by stresswinner on May 14, 2010

For people who are stressed, depressed or in chronic pain, gambling is an exciting and pleasurable way to forget life’s problems for a while – with the added bonus that a big win will suddenly provide a life of fabulous luxury. Gambling, like eating and alcohol , can be safe and fun if it’s under control. Gamble a small sum you can afford to lose, stop when it’s gone – and all you’ve done is buy a little fun, just like going to a restaurant or movie.

Gambling is not only a bit of fun and excitement, it can help to numb pain and relieve loneliness, boredom and anxiety. But for too many people the urge to keep playing can become increasingly powerful and develop into a compulsion, creating far more stress than it could ever relieve.

About 1 in 20 Canadians of all ages now have problems with compulsive gambling – an illness of epidemic proportions that is still largely unrecognized and untreated.

Compulsive gamblers will face family conflicts and arguments, alienation of children, almost certainly the loss of job and career, and definitely major money problems – and often bankruptcy. They will suffer severe anxiety, guilt, helplessness, health problems and depression – with a high incidence of suicide. They often resort to crime to raise gambling money or pay debts, and often end up in jail. Families are severely stressed too – they rarely see the gambler and feel abandoned, anxious, isolated and often very angry.

For the compulsive gambler there never seems to be a big enough win to make even the smallest dream come true. When the downhill slide begins, reckless desperation takes over. Gambling is an addiction when it cannot be controlled despite the obvious threats to work, personal and family life . Like other addicts, gamblers are able to ignore the consequences of their actions.

These rules might prevent gambling from becoming an addiction: Never do it when tired, ill or depressed and never use money you can’t afford to lose. Set a strict limit on losses and on time, and don’t ‘chase your losses’ or gamble alone.

Recovery from established gambling addiction is rarely easy or smooth, and often doesn’t begin until a huge amount of damage has been done. It’s a lifetime effort and relapses are common, especially in the first six months.

What does it take to escape from compulsive gambling?

* An admission of the problem and high motivation to escape from it

* Cognitive Therapy to help identify and change irrational thinking

* . Relaxation Techniques and Visualization – forming vivid mental images of the bad consequences of gambling

* Joining Gamblers Anonymous – based on the successful 12 step AA model

* Identifying stresses which trigger the urge to gamble and learn alternative strategies to relax and have fun

* Constantly available support from a sponsor

* Medication in some cases

* Continuing indefinitely with counselling or a support group

The family of the gambler suffers so much that they must be included in any treatment. Often it is the spouse, partner, or family member who starts the treatment ball rolling. Escape from gambling addiction is very difficult, but as with other addictions it is possible with enough motivation and persistence. The process of recovery holds the very real promise of a richer, more fulfilling life as obstacles are overcome and a feeling of self-control increases .  

To purchase a copy of ‘Gambling, The Stress Factor’ call Optimum Health Resources, 519-897-3670

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