As well as the harm to your relationships compulsive gambling can also affect your health and lead to serious debt problems. One of the main obstacles in tackling problem gambling is often that the gambler doesn't believe that they have a problem in the first place. Friends and family may be the first to notice changes in a person's behaviours that point to a problem but a gambler can continue to be in denial or simply fail to recognise when their habit has got out of control. Gambleaware UK point out that anyone can develop a gambling problem but say two risks in particular can contribute to a young person developing a gambling problem: the presence of a family history of gambling and the age at which the person starts gambling - this is because the earlier a gambling habit begins the more likely it is that they will experience difficulties later on. (Source: gambleaware.co.uk)
Signs and Symptoms
As with most addictions, something that can start out as an enjoyable activity can develop into a problem habit that's difficult to break. Gambleaware UK makes the point that if you think you may have a problem then it's quite possible that you actually do have one. It can help to recognize if your gambling is becoming a problem by being aware of the following warning signs:
How I can help you
I have worked with many people to help them overcome a gambling problem using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. CBT can help overcome a gambling problem by understanding what keeps the compulsion going and then identifying the thoughts and behaviours that are most likely to bring about positive and lasting change. If you are finding it difficult to cope with your gambling habit you may benefit from having professional support to help you gain control of your life and manage things going forward. Please feel free to contact me - I understand the kinds of problems and fears you may be struggling with and I can support you in working through your concerns about gambling. Often the starting point is to be honest with yourself and feel genuinely committed to solving your gambling problems. With a combination of personal commitment and professional support there's every chance you can succeed!
What is CBT?
CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems more effectively by changing the way you think and feel. As well as being the main form of therapy used in the NHS to treat anxiety and depression it's also very effective in helping a whole range of mental and physical health problems including gambling. CBT is much more than simply encouraging us to think positive thoughts - instead it helps us to loosen the grip of negative ones and allow us to see alternative ways of coping with the challenges we face. In CBT therapy the therapist supports the client as new approaches are tried out and practised during and between sessions until he/she feels confident enough to manage things independently. The success in treating personal problems with CBT has been proven in countless clinical trials and studies and is one of the main reasons it has been adopted so widely today in the NHS.
How CBT works
CBT is based on the idea that there are links between our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and physical sensations and that we can often get caught in a cycle of unhelpful or negative thinking that influences how we feel and then behave. These negative patterns act to maintain our problems keeping us trapped in a vicious cycle that can feel difficult to break. CBT works by helping us to break these cycles of negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours by learning alternative ways to approach our problems and then practising these until they become second nature.
Things you can do now to help with a gambling problem
Ask for help
Often the most difficult thing about getting help for an addiction is owning up to yourself that you have a problem. After that it can still feel difficult to ask for help especially if you are worried about the reaction you think you might get from friends and family. Getting professional support through counselling is often essential as it can be difficult coping alone with the addictive aspects of a gambling problem.
Sources: Gambleaware UK, NHS Choices