In the ever-evolving sphere of mental health, problem gambling stands out as an area that has lagged beyond. Awareness and understanding of gambling addiction is increasing, but not at a pace any of us would like to see. While it’s true that we still have a long way to go, particularly in the specialized training of therapists and counselors, it’s also undeniable that there’s never been more help available for those struggling with gambling addiction.
A Common Root to All Addictions
One crucial point to highlight upfront is that the root cause of gambling addiction isn’t vastly different from other addictions, whether they be substances like alcohol or behaviors like shopping. The neural pathways and the emotional triggers are often analogous.
This means that while the specifics of the addiction may vary, the underlying mechanisms and the emotional turmoil they cause share similarities. Thus, treatments that have proven effective for other addictions can often be adapted and applied to problem gambling.
While someone struggling with gambling addiction can use a general therapist to address their problems, it’s obviously not as ideal as seeing someone who is trained in gambling and works through these issues with other patients, day in and day out. But we must not overlook small steps while building the bigger bridge. And fortunately, we have seen a massive increase in non-traditional support.
Embracing Non-Traditional Support
The digital age has ushered in a plethora of non-traditional support systems for those battling gambling addiction:
It will come as no surprise that I highlight podcasts first. These audio programs provide insights from experts, testimonials from those who have overcome their addiction, and advice on coping mechanisms. They’re a discreet way for individuals to gain knowledge and find solace in knowing they’re not alone. You can find a list of many great gambling addiction-specific podcasts here.
2. Online Forums
As I highlighted the other day, platforms like Reddit, with communities such as r/problemgambling, offer a safe space for individuals to share their experiences, seek advice, or simply vent. The anonymity these platforms provide can be a boon for those hesitant to share their struggles openly.
3. Online Support Groups
Organizations like Gamblers Anonymous, which traditionally functioned through face-to-face meetings, have now expanded into the digital realm. This means that even if someone is geographically isolated or uncomfortable with in-person meetings, they can still access the support they need. One of the best resources for this is GamblersInRecovery.com, where online meetings can be found around the clock.
The rise of telehealth has made it possible for individuals to connect with gambling-specific counselors from the comfort of their homes. This can be particularly beneficial for those who might be hesitant to attend in-person therapy sessions due to the stigma associated with addiction. You can check out The Better Institute or Kindbridge Behavioral Health to get started.
5. Facebook Support Groups
These groups provide a blend of anonymity and community. Members can choose to be as open or as discreet as they wish, all while benefiting from a supportive community that understands their struggles. Christina from The Broke Girl Society has a fantastic Facebook group for women.
Reaching the Isolated Gambler
While the growth in resources is commendable, the challenge lies in making them accessible and appealing to gamblers, many of whom tend to be isolated and wary of sharing their struggles. Digital platforms, with their inherent flexibility and anonymity, align well with the needs of such individuals. They allow for self-paced exploration, which can be crucial in the early stages of acknowledging the problem.
Moreover, by showcasing success stories and testimonials on these platforms, we can create an environment of hope and possibility. It’s essential to communicate that seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness but rather a step towards regaining control.
The landscape of support for problem gambling is undoubtedly expanding, and it’s our collective responsibility to ensure that these resources reach those in need. By continuously adapting and innovating, we can ensure that no one has to face the challenges of gambling addiction alone.