Updated: Aug 21, 2018
Addiction/Impulse control behaviour;
Gambling is commonly refered to as an addiction, even though it is not included with other addictions in the DSM-IV.
Problems with gambling have been labled as impulse control behaviours for a long time.
This has I would say affected the way we view the problem, seeing it as something people can learn to control more so than an addiction.
Pathological gambling is described as “persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behaviour,” this is similar to the description for substance dependence and abuse (addiction).
Excessive gamblers characteristically demonstrate cognitive distortions in their belief systems about their ability to win at gambling. Persisting even when the gambler continues to lose, leading them into a cycle of gambling which can become very hard to come out of without help.
Why Gamble if its not fun?
People with problem gambling have said to me that gambling is like a drug, there are highs and lows, being a winner,makes you feel good, people see you in a certain way, being a loser can reinforce a sense of losing at life, in some people this can feel familiar. This is not a healthy feeling but having it reinforced and at times swaped with winning can lead certain people into a cycle of gambling which can feel impossible to come out of.
People are often rewarded when they win by the providers,this can lead to feelings of grandeur. Someone said to me, "Why would I give up they make me feel like a princess".
I have found over the years working with people that by the time they come to counselling they are in a very bad way, at times even suicidal.
There are ways out, using empathetic listening without judgment,working to understand the cycle and other reasons associated with underlaying problems such as past traumas or life challenges.
Shame is a big part of problem gambling and this is something that may have to be worked with rather than run from.