Gambling Addiction Treatment Scottsdale | Phoenix

Dr. Jack Shier, Psychiatrist in Scottsdale, AZ specializes in the treatment of gambling addiction/gambling disorder. Our private outpatient clinic offers a comprehensive psychiatric/medical assessment and treatment plan. Treatment may include medications, behavioral therapies or a combination of treatments.

What Is Gambling Disorder?

Gambling disorder is a mental health condition in which an individual experiences significant impairment related to their gambling behaviors. A gambling disorder is characterized by a continuance of maladaptive gambling despite negative effects it has on personal, family, or occupational pursuits. Individuals with gambling disorders are often preoccupied with gambling and may experience a need to gamble in increasing amounts to achieve a desired level of pleasure. Gambling may be increasingly associated with avoidant behavior during periods of stress or depression.

The lifetime prevalence rate of gambling disorder is estimated to fall between .4%-1%. Gambling disorders are more common in younger individuals and those who are middle-aged, occurring less frequently in older populations.

What Are the Symptoms of Gambling Disorder?

The DSM-5 provides the following criteria for gambling disorder:

  1. Persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to a clinically significant impairment or distress, as indicated by the individual exhibiting four or more of the following in a 12 month period:
      • Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
      • Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
      • Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
      • Is often preoccupied with gambling.
      • Often gambles when feeling distressed.
      • After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even.
      • Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
      • Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling.
      • Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.
  2. The gambling behavior is not better explained by a manic episode.

What Is the Cause of Gambling Disorder?

It is generally accepted that gambling disorder is caused by a combination of genetic, biological and environmental factors. The reward center of the brain in individuals with gambling disorders may function the same as an individual with a drug or alcohol addiction. Neurotransmitters in this region, dopamine and GABA, are produced in response to rewarding stimuli, making the individual crave more of that stimuli. Individuals with other mental health conditions, who are taking dopamine agonists or who have friends/family members with gambling disorder are at greater risk for developing a gambling disorder.

How Is Gambling Disorder Diagnosed?

In the diagnosis of gambling disorder, a thorough psychiatric and medical evaluation is conducted in order to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other causes for pathological/compulsive gambling behaviors.

Gambling Disorder Treatment

Psychotherapy such as behavior therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy may be helpful in the treatment of gambling disorder. Through therapy, an individual can learn methods to change unhealthy beliefs/behaviors and reduce urges to gamble. Self-help groups may be beneficial when recovering from a gambling addiction. The treatment for gambling disorder may include addressing co-occurring mental health conditions that may be worsening the symptoms of a gambling disorder.

How To Cope

  1. Maintaining a balanced lifestyle can help an individual manage a gambling disorder.
  2. Relaxation techniques – Participating in mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises can reduce an individual’s overall stress level and may help curb maladaptive urges to gamble
  3. Exercise routine – 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise may help manage gambling disorder by reducing anxiety and diverting an individual’s attention away from gambling
  4. Good sleep hygiene – Healthy sleep patterns promote a stronger ability to maintain emotional equilibrium, making it easier to maintain stress and refrain from gambling.
  5. Avoid negative influences – Engage in activities that are not associated with gambling in order to prevent urges. Increase your number of social contacts that are not associated with gambling/that do not promote gambling behaviors.
  6. Find new interests – Partaking in hobbies, interests or work that you find fulfilling will make you feel better about yourself and your time and may reduce the appeal of gambling
  7. Join 12-step/support group – Support groups will help you meet others with similar experiences, share coping strategies, and gain a sense empowerment and connection.

Last update: August 1, 2017

The content on this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.