Are You a Gambler-holic?

Kimmel & Associates e-Letter

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates

Volume 6, Number 5

May is Mental Health Month in America. Started in 1949, its purpose is to call attention to mental health issues and to destigmatize people with mental health problems. Like many medical issues, mental health problems can be treated with therapy, medication, lifestyle change, and a combination of these treatments. If you or someone you know suffers from mental health problems, we urge you to be understanding and supportive of them.

In this May E-Letter, we present information about gambling addiction, our Ask the Doc question explains EMDR therapy, and our email of the month is about an Irish Blessing. We hope you find the enclosed information helpful. As always, we appreciate your questions and feedback.

Practice News

We have received much feedback regarding workaholism, anger management, and intimacy which were the topics of recent E-Letters. So much so, that we are considering having, at no charge, small group discussions or workshops to further explore these and other topics. These discussions will be educational rather than clinical in nature. Please let us know by email,, what topics you would find of interest. You can find previous topics under the E-Letters section of our website.

We are also currently conducting psychoeducational evaluations to identify learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder, or other types of problems that interfere with academic performance. We would be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have about your child’s functioning in school and whether they are performing at their potential. You can either call us at (954) 755-2885 or send us an email.

Handouts from previous e-Letters can be found on our website. We invite you to read and download them if desired.


Our E-Letter this month focuses on an addiction that many people have but fail to recognize, that of gambling. Gambling addicts are usually of two types who both suffer from low self esteem. Action gamblers appear controlling, successful, full of themselves, and sociable. They believe they are skillful enough to beat the house. Escape gamblers gamble to escape from their pain and their problems. In America alone, there are more than 3 million gambling addicts. As casinos spread quickly and online access to gambling sites increases, the number of gambling addicts is expected to rise. College students are particularly vulnerable to becoming gambling addicts because of boredom, free time, easy access to online casinos, and the ability to play all hours of the night and day. Senior citizens are also increasingly becoming gambling addicts because of boredom, free time, the social aspects and community trips to casinos.

  • People who become gambling addicts often need to gamble more and more or place higher and higher bets to achieve the same level of satisfaction previously gotten from gambling. At many casinos, gambling addicts feel like they enter another world where their problems and issues do not exist. They are made to feel as if they are important and given recognition and special gifts to confirm their importance. They are mailed invitations with free play and comped food and rooms, all designed to give them a false sense of importance. Their self esteem gets elevated and they experience a “high” when gambling. However, invariably they lose and drastic consequences often ensue.
  • Gambling addicts become consumed with gambling; it is all they can think about. Gambling strains their relationships and families often break up when one parent is a gambling addict. Gambling also interferes with work responsibilities and often gamblers skip work or come in late. They are obsessed with the big win which if it happens, is never big enough. They are in a state of denial and believe that they don’t have an addiction until they get into serious trouble. They will run out of money and exhaust all resources to continue gambling. They may steal or pawn property in order to feed their habit. Eventually gambling addicts become desperate and irrationally believe that a winning streak will solve all their problems. They look to anybody and any means to bail them out of financial difficulty. They also become depressed and anxious. If they don’t seek treatment, they can become hopeless where they don’t care about what happens to them. They will have DUIs, arrests, divorces, emotional breakdowns, and substance abuse problems. 20% of the time, gamblers who are desperate will attempt suicide.
  • The first step in overcoming gambling addiction is to recognize and admit that there is a problem that is uncontrollable. 12-step programs such as Gamblers Anonymous (GA) have helped many people recover from an addiction. There are also other support programs or state agencies that will provide help in overcoming this addiction. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be quite effective in changing irrational thoughts about gambling and resolving deeper underlying issues. Medication and a combination of these approaches can be quite powerful in stopping compulsive gambling and raising self-esteem.
  • If you believe yourself to be a gambling addict, when you have the urge to gamble, call someone to talk it out with so that you don’t gamble. Keep yourself busy, especially during the times you usually go to the casino. Let someone else manage your money so that you don’t have any to play with. Exercise and eat regularly. Finally, invest yourself in some activity that is meaningful to you and you can feel passionate about.

We offer the following information on Gambling Addiction:

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away, know when to run…”— Kenny Rogers

What to Know!

  • Gambling addiction is an urge to gamble despite harmful negative consequences
  • Gambling addiction/compulsive gambling is recognized as an impulse control disorder
  • Problem gambling is any type of gambling that interferes with or disrupts one’s life
  • There are estimated to be more than 15 million people who are problem gamblers with more than 3 million being compulsive gamblers
  • Gambling is a problem when it disrupts your life to the point where more and more, you think about it, make bigger bets, chase losses, and lie and sneak to place a bet
  • Gambling addicts often go through a series of stages including:
    1. Winning phase where a win results in more frequent gambling, higher bets and increased self esteem
    2. Losing phase where the thinking is only about gambling. Personality changes occur with lying, borrowing, and stealing. The gambling cannot be controlled  and interpersonal relationships break down
    3. Desperation phase where the gambler looks to be bailed out by anybody, legal or illegal, because they have no money. They believe that a big win will fix everything. Depression and suicidal thoughts may occur
    4. Hopeless phase where major consequences occur including divorce, arrests, substance abuse and suicide. All hopes about winning are given up
  • Compulsive gamblers cannot control the impulse to gamble even when they know the harmful consequences; it is all they can think of and want to do
  • Gamblers stop caring about themselves and others, they gamble when happy or depressed, and they even gamble when they know they will lose
  • People turn to gambling because of low self esteem, feeling unimportant, stress, depression, loneliness, boredom, and anxiety
  • People often rationalize their gambling with the following excuses: to provide excitement and get a “rush”, to be with people and be more social, to escape   from problems, to solve financial problems with a big win, to numb other problems, and to escape boredom
  • Gambling addiction is often called the “hidden illness” as there are no obvious physical or emotional signs, it is denied or minimized, and it is often concealed  by the gambler
  • Sports, office pools, lotteries, poker, blackjack, slot machines, and roulette are the some of the most common activities in which people bet
  • Online and internet gambling, especially among college students, is on the rise because it’s easy, people spend a great deal of time on the internet, and it is secretive

What to Do!

  • Recognize that you have a problem with gambling and that winning big is a fantasy
  • If you have an urge to gamble, call someone to stop you
  • Think about the consequences to yourself, to your job, and to your family
  • Let someone else manage your money, stay out of casinos, and fill your free time
  • Exercise, eat and sleep well, and find your passion in another activity
  • Call the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling at 888-ADMIT-IT
  • Attend meetings of Gamblers Anonymous which is a 12-step recovery program
  • Seek professional help to change gambling behaviors and thought patterns

We Can Help!

Call us at (954) 755-2885 or email us at

Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates
5571 N. University Drive, Suite 101
Coral Springs, Florida 33067

As always, we would like to welcome new readers to our e-Letter. We hope that you find it informational and enjoyable. We invite you to share this e-Letter with others. If you have received this from a fellow reader, please send us your email address to include you on our list.

Ask the Doc

LA writes: A fellow worker of mine was making a deposit in a bank when it was robbed about a month ago. She felt terrorized and was unable to eat or sleep afterward and didn’t want to get out of bed. She returned to work last week and said she was doing much better because of getting EMDR therapy. What is EMDR and how did it help her?

Dr. Ann Getzinger replies: Eye Movement Desensitization and Restructuring or EMDR is a therapeutic technique based on the natural effects of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. During REM sleep the brain works to repair itself and reorganize the events of the day. REM sleep is when we dream and EMDR imitates the motion of rapid eye movement in a waking state. In EMDR, the client does not sleep, nor are they in a hypnotic state, but rather the conscious mind relaxes and allows images, ideas, and new consciousness to surface. The mind’s own healing properties facilitate a resolution of traumatic memories.

In EMDR, the therapist acts as a guide and facilitator during the sessions. This process is rapid, but must be done within the context of a course in therapy. This helps the client to contextualize their issues and prepare for the course of EMDR. The length of therapy varies with the patient, but seeks to leave the memories intact and alters the traumatic impact. Sometimes details are changed and new insights gained about the trauma.

Examples of cases I have successfully treated with EMDR include:

  1. A student who was date raped by a former boyfriend and was unable to eat, sleep, or leave her room. She undertook EMDR therapy and was able to return to school, graduate on time, and as she reported “got her life back.”
  2. Another patient was molested by a relative for years and was able to release her anger and process her pain. She had been “stuck” in her trauma for years and was able to let go of several dysfunctional patterns that had kept her from growth.
  3. Another patient was held up at gunpoint and became fearful and anxious whenever she left the house. She suffered panic attacks and recurrent memories. A course of EMDR helped her to resume her life.
  4. One client suffered in Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and moved to South Florida because her home was destroyed. When Hurricane Wilma took the roof off her apartment, she became so depressed and anxious that she was hospitalized. After a course of therapy and EMDR, she was able to return to her home and had plans to rebuild.

EMDR is a hopeful treatment for many major traumas, but it also helps people to deal with smaller scale issues, such as panic attacks, unexplained childhood dilemmas, and car accidents.

If you would like to learn more about EMDR, please call Dr. C. Ann Getzinger, Certified Level II EMDR practitioner, and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist at (954) 755-2885.

Email of the Month

We would like to thank John C. for sending us the following email:

Irish Blessing

His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog.

There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman’s sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved.

‘I want to repay you,’ said the nobleman. ‘You saved my son’s life.’

‘No, I can’t accept payment for what I did,’ the Scottish farmer replied waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer’s own son came to the door of the family hovel.

‘Is that your son?’ the nobleman asked.

‘Yes,’ the farmer replied proudly.

‘I’ll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he’ll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of.’ And that he did.

Farmer Fleming’s son attended the very best schools and in time, graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.

Years afterward, the same nobleman’s son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time? Penicillin.

The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill .. His son’s name?

Sir Winston Churchill.


Work like you don’t need the money.
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Dance like nobody’s watching.
Sing like nobody’s listening.
Live like its Heaven on Earth.

Please continue to send us your comments, questions, and favorite emails for our e-Letter.

Till June…

The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

If you no longer wish to receive future e-Letter reminders, please send an email to requesting to be removed from this list.

If you find this information interesting or helpful, please forward this e-Letter to your contacts and friends.

Copyright © 2014 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates.