives there are to trigger these feelings (e.g. through exercise , an artistic hobby, travel).

If an affected person uses gambling primarily to escape reality and to suppress everyday worries, a Cognitive behavioral therapy be helpful, in which he learns, among other things, to better control his emotions, to allow unpleasant feelings and to look at them differently.

Or one depth psychological therapywhere he can find out why certain everyday situations burden him so much or exert so much pressure that he fled to the gambling den world. The cause for this can be marriage problems, fear of failure at work, but also negative, traumatic experiences in childhood. Sometimes one of the parents has already played excessively and exemplified the addiction for the child. Unfortunately, children often adopt such behavior later on. Therapy can help to distance oneself from the actions of the parent and to choose a different path in life.

Find support in the group
The group discussions are important, on the one hand, because other sufferers report on their addiction history and this can help to recognize parallels and to think about one's own addiction. On the other hand, the gambling world was the center of life for an addict and saying goodbye to it is often unimaginable at first, frightening and can trigger a sadness (these feelings can also be observed in alcoholics who say goodbye to drinking).

It is important that the addict be able to openly express and talk about these emotions in therapy. In the group session he does this in front of people who know these feelings well and therefore understand them, which also helps to be able to deal better with saying goodbye to the world of addiction.

Say goodbye to magical thinking and rituals
Many gambling addicts are convinced that they can influence and control a game of chance through magical thoughts, certain rituals or lucky charms. The therapist must carefully clarify that this belief was a fallacy that promoted addiction. A delicate matter, some of those affected vehemently refuse to acknowledge this fact.

As with obsessive-compulsive disorder, in which a patient only steps on every other cobblestone or snaps their fingers three times before leaving the apartment, such behaviors serve to create a (supposed) sense of security. To refrain from doing this means first of all a loss of control and that is scary. It can take weeks for a gambling addict to accept this. But only if he can do that will a permanent farewell to the gaming world succeed.

Relearn how to deal with money
Gambling addicts have lost their realistic connection to money and have to relearn how to deal with financial resources in therapy. For those affected, the confrontation with their money problems is uncomfortable. He has feelings of shame and guilt and it takes some overcoming to deal with these facts. But reflecting on the money problem is extremely important in order to successfully combat addiction.

On the one hand, money worries are one of the reasons why a gambling addict keeps coming back to the arcade, casino or betting office. He hopes to get rid of his debts by making a big profit. On the other hand, it plays a decisive role that the addict lives in reality again and no longer in the illusory world of the casinos.

Only if he makes it clear to himself from now on that it is real money, that he is wagering on gambling, that it is real debts that he is incurring, and that there are real consequences if he plays, only then does the gambling world lose its fatal aura as an escape from reality.

This process is not an easy one. In therapy, the gambling addict receives a small amount of pocket money per week, around 30 or 40 euros, and has to get along well with it. The amount is deliberately calculated low so that the person concerned learns again to correctly assess the value of the money. The therapist can give the patient additional support by talking to him about unrealistic money fantasies and the real cost of living.

Unfortunately, the relapse rate among pathological gamblers is high, around 60 percent of all those affected relapse again from gambling addiction after therapy. The so-called addiction memory of the brain also plays a decisive role here, which means that certain stimuli such as the clink of coins or driving past an amusement arcade can immediately awaken the desire to play again.

If the person concerned is still in an emotional situation in which he used to always gamble, for example in the case of severe professional stress or a relationship quarrel, he may feel pressure to go to a gambling hall or casino.

Only if he succeeds in not giving in to this urge will he avoid relapse.

In order to be prepared for such a difficult situation, gambling addicts learn an emergency program in therapy. This includes recognizing early signs of an impending relapse and taking appropriate countermeasures. Each person affected receives an emergency card with the telephone number of a contact person who can be called in such an emergency situation.

Research shows that in such a precarious moment, a personal conversation with a familiar person can help a lot in preventing the addiction again. A private sentence on the emergency card, such as “Think about your daughter, gambling addiction is ruining your family!” Can help keep you clean.

And even if there is a relapse, the gambling addict is not a hopeless case. There are gamblers who only managed to get rid of the addiction after relapsing several times.

Participation in a self-help group is also very helpful. Former gambling addicts meet here regularly, share their experiences, support one another and motivate one another not to relapse. Addresses of self-help groups are available at: