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The increase in gambling opportunities – both physical and online – in the United States has led to the growing incidence of a gambling problem. In 1980, gambling was first identified as a pathological condition and was initially listed as an Impulse Control Disorder. But, seeing its multiple similarities with substance abuse disorders, researchers have reclassified it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Now listed in the ‘addictions’ category, the title pathological gambling was changed to “gambling disorder”. Today, nearly 15 million Americans are known to be affected by gambling disorder and problem gambling. Additionally, 4-5 percent youth aged 12-17 have a gambling problem.

Diagnosing Gambling Disorder

According to the DSM 5, gambling disorder is characterized by persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior that causes clinical-specific distress or impairment. An individual qualifies for gambling disorder, if they exhibit four or more of the following behaviors over a period of 12 months.

  1. Gambles with increasing amounts of money to feel the desired excitement
  2. Remains irritable or restless when trying to decrease the incidence of gambling
  3. Is repeatedly unsuccessful in their efforts to stop, cut back or control gambling
  4. Is often thinking of gambling, for example handicapping or planning the next venture, having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling experiences, thinking of ways to arrange money to gamble.
  5. Often gambles when distressed due to the feelings of guilt, helplessness, anxiety, and depression.
  6. Often returns to gambling after losing money gambling or repeated gambling in the hope of recovering the lost money.
  7. Lies to people regarding the extent of involvement with gambling (like other addicts who conceal their addiction from people to avoid being judged)
  8. Loses or jeopardizes an important job, educational, career opportunity or relationship due to the habit of gambling
  9. Banks on friends and family to seek monitory help to overcome desperate financial crunches resulting from the compulsive habit of gambling

Relation Between Problem Gambling and Other Mental Health Disorders

Problem and pathological gambling are known to co-exist with several mental health disorders, especially substance use disorders. In addition, teens suffering from problem gambling have a higher risk of anxiety and behavioral health problems. Studies suggest that teens with behavioral addictions and substance abuse are more prone to develop problem gambling.

Researchers also linked early negative childhood experiences such as trauma to the development of problem gambling in later life. Problem gambling may also lead to cognitive distortions including illusions of control, overrating one’s gambling skills, and superstitious beliefs that one will win after a series of loses (referred to as gambler’s fallacy).

Treatment of Gambling-Related Problems

With most teen gamblers lying about their problems, treating gambling-related problems is a major challenge for behavioral health experts. But, the good news is that both problem and pathological gambling can be treated with behavioral therapy and medications.

The major approaches used to treat gambling disorder include the following:

Therapy: In behavior therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is known to be the most effective. Behavior therapy focuses on helping patients unlearn old habits while teaching them the skills to control their urge to gamble. CBT focuses on motivating the person with problem gambling to recognize the irrational, unhealthy, and negative beliefs associated with gambling and replace them with positive and healthy ones. In addition to CBT, family therapy may also prove helpful to treat problem gambling.

Medications: Physicians may prescribe antidepressants and mood stabilizers to treat other co-morbid problems such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, and ADHD that accompany problem gambling. Some antidepressants may also help improve gambling behavior.

Self-help groups: Talking with others with the same problem may help some problem gamblers overcome their problems. Spending time at such self-help groups can be an effective strategy to recover from gambling addiction.

Gambling Addiction Recovery at ADEONA Healthcare of Rancho San Diego

ADEONA Healthcare provides treatment for gambling addiction at our Rancho San Diego location for male and female adolescents and teens aged 12-17. Our treatment options provide an accurate diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment program specifically designed for each individual patient.

For more information about gambling addiction and ADEONA Healthcare of Rancho San Diego, contact our 24/7 helpline (888) 997-3966. You can even chat online with a representative to understand what is gambling addiction and how you can identify the same in your teen.

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