New initiative to help gamblers fight addiction

A pioneering program to help addicted gamblers kick the habit started up recently in Greece, jointly run by the Greek Center for Cross-Cultural Psychiatry and Care and by the Loutraki Casino. Lasting 6-12 months, the program gives clients individual sessions and group therapy. «The duration of the program, which is free, depends on the seriousness of the case,» Canadian therapist Jan Stanton told Kathimerini. Addictive gambling can lead to heavy debt, the breakdown of family or other personal relations, dismissal from work, criminal activity and even suicide. Pathological gamblers have a high suicide rate, estimated to be six times greater than normal, as well as a high rate of mental illness. Addictive gambling is not as obvious as drug or alcohol addiction, but there are some indications that help diagnosis. Program director Constantinos Balas lists the following as signs of addictive behavior: – Increase in frequency of gambling. – Increase in amount spent on gambling. – Borrowing money to gamble; taking out loans or over-charging credit cards. – Bragging about winning and keeping silent about losing. – Frequent mood changes. – Using gambling to compensate for loneliness, anger, anxiety and depression. Gambling becomes addictive, says Balas, «when the basic needs for love, acceptance, recognition and self-esteem remain unfulfilled. Most addicted gamblers feel able to ‘buy’ friends, love and self-confidence when they gamble.» Gamblers’ families suffer. Apart from economic and emotional difficulties, spouses experience sexual rejection, says Stanton. «When the addicted gambler is winning, he feels no need for sexual contact, and when he is losing he is too sad to feel desire,» says Stanton. Therapy There are certain steps that can help gamblers gradually wean themselves from their obsession. The Greek Center for Cross-Cultural Psychiatry and Care sums them up: – Stop any gambling activity while you are trying to break the habit. – Observe your behavior carefully. Do you feel the need to gamble more when you are bored, anxious or under pressure? – Ask someone you trust to manage your money for a certain period of time. – Don’t use your credit cards. – Reward yourself after a period of abstinence from gambling by spending some of the money you have saved. – Don’t forget it takes time to break the habit.