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Problem Gambling: Addiction or Habit?

Do you know someone who gambles excessively?  If so, perhaps you’ve wondered if this individual just had a bad habit or if he or she was actually addicted to gambling.  It’s a question that even the experts have debated.  But the latest diagnostic publication of the American Psychiatric Association, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)-V, confirms that excessive gambling can indeed be an addiction, just like substance abuse.

The Nature of Gambling Addiction

“Problem” gambling, also referred to as pathological or compulsive gambling, affects an estimated 2 – 4% of the population. Before recent changes by mental health clinicians, it was classified as in impulse control disorder.  Like kleptomania (uncontrollable stealing) or pyromania (impulsive fire setting), compulsive gambling was considered a mental disorder associated with poor impulse control.

With further research, a new classification of the disorder has been made.  In the DSM-V, compulsive gambling is considered to be one of the “substance-related and addictive disorders.”  Why the change?  There is growing clinical evidence that pathological gambling has much in common with traditional substance abuse disorders.

First, the effects of the respective disorders on individuals’ work, financial, and personal lives can be similar. Neurochemical testing and brain imaging have also made a case for the belief that gambling activates the brain’s reward system in a manner similar to drugs.  For example, compulsive gamblers report highs from gambling as well as cravings.  Furthermore, gambling problems tend to run in families, indicating potential genetic factors. Finally, pathological gamblers are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs.

Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

In order for an individual to be classified as having a gambling disorder, at least 4 of the following symptoms must be present:

  • Frequent preoccupation with gambling;
  • Tendency to gamble increasingly large amounts of money;
  • Using gambling to cope with feeling distressed;
  • Lack of success in controlling, cutting back, or stopping the behavior;
  • Lying to others to hide gambling or committing illegal acts to finance;
  • Restlessness or irritability when attempting to decrease or stop gambling;
  • Frequent and often long-term “chasing” of losses with increased gambling;
  • Loss of a job or relationship due to behavior;
  • Reliance upon others to get out of financial straits.

Many of these symptoms resemble classic addictive symptoms, such as withdrawal and loss of control.

Individuals with pathological gambling problems are more likely to exhibit symptoms of other psychiatric problems.  In addition to substance abuse, such problems may include mood disorders, anxiety, or personality disorders.

While the effects of pathological gambling should not be minimized, viewing the behavior as evidence of an addiction rather than a character flaw can be helpful in encouraging an individual to seek treatment.  It may also remove some of the stigma associated with the behavior.  With appropriate intervention, individuals with gambling addictions can recover and live productive lives. (And that’s a sure bet!)

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Mental Illness a Leading Cause of Disability in the U.S.

When the subject of disabilities surfaces in our thoughts or conversations, it is common to first consider those caused by some type of physical ailment or affliction. Conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and back problems are certainly primary causes of long-term disabilities in our nation. However, mental illness is the leading cause of disability in U.S. citizens ranging in ages from 15 to 44, according to National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) statistics.

What these numbers show is that many Americans and people around the world are affected by illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and a host of other mood and anxiety disorders in the prime of their working lives. Unfortunately, these numbers show no sign of subsiding anytime soon. In fact, they continue to rise, as do the number of filings with the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) for disability benefits due to mental illnesses.

The SSA and Mental Illness Claims

The SSA has established specific criteria that qualify those suffering with mental disorders for disability benefits. Basically, it must be determined that an existing mental condition limits or impairs one’s ability to fulfill their work obligations. In most situations, assessments and evaluations must be performed by mental health professionals. Additionally, evidence must be submitted to the SSA that indicates the individual in question is unable to perform their assigned job duties as a consequence of their condition.

Getting Back on their Feet

It is important for those with mental health issues to make their employers aware of their situation. All too often, workers are hesitant or afraid to address their condition with their employers for fear of negative repercussions. But behavioral or productivity problems could lead to termination, which also often results in the loss of insurance, creating even more problems for these individuals in regard to receiving treatment.

When documented mental health issues are reported to an employer, they are obligated under Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations to accommodate that employee with whatever they need to successfully perform their job duties, or to make their working situation as comfortable as possible. In lieu of applying for disability benefits, this can allow an employee to continue to work while receiving mental health treatment and take measures that will eventually enable them to effectively manage their condition.

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This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.

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Addiction Recovery: Aftercare Keeps Addicts on the Path to Wellness

Whether an individual is addicted to alcohol, drugs or a combination of both, addiction recovery is often a long and arduous process. In fact, recovery is a lifelong endeavor where the addict may experience many ups and downs and ride a figurative “roller coaster” of emotions and cravings until they have achieved abstinence and settled into healthier patterns.

In many instances, some type of intervention by friends, family or other sources is the first step toward encouraging an addict to enter into a recovery program. Then, the addiction treatment and recovery process begins, which generally consists of detoxification, intensive counseling and sometimes a stay at a rehabilitation facility.

Continuing Care is Crucial

Though many addicts eventually go into “remission,” and reach a point where they are able to manage their desire to use, the tendency to relapse is always a concern. Many addicts are able to eventually completely cease their addictive behaviors and move forward with their lives. However, others may fall back into destructive patterns at some point, even if their former behaviors lay dormant for years.

This is why aftercare plays such a vital role in the recovery process. After successful completion of a treatment program, counselors or clinicians will tailor an aftercare or “continuing care” plan to fit the individual needs of a recovering addict.

Aftercare programs are usually administered for at least six months after initial treatment. They may include admission into a transitional facility for a period of time, and in most cases are ongoing at least on some level. Continuing care can consist of a variety of activities including regular meetings, counseling sessions and the joining of a 12-step or group support program.

Developing relationships with other recovering addicts who have achieved sobriety is often very helpful. Avoiding unhealthy environments where temptations may exist is strongly encouraged. With attentive support, ongoing education and periodic counseling, the recovering addict can change their course and develop the skills necessary to live a good, productive and sober life.

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This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.

 

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Dealing with the Quarterlife Crisis

The prevalence of the “quarterlife crisis” – essentially, a midlife crisis that occurs in your 20s – seems to be on the rise.

Many young people experience some degree of stress, self-doubt and lack of motivation upon entering the “real world” after college. However, the phenomenon of the quarterlife crisis seems to be increasingly common as fewer young adults reach the traditional milestones of success, though pressures to achieve them remain the same.

Research shows that up to 86 percent of young adults feel pressure to succeed in careers and relationships by the time they reach age 30. However, only 11 percent actually attain conventional markers of achievement such as obtaining a steady job, getting married and having children by their 30th birthday. Likely due to this discrepancy, up to 73 percent of 26 to 30 year olds may experience a quarterlife crisis.

So what are some things you can do to deal with a quarterlife crisis? Experts say it’s important to redefine your idea of success and stop comparing yourself to others. Instead of despairing over why you don’t have your dream job or the perfect relationship, try defining success by what you have to offer others. Try volunteering and other skill- and character-building activities. Remember that life is not a race and that everyone is on their own path.

Dr. Paul E. Keck, Jr., President and CEO of Lindner Center of HOPE, recently gave a talk on this subject on LA Talk Radio’s Answers 4 the Family radio show. Check out Dr. Keck’s talk, “Failure to Launch – What’s Really Holding Back Emerging Adults?”

In some cases, quarterlife crises may lead to anxiety, depression, eating disorders or even addictive disorders. If you or a twenty-something family member is displaying signs of a psychological or addictive disorder, it’s important they receive prompt and effective treatment. Contact Lindner Center of HOPE for more information on screening and treatments for mood disorders and other conditions.

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This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.

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Addiction is a Disease — It Changes the Brain

23 million people need treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem. Check out this infographic from the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare for more info on addictions and treatment.

 

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Addiction Recovery: Admitting That a Problem Exists is the First Step

Addictions not only affect the physical, emotional and mental health of the addict, but also create a burden for the people in their lives. Even after emphatically urging them to seek treatment, those close to an addict or severe substance abuser are often helpless as they watch their friend or loved one sink further into the depths of addiction.

There are many dangers and potentially deadly complications associated with drug, alcohol abuse and addiction. But the greatest danger is the unwillingness of the addict to accept the fact that there is a problem and admit they need help. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a devastating event in their life — such as an automobile accident, an arrest or an overdose — for the addict to finally agree to receive addiction treatment.

Signs of an Addiction

An addictive disorder exists when an individual is unable to control their drug or alcohol use to the point where these substances play a dominant role in their life. Other addictive behaviors and signs include changes in mood and appearance, the eschewing of personal and work responsibilities and experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when the substance is not available.

Overcoming Denial

It is not uncommon for drug or alcohol addicts to minimize the seriousness of their problem or flat out deny its existence. Denial is often deeply ingrained within an individual, convincing themselves there is no real problem or they can “quit anytime they want to.”

Denial is a major reason why addicts many times hit “rock bottom” before they begin to consider taking steps toward recovery. Optimally, the realization that help is needed will emerge within the addict before intervention becomes necessary. From there, addiction recovery can begin through routes such as education, therapy, support groups and specialized treatment centers. But it all begins with the addict admitting their dilemma, and expressing a sincere desire to recover.

 

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This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.

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Addictions are Often the Next Step beyond Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is certainly not restricted to the young. Anyone at any age can develop a repetitive pattern of drug and alcohol use that can damage their physical and mental health, threaten their relationships and diminish their performance at school or on the job.

From Use to Abuse to Addiction

Why are some people able to eventually move away from use and abuse while others become captives of addiction? The answer to this question is not always easy to pin down. But there are a number of factors that may play into the development of an addiction.

Genetic, psychological and environmental influences are key contributors toward addictive behaviors. Numerous studies have revealed that a biological predisposition exists in a large percentage of those addicted to drugs or alcohol. Other types of individuals prone to self-medicate include those that suffer with a mental illness; were raised in extremely dysfunctional homes; or have been subjected to some form of abuse.

What usually begins as occasional drug or alcohol use to soothe wounds or provide temporary pleasure will often evolve into regular use or abuse. The next stage is dependence or the inability to stop consumption of drugs or alcohol without showing symptoms of withdrawal. These are sure signs of full-blown addictive disorders.

Addiction Treatment

Addiction centers can be found in most metropolitan in the U.S. One example is Lindner Center of HOPE’s Sibcy House. Located just north of Cincinnati, Ohio, Sibcy House offers cutting-edge addictive disorders treatment and a patient analysis that begins with a thorough diagnosis.

Addiction recovery can be lengthy and at times difficult. But with the establishment of proper care and a willingness from the patient to get to a healthier place in their lives, a successful recovery is well within reach.

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This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.

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Treatment for Mental Illness can be Supplemented by Lifestyle Changes

The numbers vary according to the source, but they are still staggering.

The fact is that millions of Americans struggle with mental illness, addictions and a wide range of other mental health problems.

The good news is that many of these afflictions are treatable through psychotherapy and medication. However, successful mental health treatment is dependent upon a number of factors, not the least of which is often a decision on the part of the individual to do whatever it takes to get better.

Severe addictions and mental disorders at times require intervention to ensure an individual receives treatment. However, many others who suffer with mental health issues eventually find themselves at a crossroads. Eventually, they reach a point where they realize they have extreme difficulty in improving the quality of their lives unless they get help.

Not an Easy Road

Depending on the type and severity of a mental health condition, treatment can sometimes be a lengthy and somewhat arduous process. But for multitudes of people who have moved forward to live good and productive lives, strictly adhering to a treatment plan has been well worth the effort.

Whether undergoing depression treatment, OCD treatment or PTSD treatment, most treatment methods call for the patient to change certain behavior patterns and overcome thoughts and feelings they have become accustomed to over time. This can be difficult and even painstaking. But many come through these therapies and treatments with a much different outlook and often times a new lease on life.

An Ongoing Process

For most people with mental health conditions, treatment is an ongoing proposition. Even after successful therapeutic endeavors and finding the right medications, a patient can maintain and even improve their newfound wellness by creating a balance in their lives and developing healthier habits.

These may include:

●Changing to a more nutritious diet

● Exercising regularly

● Finding fun and creative ways to reduce stress

● Joining a support group

 

Fortifying the progress of a proven mental health treatment plan with positive lifestyle changes can help a patient create a healthy consistency in both their body and mind.

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Loosening the Destructive Grip of Addictive Disorders

Addictions come in many forms. But those suffering with develop an uncontrollable urge to revisit a substance, activity or behavior in order to satisfy a need or desire. An addiction may fill a void in one’s life, or act as a salve for a festering emotional wound.

Those at the mercy of their addictive behaviors often experience gradually increasing levels of emotional pain and deteriorating mental or physical health. Another byproduct of serious addiction is the tendency to eschew responsibilities and neglect important aspects within one’s life, such as friends, family, school and career. Many suffering with addictions are also prone to struggles with depression.

Treating Addictive Disorders

Addictive personality disorder is a condition where an individual carries traits making them more susceptible to addictive behaviors. However, anyone at any stage or walk of life can develop an addiction.

People can become addicted to eating, gambling, smoking, exercise and countless other activities that offer comfort or what they determine to be an “escape.” But the most pervasive and widely-publicized addiction in our society involves alcohol and drugs.

Alcoholism and drug addiction are serious health problems in the U.S. and around the world. Those who become dependent on alcohol and drugs subject themselves to a life full of difficulties ranging from relationship and legal problems to homelessness and destitution.

Addiction recovery is often a long-term and sometimes arduous process. But with proper medical care and support from friends and family, addiction treatment can be successful.

Inpatient addiction centers such as Cincinnati, Ohio’s Lindner Center of Hope and Sibcy House are examples of facilities providing environments conducive to success in treating addictive disorders. Using a team of experienced mental health specialists and an intensive, cutting-edge treatment plan focusing on detoxification and stabilization, Lindner Center of Hope sets the standard for addiction treatment. Its reputation for helping those with addictive disorders go on to live fulfilling, productive lives continues to grow.