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Treating Disordered Gambling with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

According to an article published by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, only 10% of people with a gambling disorder actually seek help or treatment for their problem. Why aren’t more problem gamblers seeking help for their disorder?

The answer, as research from the ANU Centre for Gambling Research suggests, is that problems gamblers often feel ashamed due to the stigma surrounding their disorder. Additionally, problem gamblers have also been found to produce a significantly higher amount of irrational (or distorted) thoughts and statements, and failing to address these cognitive biases only further motivates a gambling disorder.

Keep reading to find out more on the most common cognitive distortions that are specific to problem gambling and how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help to resolve these irrational (or distorted) thoughts that problem gamblers experience.  

Cognitive Distortions Behind Problem Gambling

A cognitive distortion refers to the irrational thoughts and beliefs that people subconsciously reinforce over time. Some of these irrational thoughts include:

  • Selectively remembering wins, and disregarding losses (or not giving equal weight to any experienced losses)
  • Overestimating the odds
  • “Gambler’s Fallacy” — A belief that a future win or loss is directly related to a previous gambling event when in fact each gambling event is discreet and unrelated
  • Illusion of control, wherein the problem gambler thinks they can control gambling outcomes
  • An unjustifiably high perception or belief of personal success

When it comes to cognitive distortions and problem gambling, researchers are turning to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as an effective treatment plan for those with a gambling disorder. CBT attempts to change the thoughts and destructive patterns of behavior associated with problem gambling by:

  • Teaching relapse prevention
  • Developing problem-solving skills
  • Correcting any cognitive distortion about gambling
  • And bolstering social skills

CBT helps those suffering realize that the short-term sensations they receive from gambling are not worth the long-term consequences that follow (debt, family problems, legal issues, etc.). Those who opt for CBT will also learn how to identify and avoid situations and thoughts that could lead them to relapse.

In addition to regularly attending cognitive behavioral therapy, it’s important to maintain a strong network of supporters and have access to programs like Gamblers Anonymous, as these resources will help in the prevention of relapse as well.

There Is Hope

The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ) has become thousands of problem gamblers’ lifeline with readily available resources and treatment options for those suffering from a gambling disorder. Whether it’s illegal sports gambling in the New Jersey Meadowlands area or casino gambling in Atlantic City, the CCGNJ offers a discreet, helping hand day and night.

If you are struggling with a gambling disorder or a substance use disorder (otherwise referred to as a drug use disorder) in Woodbridge, please visit https://800gambler.org/, where you will find many resources for support, treatment, and hope around the clock.