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Gambling Addiction: How to Spot the Warning Signs

From the Show: Staying Well
Summary: A whopping 88 percent of U.S. adults have gambled at some point in their life; but when does it turn into a problem?
Air Date: 3/9/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Damon Dye, EdD, LMHC, BACC
Damon DyeDamon Dye, Ed.D., is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor/Supervisor, a National Certified Gambling Counselor/Supervisor, and a National Board Approved Clinical Consultant for the National Council on Problem Gambling.

He specializes in trauma and couples work certified in Advanced Clinical Brainspotting through Attachment, Complex PTSD, and Dissociation.

He has become involved in Gottman couples therapy and Emotional Focused Therapy for couples. Dr. Dye manages a private practice, Triangle Resolutions, specializing with problem gambling, couples therapy, trauma therapy, and children located in the Tampa Bay area, and is also an Adjunct Professor for Springfield College. He earned his Masters of Science of Mental Health Counseling from Springfield College and his Doctorate of Education in Counseling Psychology from Argosy University, Sarasota.

Dr. Dye has worked with gamblers and their families in both residential and outpatient settings. In addition to clinical work he has been actively involved in training, consultation, research, and publication. Dr. Dye has provided gambling addiction assessment and treatment training for local Drug Courts and has been retained as a forensic expert testifying on gambling addiction for both Federal and local jurisdiction cases.

Dr. Dye was also invited, through the Florida Certification Board as a Developmental Committee member, for credential creation of the Certified Gambling Addiction Counselor (CGAC) and has been providing trainings since 2005 for professionals on problem gambling from numerous settings from residential, to statewide conferences, schools of addiction, and undergraduate courses.

Dr. Dye has also been contracted as a trauma expert for the International Association of Trauma Professionals (IATP) to develop and train professionals on traumatic stress associated with gambling addiction.
Gambling Addiction: How to Spot the Warning Signs
Related Article
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, approximately three million American adults have a gambling addiction. Damon Dye, EdD, sheds some light on what gambling addiction really is and what you can do to help yourself or a loved one who’s addicted.

A gambling addiction is similar to drug or alcohol addiction, because biochemical changes happen in the brain that make it nearly impossible for the addict to control or modify their behavior. Damon Dye, a licensed mental health professional and a National Board Approved Clinical Consultant for the National Council on Problem Gambling, estimates that a gambling addiction affects around three percent of the population. Between 95 and 97 percent of people can gamble without becoming addicted.

Casual vs. Problematic

So, how can you tell when your gambling habits have crossed from recreational to addictive? Most gambling is done socially, so signs you may be addicted can include things like hiding your gambling, spending money you can’t afford to lose, selling items just to fund your gambles, and letting the time spent gambling affect your social, work, and family life.

There are two main types of gambling. The first is action gambling, which includes sports betting and dog track racing, and focuses on the action and thrill of all the commotion. The second type is called escape, and includes the more private gambling like slot machines. With either type of gambling, money becomes a vehicle for the problem; you can make huge wagers and win big, or lose big. Even if you win, you may still be addicted if you are sacrificing important work or family time to be there.

Identifying and Treating Gambling Addiction

Unlike gambling, an alcohol or drug addiction can be easier to spot because it affects you physically and mentally. Gambling is less apparent because it’s hidden deep within the mind. Potential red flags you may notice include a personality change, discrepancies with money, no sense of trust, or something you just can’t place your finger on. Lying about gambling and betting more than you intended also indicate that help is needed.

Treatment for gambling addiction is similar to drugs and alcohol. Dye recommends a family use as many resources as you can find to get started. You can use a Gambler’s Anonymous group, find a professional counselor, or both.

Sometimes, the chance of developing an addiction is increased with certain underlying factors like ADD, depression, or bipolar disorder. Getting a specialist to rule these elements out will help you treat it more accordingly. Lastly, if you or someone you know may have a gambling problem, please call 1.800.522.4700 for support.

In the accompanying audio segment, Damon Dye, EdD, LMHC, BACC, shares why gambling addictions, even though very prevalent, aren't taken as serious as other addictions, as well as how to spot the warning signs.

Alonso is a long-time health and wellness advocate who loves to write about it. His writing spans the scope of blogs, educational magazines, and books, both on and offline.