Negation: The Roadblock to Recovery from Gambling Addiction
Negation is the act of refusing to acknowledge reality. It often involves denying a problem, feeling, or loss. According to Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., writing for Simply Psychology, defense mechanisms are psychological strategies used unconsciously to protect a person from anxiety caused by unacceptable thoughts or feelings. These mechanisms involve distorting reality in some way to cope with a situation, as per Freudian theory.
For compulsive gamblers, negation allows them to create a safe world, shielding them from realities they are not ready to face. This defense mechanism operates below the normal level of awareness and hinders living a healthy and honest lifestyle. It progresses alongside gambling addiction, constructing an elaborate system of lies and defenses. This leads the problematic gambler to genuinely believe in their actions, no matter how irrational. The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) highlights that negation acts as a barrier to admitting and accepting the presence of a problem, which is the first step towards recovery.
There are eight types of negation, including simple denial, blaming others, minimizing the problem, rationalizing, using anger and hostility, diverting attention, intellectualizing, and using humor. These behaviors can keep a problematic gambler trapped in their addiction. As the illness progresses, the individual will structure their life to support denial in relationships, careers, friendships, and social circles.
The road to recovery involves four stages: total denial, admission, acceptance, and surrender. A problematic gambler may start by denying the issue, then admit it to others, but not be ready to make a change. Eventually, they move towards accepting and believing in their addiction, leading to complete surrender and the willingness to fight for recovery.
Whether you or a loved one resonate with these behaviors, seeking help is crucial. It is never too early or too late to reach out, and the FCCG’s 24/7 Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine at 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848) offers free support, resources, and guidance. By facing the issue head-on, recovery becomes possible.
1. Mcleod, Saul. “Defense Mechanisms In Psychology Explained (+ Examples).” Simply Psychology. June 15, 2023.
2. Marcy, Nichols. No-Dice: Safety Net to Recovery. Self Published, 2005.