Every day we are more exposed to falling into the temptation of gambling, due to the closeness and ease of access through the internet and the anonymity that is achieved using the online gambling modality. The increasing number of cases and the age of onset, which is getting younger and younger, is becoming worrisome, generating addicts at a speed never seen before.
Gambling addiction, or gambling addiction , grew up to 12% in 2021 and its treatment is usually only initiated by family or social pressure due to the difficulty of recognizing the problem, which comes when economic losses or the breakdown of your personal life is already evident. These people have in a gambling addiction center the best formula to begin treatment to abandon this practice that is so inadvisable in order to lead a balanced life.
Diagnosis of pathological gambling
If you have problems controlling the game you should seek information and go to a mental health professional or your doctor to make a first evaluation of your case where they will review the following steps:
- Betting habits : time, places, format, economic amounts, etc.
- Family authorization . It could be that it is requested to be able to speak with relatives or close people about the case, since the patient may not reflect all the real perception of the problem. Logically this is limited by confidentiality.
- Medical history . Impulsive reactions could be derived from other types of disorders, illnesses or treatments that predispose to this situation, so it should be taken into account.
- Psychiatric evaluation . An attempt will be made to detect gambling-related mental health disorders, usually using the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as a measure.
Phases of pathological gambling
The detection of this problem is usually easily identified since there are obvious behavioral changes apart from the tangible ones: economic losses.
- Earnings Phase . At the beginning, the first spontaneous gains appear that create the sensation and need to play again (dopamine) so that the impulse to play becomes uncontrollable, despite this the person does not recognize their problem.
- Loss Phase . Increasing the frequency and habit disproportionately wastes time and money.
- Despair phase . Very large changes in the player’s behavior and personality occur and are often associated with other behaviors such as alcohol or substance use.
Treatment of pathological gambling
Once the problem has been recognized and the previous step of becoming aware of it has been carried out, a motivation to solve it begins with the treatment phase, which can be complex and will be conditioned by that possible resistance to it. The ease of access to this type of problem is such that people have frankly difficult to get away from the context that led them to fall into the problem. Treatment approaches will be:
- Therapy . Treatment through a psychology professional who applies behavioral or cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques are usually the best for these cases. Through systematic and controlled exposure and psychoeducation, the patient is taught the necessary prevention strategies and the mechanisms that work in addiction to identify beliefs about gambling that become irrational, in order to be able to replace them through cognitive reconstruction. The family will also be important in this aspect, being able to incorporate them into the process.
- Pharmacology. In some cases, psychiatrists may use antidepressant or mood stabilizer treatments to lessen problems associated with problem gambling such as depression, attention deficit disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorders. In addition, in some cases the anxiety generated is not easily controllable and also requires pharmacological support, at least in certain phases of treatment.
- Support groups . There are groups such as anonymous gamblers or similar in which to share experiences and help to a great extent to understand and empathize with people who suffer from related problems, which makes the person not feel so alone in the process.
- personal strategies. The treatment should not only be seen as external help, but the person should gradually internalize coping mechanisms and strategies that resist the need to gamble, such as: focusing on the goal of not gambling; verbalizations and self-talk about the risks of the game; learn to ask for help; avoid game situations and contexts.
We live in a society exposed to all kinds of games related to gambling and not only the classic bookmakers, but video games and social networks behave in a similar way within our brain, capturing our attention and creating digital addicts to reinforcement by variable interval. This is how most of these systems work, they create a need with the risks that this entails.
Control. This is not a game.