Sep 14

Many people enjoy gambling, whether betting on a horse or playing poker on their computer. Most of these people don’t have a problem, but some lose control over their gambling. They bet high amounts of money on card games, in casinos or playing slot machines. Today, people don’t even have to leave their homes to satisfy their drive to gamble anymore: the Internet allows one to spend unlimited hours playing games or placing bets without anyone interfering by asking uncomfortable questions – actually, many of the respective companies behind such websites try to keep people gambling as long and for as much money as possible. But once used to the rituals involved in a game, it is very hard for most to resist the urge of doing it again – if ‘only one more time’ in order to reverse their losses…

Typical signs of a serious gambling problem include:

  • Always thinking about gambling
  • Lying about gambling
  • Gambling during work
  • Spending family time gambling
  • Feeling bad after you gamble – but still not quitting
  • Gambling with money needed for other things – asking friends or family members for money or even breaking the law in order to obtain gambling money or recover gambling losses

The difference between a casual gambler and a compulsive gambler is that the latter one feels restless or irritated when they can’t gamble. They need the kick of betting money and will use gambling to relieve tension. While they may have tried to reduce gambling, they were not successful in the end. Effectively, they are losing not only money, but also valuable time from their lives, which are affected not only by the addiction itself but also by the long-term damage it causes them. An Australian study recently showed that 17% of suicidal people were problem gamblers.

Effective treatments for problem gambling involve a combination of counseling, step-based programs, self-help and peer-support. Sometimes medication is prescribed as well, however, only using one of these treatments alone is not considered to be sufficiently efficacious and no medications have been approved for the treatment of pathological gambling by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2010)

Jul 28

counseling: who needs such a thing?‘ This is about the view some veteran personalities express when the issue comes to psychotherapy or counseling. psychotherapy still has a dubious image – people who need it would have to be losers or people who don’t have control over their lives.

But a look outside the box shows that in progressive and self-critical, competitive societies, approaches such as psychotherapy, coaching or counseling are well accepted aids in difficult situations of life. Celebrities talk openly about how they learned more about themselves in psychotherapy, and managers report about achieving new momentum through coaching on a regular basis for their challenging job.

To see the potential of counseling, one has to understand that a person’s ability to help and ‘advise’ herself is actually quite limited. Each of us has a very personal way to deal with problems: again and again we apply pretty much the same strategies – and even if they fail, most of us tend to just try harder, even at the risk of a disaster. counseling and therapy however primarily bring in neutral and unbiased feedback from a professional not stuck in the dilemma – often, he can also introduce new perspectives and establish new and creative ways of dealing with the challenge to ease overcoming the obstacles for a solution.
In this sense, seeking counseling, coaching or psychotherapy is a sign of foresight and intelligence: that someone considers himself and his life so valuable that he no longer accepts feeling unhappy or wastes time by just relying on his own ways of thinking.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2010)