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The Role of Denial and Defense Mechanisms in Hindering Recovery from Problem Gambling

Denial and Defense Mechanisms in Problem Gambling

The concept of denial is not acknowledging reality, often used to avoid anxiety arising from unacceptable thoughts or feelings. According to Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., defense mechanisms are psychological strategies that protect a person from anxiety by distorting reality. This distortion allows compulsive gamblers to create a safe, detached world, shielding them from confronting the true extent of their addiction. Unfortunately, denial operates beneath the individual’s awareness, hindering them from leading a healthy, honest lifestyle.

Denial intertwines with gambling addiction, constructing an intricate web of lies and defense mechanisms. As a result, problem gamblers genuinely believe their irrational behaviors, preventing them from admitting the existence of a problem – a crucial step towards recovery. The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) emphasizes the significance of acknowledging the problem through its HelpLine number: 888-ADMIT-IT.

There are eight types of denial, including simple denial, blaming, minimizing, rationalizing, anger/hostility, diversion, intellectualizing, and humor. Each type serves as a barrier to addressing the gambling issue, preventing the individual from seeking help or acknowledging the consequences of their actions.

The path to recovery involves four stages, beginning with total denial, followed by admission, acceptance, and surrender. Each stage marks a progression towards acknowledging and addressing the addiction, ultimately leading to recovery.

If you find yourself or a loved one exhibiting these behaviors, it’s essential to seek help. The Florida Problem Gambling HelpLine, 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848), offers confidential, multilingual support and resources 24/7. Seeking help at any stage of the addiction is crucial, and it’s never too early or too late to take the first step towards recovery.

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.