Problem gambling is actually an obsessive-compulsive mental disorder. And although many people gamble without its becoming a problem, addicted gamblers find an excitement in gambling that they find nowhere else in their lives. It is often referred to as a “high” or a “rush,” akin to taking a drug. The partial reinforcement inherent in obsessive gambling is the fault of sometimes winning big, sometimes losing big and never knowing what’s going to happen next. An animal will continue to press a lever if food comes down the pipe sometimes.
Getting help for someone who has a destructive gambling habit can be difficult. Gamblers rarely want therapy on their own, though they may agree to it under family pressure. Sometimes when a chronic gambler is sentenced for illegalities stemming from gambling debts, a judge makes therapy a condition of probation. In a structured environment such as a rehab center, there is the advantage of starting therapy in a setting that removes the gambler from temptation.
But the best approach to therapy is a combination of behavioral techniques, focused on stopping gambling, and supportive therapy to help the gambler deal with the chaos gambling has brought to their life. Therapy may be long-term and there are usually some relapses, but that does not mean that therapy is a failure if the gambler uses the slip as an opportunity to learn how to resist temptation.
S. A. Stolinsky
Author HOT SHOT
Stefanie Stolinsky is a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist. She is the author of the acclaimed non-fiction book, ACT IT OUT: 25 Expressive Ways to Heal from Childhood Abuse, published by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. in 2002 and currently in its second edition with Praeclarus Press. Dr. Stolinsky has written for over twenty years, having finished five mystery novels, numerous short stories (published in Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine) and two well-received plays. She has worked extensively with abuse and trauma survivors privately and from the military. She also works with those suffering from gambling addiction. She has a private psychology practice in Beverly Hills and lives with her husband in Los Angeles.