Hypnotherapy for Gambling Addiction

May 3, 2024

Gambling addiction is another name for compulsive gambling. It’s a behavioral addiction in which you can’t control your gambling behaviors, even if you lose money.

This addiction can have serious consequences on your finances, work situations, and personal relationships. Even though The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) doesn’t recognize it as an addiction, it’s still classified as a “gambling disorder.” 

Gambling addiction can be treated with a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and support. Some individuals might consider hypnotherapy if they can’t control their gambling. 

What is hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is known as hypnotism or hypnotic medicine. When most people think of hypnotism, they think of a hypnotist who puts them to “sleep” and gets them to do or say whatever they want. However, it can be used as a therapeutic tool for many mental health conditions. 

Scientists and experts don’t support hypnotherapy due to the lack of evidence that suggests it helps gambling addiction. Regardless, the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association recognized hypnotherapy as a valid form of therapy in 1958. 

In addition, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) listed it as a treatment for chronic pain in 1995. During the session, the patient goes into a hypnotic state. Contrary to popular belief, the patient isn’t controlled.

Rather, they rely on inner guidance to change their behavioral patterns or manage their lives. Hypnotism helps them achieve a heightened state of awareness so they can respond to their psychological problems in a healthy way. 

How does hypnosis work in gambling?

Hypnotherapy shouldn’t be used as a replacement for psychotherapy. Healthcare providers or mental health professionals will determine whether hypnotherapy should be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment. 

Hypnosis works by responding to the subconscious mind, where addictions and unhealthy behavioral patterns lie. Unlike psychotherapy, hypnotherapy can be done in short sessions of 15 to 20 minutes at a time.  

The length of hypnotherapy required depends on the complexity and severity of the problem. It’s not the gambling that’s the issue. There’s an underlying reason for the problem. Possible factors include anxiety, depression, fear, stress, and low self-esteem. 

Hypnotherapy involves identifying those underlying issues or triggers. The hypnotherapist might incorporate other forms of therapy like EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), psychotherapy, and regression, for more of a well-rounded approach. 

Does hypnotherapy for gambling really work?

The brain can respond well to hypnotherapy. However, there aren’t any studies that show how a single hypnotherapy session can help a person recover from gambling addiction. 

Hypnotherapy has been suggested for individuals to quit other unhealthy habits, such as cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol. Yet, no strong evidence suggests that it helped these patients. 

A study from Routledge Taylor & Francis Group found that hypnosis used along with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) led to positive results in gambling addicts. Most chronic gamblers will require the use of support groups and other treatment options for effective recovery. 

Having support is integral to one’s success. A well-rounded treatment plan builds trust and confidence in themselves. It also helps them rebuild trust and repair relationships with friends and family. 

Other Treatment Options

If you find that hypnotherapy doesn’t work for you, you might want to consider other treatment options. First, you should get diagnosed with a gambling disorder. 

According to the American Psychiatric Association, only people who meet at least a handful of the following nine criteria are said to have a gambling disorder. The nine criteria include:

  • Gambling to escape distressing thoughts and feelings

  • Increasing amounts of money to achieve the desired feeling

  • Repeated efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling 

  • Irritability or restlessness when attempting to cut back or abstain from gambling 

  • Preoccupation with gambling, including new strategies and ways to get money

  • Chasing losses 

  • Lying about gambling habits 

  • Jeopardizing one’s relationship, career, or educational opportunities from gambling 

  • Relying on other’s finances to support gambling 

If you identify with four of these signs and symptoms, you could have a gambling addiction. You should get an official diagnosis from a healthcare provider or mental health professional. 

After this, the next step would be to seek treatment. Treatment options for gambling addiction involve three types of intervention methods:

  • Gambling support groups. Gambling addicts might find support groups like Gambler’s Anonymous beneficial to their treatment. Gambler’s Anonymous follows the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous and only requires a desire to quit gambling. Participants share their experiences with gambling and support one another with their recovery. 

  • Medication. There is no FDA-approved medication for gambling disorders. Yale Medicine found that certain types of opioid antagonists, used to curb alcohol cravings, have been effective at treating gambling addiction in its clinical trials. In addition, the SSRI antidepressant escitalopram is beneficial for those who struggle with anxiety and other co-occurring mental health disorders. Paroxetine is another SSRI that helps with mood disorders. While these studies are promising, additional research is needed to treat gambling addiction.

  • Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy involves different approaches that range from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to individual or group counseling. CBT helps patients identify the behaviors and thought processes that cause them to gamble. Another option is motivational interviewing or enhancement strategies that increase their motivation to change. Over time, their motivation becomes stronger than their urge. 

Speaking of psychotherapy, Birches Health offers problem gambling therapy in a virtual environment. Our assessment is private and free to use. You’ll get connected with a licensed mental health professional who can help with your specific problem. Take the assessment today. 

Resources:

What is Gambling Disorder?

DSM-5 Diagnosis Criteria

Hypnotherapy

Does hypnotherapy help people who are trying to stop smoking?

Waking Self-Hypnosis Efficacy In Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment For Pathological Gambling: An Effectiveness Clinical Assay

Gambling Disorder > Fact Sheets > Yale Medicine

Compulsive gambling - Diagnosis & treatment - Mayo Clinic

Treatment recommendations for gambling disorders | Mass.gov

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