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Gambling: The Secret Addiction by Annette J Dunlea

Compulsive or addictive gambling has been around for centuries, but with the advent of the Internet there is a new form of addictive gambling here.Problem gambling, or ludomania, is an urge to continuously gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop.It is particularly similar to substance addictions.Modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, GA uses a 12-step model that emphasizes a mutual-support approach.The biggest step in treatment is realizing you have a problem with gambling.It takes tremendous strength and courage to admit this.Don’t despair, and don’t try to go it alone.Recovery is possible if you stick with treatment and seek support.Online betting is leading to a massive increase in gambling addiction amongst young people in Ireland according to experts.Problem gambling can strain your relationships; interfere with responsibilities at home and work, and lead to financial catastrophe.You may even do things you never thought you would,like stealing to get money to gamble or take money meant for your children. You may think you can’t stop, but problem gambling and gambling addiction are treatable.If you’re ready to admit you have a problem and seek help, you can overcome your gambling problem and regain control of your life.

Gambling can become as serious an addiction as drugs,smoking, or alcohol.It is a type of impulse-control disorder.Compulsive gamblers can’t control the impulse to gamble.Gambling addiction is sometimes referred to as the hidden illness because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like there are in drug or alcohol addiction. Problem gamblers typically deny or minimize the problem.They also go to great lengths to hide their gambling. It might seem like the obvious reason for gambling is to make money.But that's only part of the story. For many gamblers, it's as much about the fun and excitement,the rush and high from winning as it is about winning money.Some people have a higher chance of becoming addicted to gambling.Those who have trouble controlling impulses, like people with ADHD, can be at greater risk for developing an addiction.So can people whose personalities mean they enjoy taking risks.First and foremost, excessive gambling can cost you a lot of money.Gamblers may experience hot streaks" from time to time where they win.But the odds will always be against them, and they usually end up down .People with severe gambling addiction can gamble away everything they have and even resort to stealing money to fuel their gambling habits.Gambling can also affect personality, causing mood swings and problems in someone's social life and personal relationships.As gambling becomes a larger presence in someone's life, it can alienate friends and loved ones and cause friction and bad feelings at home.Gambling can even affect a person's health, causing sleep problems, anxiety, stress, depression, unexplained anger, thoughts of suicide, and suicide attempts.Gambling problems can be tough to detect.Unlike other addictions, there generally aren't a lot of physical warnings. There may be some telltale signs, such as tiredness or irritability, money problems, turning to crime to fund their habit.As with many addictions, family members and friends often notice the problem first.The person gambling may not believe he or she has a problem.Recovery programs that include group therapy and counseling sessions have helped many gamblers overcome their addiction.Talking with people who have been through the experience can provide both support and ideas for overcoming the problem.Different styles of treatment work better for different people, so it can sometimes take a few tries to figure out what works for you.Just be sure to keep trying if your first option doesn't work.Gambling can be a difficult habit to break.It may seem like quitting should be easy, but as with any strong habit it can be hard to do alone.

Gamblers Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from a gambling problem.Their Cork contact number is Cork:087-2859552.The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop gambling.For gamblers, the Gamblers Anonymous 20 Questions is a helpful tool for self-evaluation.If you are wondering if you have a gambling problem do these 20 questions and find out?
    Have you ever lost time from work because of gambling?
    Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?
    Has gambling affected your reputation?
    Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
    Have you ever gambled to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?
    Has gambling caused a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?
    After losing, have you felt you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses ?
    After a win have you had a strong urge to return and win more?
    Have you often gambled until your last euro is gone?
    Have you ever borrowed to finance your gambling?
    Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?
    Have you been reluctant to use”gambling money” for normal expenditures?
    Has gambling made you careless of the welfare of you or your family?
    Have you ever gambled longer than you planned?
    Have you ever gambled to escape worry or trouble?
    Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?
    Has gambling caused you to have difficulty sleeping?
    Have arguments, disappointments, or frustrations created an urge to gamble?
    Have you ever had an urge to celebrate any good fortune with a few hours of gambling?
    Have you ever considered self-destruction because of your gambling:

Every gambler is unique and so needs a recovery program tailored specifically to him or her.What works for one gambler won’t necessarily work for you.The biggest step in treatment is realizing you have a problem with gambling. It takes tremendous strength and courage to own up to this, especially if you have lost a lot of money and strained or broken relationships along the way.Don’t despair, and don’t try to go it alone.Cognitive-behavioral therapy for problem gambling focuses on changing unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts, such as rationalizations and false beliefs.It also teaches problem gamblers how to fight gambling urges, deal with uncomfortable emotions rather than escape through gambling, and solve financial, work, and relationship problems caused by the addiction.The goal of treatment is to “rewire” the addicted brain by thinking about gambling in a new way.A variation of cognitive behavioral therapy, called the Four Steps Program, has been used in treatment of compulsive gambling as well.The goal is to change your thoughts and beliefs about gambling in four steps; re-label, reattribute, refocus, and revalue. More comprehensive information about cognitive behavioral therapy and applying it to your situation is found below.Seeing a therapist does not mean you are weak or can’t handle your problems.Therapy is for people who are smart enough to realize they need help. It can give you tools and support for reframing your thoughts that will last a lifetime.Maintaining recovery for problem gambling and gambling addiction.It’s staying in recovery, making a permanent commitment to stay away from gambling,that is such a challenge.

Gamblers please don't gamble because the odds are always stacked against you so it’s far better to seek help with debts from a credit counselor.Feeling the urge to gamble is normal, but that doesn’t make it any easier when you are struggling to make better choices.Remember, as you build healthier choices and a good support network,resisting cravings will be easier and easier.The following strategies can help.Reach out for support.Call a trusted family member,meet a friend for coffee, or go to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting.Do something else.Distract yourself with another activity,such as cleaning your house, going to the gym, or watching a movie. Postpone gambling.Tell yourself that you’ll wait five minutes,fifteen minutes, or an hour ,however long you think you can hold out.As you wait, the urge to gamble may pass or become weak enough to resist.Give yourself a reality check. Visualize what will happen if you give in to the urge to gamble.Think about how you’ll feel after all your money is gone and you’ve disappointed yourself and your family again.Overcoming a gambling addiction is a tough process. You may slip from time to time; the important thing is to learn from your mistakes and continue working towards recovery.If your loved one has a gambling problem, he or she might:Become increasingly defensive about his or her gambling.The more a problem gambler is in the hole, the more the need to defend gambling as a way to get money.Your loved one may get secretive, defensive or even blame you for the need to gamble, telling you that it is all for you and you need to trust in the big win someday. Suddenly become secretive over money and finances.Your loved one might show a new desire to control household finances, or there might increasingly be a lack of money despite the same income and expenses.Savings and assets might mysteriously dwindle, or there may be unexplained loans or cash advances.  Become increasingly desperate for money to fund the gambling.Credit card bills may increase, or your loved one may ask friends and family for money.Jewelry or other items easily pawned for money may mysteriously disappear.

Partners note that compulsive and problem gamblers often need the support of their family and friends to help them in their struggle to stop gambling.But the decision to quit has to be theirs.Reaching out for support will make you realize that many families have struggled with this problem.Or you might consider therapy to help sort out the complicated feelings that arise from coping with a problem gambler.Set boundaries in managing money.If a loved one is serious about getting help for problem gambling, it may help if you take over the family finances to make sure the gambler stays accountable and to prevent relapse.However, this does not mean you are responsible for micromanaging the problem gamblers impulses to gamble.Your first responsibilities are to ensure that your own finances and credit are not at risk. Consider how you will handle requests for money.Problem gamblers often become very good at asking for money, either directly or indirectly. They may use pleading, manipulation or even threats and blaming to get it.It takes time and practice to learn how you will respond to these requests to ensure you are not enabling the problem gambler and keeping your own dignity intact.Seek the support of others with similar problems; attend a self-help group for families such as Gam-Anon.Explain problem gambling to the children.Recognize your partner’s good qualities.Remain calm when speaking to your partner about his or her gambling and its consequences.Let your partner know that you are seeking help for your own sake because of the way gambling affects you and the children.Understand the need for treatment of problem gambling despite the time it may involve.Take control of family finances; review bank and credit card statements.

There has been an alarming increase in the number of young men seeking treatment for gambling addiction because of the popularity of online betting and ease of access to internet sites.Tabor Lodge, one of the largest treatment centres in the South, has recorded a 50% increase in those aged between 18 and 35 seeking help in the past two years.Mick Devine, clinical director at Tabor Lodge, said the ease with which people could gamble on the internet was a major factor in the overall increase in gambling.We used to see gambling addictions among older men, but gambling is now becoming more of a young man’s activity.Gambling on the internet is seductive for young men who are looking for excitement.Internet gambling has taken off in a big way.People can be home all day on the computer. It’s easy to conceal.It often doesn’t come out until a disaster hits and a person is in major debt or has been arrested for fraud and theft.Gamblers Anonymous has also recorded a surge in demand for its services.In Waterford City, there are now up to five meetings a week,up from just one a week three years ago.In Limerick, the frequency has gone from one to three weekly. Even provincial towns such as Mitchelstown and Thurles have responded to demands for a weekly meeting.If you’re a compulsive gambler in Cork or Dublin, a meeting is available daily.Online gambling is now a huge business, estimated to be worth €44 billion globally. While figures for Ireland are not available, economic consultants have extrapolated that the market here is worth about 5% of that, or €2 billion.The country’s largest bookmakers, Paddy Power, has close to 1m active customers. The company’s share price has surged by 280% since 2008. At a time of falling discretionary spending,Paddy Power is still powering ahead. Last year, 62% of its €120 million operating profit was attributable to its online operation.

The growing curse of gambling addiction is like a steam train coming down the tracks for the GAA, according to Gaelic Players' Association boss, Dessie Farrell.Three inter-county players have availed of GPA services in the past year to enter treatment centres for the problem, but Farrell admits that many more are now coming out of the woodwork.He explained: In the last six months, this whole issue of gambling has taken us by surprise. It's that severe and that widespread. But we're starting to ask more questions about it now.In an extensive interview recently Farrell explains how more and more GPA members have come looking for help as they struggle to cope with issues of addiction and depression.The extreme level is where players have to engage with our counselling service, he said. We have a network of clinical psychologists around the country, which our players can access free. Some very extreme cases might require hospitalisation or access to patient treatment clinics.In the last year, we've put three players into treatment centres for gambling addiction.But they're all coming out of the woodwork now with serious problems and the issues that stem from gambling, like significant debt and the upset in the home.There have been a lot of cases of that.This is going to hit us like a steam train coming down the tracks, that's how serious it is.We're actually talking to our counsellors now to see what we can do about putting together an education programme around this.

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