How to treat my gambling addiction and where could I find help?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), states that problem gambling is most effectively treated as an addiction. Like people with alcoholism or drug addictions, those with a gambling disorder have several treatment options available to them. This allows different types of problem gamblers to find a type of treatment or combination of treatments that most effectively addresses their specific circumstances. Here are several of the most popular evidence-based treatment options.
One of the first steps problem gamblers can take is to help themselves. Several responsible gambling organisations have created free guidebooks, worksheets, questionnaires, and other resources to help people affected by a gambling disorder identify their triggers, understand their behaviour, and develop methods of cutting gambling out of their lives. Problem gamblers can start with their country’s responsible gambling website, or at an international site like www.gamblersanonymous.com.
Although self-help can be a good start to a recovery program, many problem gamblers find that they need more support to stay away from gambling and trigger a relapse. That’s why it’s a good idea for problem gamblers to pursue additional treatment methods that offer a supportive outlet.
Many governments and responsible gambling organizations throughout the world offer free phone counselling for people with gambling disorders. These can be invaluable to problem gamblers who need help resisting urges, support after a relapse, or simply additional information about the disorder and methods of treatment. Any conversations, whether on the telephone, through live chat, or text remain completely confidential and most companies are available to chat 24/7. You can find a list of relevant helplines at the end of the guide.
These self help quizzes are the first step and can help the player determine if they have a gambling problem. The quizzes only take a few minutes, they’re free and anonymous. The types of questions included often look like this:
- Is gambling making your own life unhappy?
- Do you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
- Do you ever gamble to try and help pay off debts?
- Do you often gamble all the money that you have?
- Do you ever gamble longer than planned?
- Do you ever gamble when you should be doing other things?
- Do you try to win back money that you have lost?
- Do people close to you think you gamble too much?
- Do you feel bad when you think about how much you gamble?
- Does gambling often leave you short of money?
- Do you feel restless if you can’t gamble?
- Does gambling make you irritated?
- Are you reluctant to use gambling money on normal expenditure?
- After a win do you feel you have to keep gambling for more?
- Have you ever sold anything to gamble?
- Have you ever gambled to escape your worries or troubles?
- Have you ever broke the law to help finance your gambling?
- Does gambling cause you difficulty in sleeping?
- Have you ever considered self-harm or suicide as a result of gambling?
- Do you consider you have a gambling problem?
As part of a self-assessment tool you may also be asked a few personal questions like your gender, age, when you gamble, what you gamble on. Each website listed in this guide will offer different questions and we have just supplied examples from some of those sites.
After completing the questions on the website they will help determine if a gambling problem exists and how to proceed. It is vital the person completing the questions is 100% truthful and all questions are answered in complete confidence. Most compulsive gamblers will answer yes to at least 7 of these questions.
More often than not the quizzes will present the player with an evaluation of how gambling is affecting their life across aspects like Time Spent, Stakes, Finances and Relationships.
One of the most widely used methods of treatment by problem gamblers around the globe are support groups, the most widely known of which is Gamblers Anonymous. Anyone who has a desire to stop gambling is welcome to participate in any Gamblers Anonymous meeting around the world. A list of all available meetings can be found on their website at www.gamblersanonymous.com, where they can be sorted by location. Each country will usually have their own dedicated page to helping gambling addiction and we have included a list of websites at the end of this guide.
Gamblers Anonymous, like most support groups, works in a 12-step framework. Members meet frequently to discuss their past with gambling, ways to handle urges, and their progress along the steps. GA takes the approach that problem gamblers will always be problem gamblers, and the only way for them to manage their addiction is to not gamble. By participating in meetings and doing the steps, many people with a gambling disorder are better able to get encouragement to resist the temptation to gamble, develop a support network, and improve relationships with loved ones.
Forums can also often be a good resource for players seeking help with gambling addiction. More often than not forums will include guides to help with gambling problems and players will be able to seek help and advice from people who are in the same position or who have been in similar situations.
Many problem gamblers benefit greatly from entering into outpatient counselling with a psychologist or trained counsellor. A number of psychotherapies have proven to be successful in reducing gambling urges and symptoms, so the counsellor can tailor the therapy to work for each particular individual.
The most prominent form of psychotherapy for gambling disorders is cognitive-behavioural therapy, or CBT. This therapeutic framework focuses on breaking down the relationships between events, thoughts, and actions, to help a person better understand what causes them to gamble. Through CBT, many problem gamblers are able to eliminate distorted thinking patterns and develop assertive, meaningful responses to gambling urges, as well as healthier reactions to day-to-day triggers.
Another methodology used by psychologists is motivational interviewing (MI). This technique is best suited to people who are concerned about their gambling behaviours but are struggling with making a firm decision to quit. The therapist’s goal is simply to guide the person through their feelings about gambling to help him resolve mixed feelings in a framework that is free of argument, direct persuasion, or confrontation.
Many problem gamblers also see significant improvement in their lives with solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT). This approach focuses on the person’s strengths rather than their problems, and emphasises actively and quickly demonstrates how a life without gambling can empower that person. A SFBT-practicing therapist focuses on giving clients simple goals that can be achieved in the short-term and highlighting successes.
Although speaking to a real person tends to be more effective in the long run, problem gamblers now have the option of getting help or supplementing their existing recovery plan through the internet. Many governments and nonprofit organisations have online counsellors who are trained to help people who have a gambling disorder at no cost to them. These include the websites of many of the organisations listed under the ‘Helplines’ section, as well as Gamblers Anonymous (www.gamblersanonymous.com) and Samaritans (www.samaritans.org). Depending on the service, support may be offered through live chat, email, or both.
A number of online support communities are also available for those who have a gambling addiction. People can share their stories, get feedback from others who have experience with problem gambling, and become a part of a supportive membership. A simple web search of ‘gambling addiction support forum’ will lead to several such communities. Registration is almost always free, and users are not typically required to provide any personal information, except an email address, which is not made public.
Here are some of the available helpline numbers and websites for various countries around the world:
- Australia (Australasian Gaming Council Helpline): 1 800 858 858, SMS Support and Live Chat also available on website https://www.gamblinghelponline.org.au
- Canada: See below
- New Zealand (Gambling Helpline): 0800 654 655, Text 8006, Live Chat also available on website http://www.gamblinghelpline.co.nz/
- South Africa (National Responsible Gambling Programme): 0800 006 008 or SMS HELP to 0766750710, Email helpli[email protected]sargf.org.za website: http://responsiblegambling.org.za
- United Kingdom (National Gambling Helpline): 0808 8020 133, Live Chat also available through their website http://www.gamcare.org.uk
- United States (National Council on Problem Gambling Helpline): 1 800 522 4700, Text: 1 800 522 4700, Chat also available on their website http://www.ncpgambling.org
- Canada (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health): 1 888 230 3505 (available in 140 languages) Website: www.problemgambling.ca
- Residents of Canda looking for gambling helplines in particular provinces can use this link: https://www.problemgambling.ca/EN/WebSiteLinks/Pages/CanadianResources.aspx
Residents of Canada can also call the responsible gambling helpline for their particular province:
- Alberta Health Services: 866 332 2322
- British Columbia Responsible Gambling Partnership: 888 795 6111
- Addictions Foundation of Manitoba: 888 347 8888
- New Brunswick Health: 800 461 1234
- Newfoundland Labrador Health and Community Services: 888 899 4357
- Northwest Territories Health and Social Services: 800 661 0830
- Nova Scotia Problem Gambling Help Line: 888 347 8888
- Nunavut Health and Social Services: 800 265 3333
- Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline: 888 230 3505
- Health Prince Edward Island Gambling Addiction Services: 855 255 4255
- Quebec Gambling Help and Referral: 800 461 0140
- Saskatchewan Health – Gambling: 800 306 6789
- Yukon Mental Health Services: 867 667 8346
Some of these organisations also offer SMS (text message) support through a different number, we have supplied details for you. More information can be found on each of their websites.