Gamblers Anonymous (GA) is a twelve-step program for people who have a gambling problem. The only requirement for membership is a desire to cease problem gambling. This is a compulsion or addiction which is associated with financial insecurity, dysfunctional families, legal problems, employment difficulties, psychological distress and higher rates of suicide and attempted suicide.
Problem gambling is estimated to occur in 1.6% of the adult population in the United States. GA has a list of twenty questions that can be used to self-diagnose compulsive gambling. The results from their instrument have correlated strongly with other tests that screen for compulsive gambling (e.g. the Total Sensation Seeking Scale, Boredom Susceptibility, Experience Seeking, South Oaks Gambling Screen, and Disinhibition subscales).
Compared to problem gamblers who do not attend GA, GA members tend to have more severe gambling problems, are older, have higher incomes, are less likely to be single, have more years of gambling problems, have larger debts, have more serious family conflicts, and less serious substance abuse problems. GA may not be as effective for those who have not had significant gambling problems. GA is effective to prevent "relapses" (inability to remain abstinent from gambling), but not as effective when helping members deal with the consequences of their relapse.
GA spends much of its time and energy counseling members on how to deal with financial and legal problems. GA supports "pressure relief groups" where members take each other to task and encourage them to "get honest" with people in their lives and get their affairs in order. Gamblers who are able to moderate their activity are not likely to continue attending GA meetings. GA members who stopped attending meetings were more likely to consider the sharing at the meetings "meaningless" and were more critical of GA literature. Those who felt particularly elated at their first GA meetings were less likely to continue than those who had a more balanced first impression. GA, therefore, may be most suitable for severe problem gamblers who do not have compounding issues.
Less than 8% of those who initially attend GA remain in the program and abstinent from gambling for over a year. Program participation and abstinence increase if members are involved in additional therapy, or if one or more of their family members are involved in Gam-Anon or Gam-A-Teen.
Although the likelihood of attending GA is the same for males and females, GA has been characterized as a predominately male fellowship. The number of female members, however, is increasing and there is an increasing sensitivity within GA to women's attitudes. GA's lack of appeal towards females has been attributed to GA's lack of focus on the principles of spirituality in other twelve-step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). A causal link, however, has not been shown. GA is often described as more secularized than AA.
Among problem gamblers, it has been found that women are more focused on interpersonal issues, and that social issues were more likely to cause them to "relapse." Males more frequently discuss "external concerns" such as jobs and legal problems, and are more likely to relapse because of substance abuse. Therefore, it does seem plausible that GA's downplaying of spiritual, interpersonal, and psychoemotional issues, inhibits its effectiveness for women.
Gamblers Anonymous has several approved books used as standard literature in the group. These are some of the most popular examples:
^Kuley, Nadia B.; Jacobs, Durand F. (September 1988). "The relationship between dissociative-like experiences and sensation seeking among social and problem gamblers". Journal of Gambling Studies4 (3): 197–207. doi:10.1007/BF01018332. ISSN1050-5350.
^Ciarrocchi, Joseph W.; Reinert, Duane F. (December 1993). "Family environment and length of recovery for married male members of Gamblers Anonymous and female members of GamAnon". Journal of Gambling Studies9 (4): 341–352. doi:10.1007/BF01014626. ISSN1050-5350.
^Browne, Basil R. (September 1994). "Really not god: Secularization and pragmatism in Gamblers Anonymous". Journal of Gambling Studies10 (3): 247–260. doi:10.1007/BF02104966. ISSN1050-5350.
^Preston, Frederick W.; Smith, Ronald W. (September 1985). "Delabeling and relabeling in Gamblers Anonymous: Problems with transferring the Alcoholics Anonymous paradigm". Journal of Gambling Studies1 (2): 97–105. doi:10.1007/BF01019862. ISSN1050-5350.
Campbell, F., & Lester, D. (1999). The impact of gambling opportunities on compulsive gambling: Journal of Social Psychology Vol 139(1) Feb 1999, 126-127.
Cunningham, J. A. (2005). Little Use of Treatment Among Problem Gamblers: Psychiatric Services Vol 56(8) Aug 2005, 1024-1025.
Ferentzy, P., Skinner, W., & Antze, P. (2006). Recovery in Gamblers Anonymous: Journal of Gambling Issues No 17 Aug 2006, No Pagination Specified.
Getty, H. A., Watson, J., & Frisch, G. R. (2000). A comparison of depression and styles of coping in male and female GA members and controls: Journal of Gambling Studies Vol 16(4) Win 2000, 377-391.
Lesieur, Henty R.; Rothschild, Jerome (December 1989). "Children of Gamblers Anonymous members". Journal of Gambling Studies5 (4): 269–281. doi:10.1007/BF01672428. ISSN1573-3602.
Petry, N. M. (March 2002). "Psychosocial treatments for pathological gambling: Current status and future directions". Psychiatric Annals32 (3): 192–196. doi:10.3928/0048-5713-20020301-09.Adesso, V. J. (May 1995). "Diversity Confronts the Monolith". PsychCRITIQUES40 (5).
Petry, N. M. (August 2003). "Patterns and correlates of gamblers anonymous attendance in pathological seeking professional treatment". Addictive Behaviors28 (6): 1049–1062. doi:10.1016/S0306-4603(02)00233-2. PMID12834650.
Petry, N. M., Litt, M. D., Kadden, R., & Ledgerwood, D. M. (August 2007). "Do coping skills mediate the relationship between cognitive-behavioral therapy and reductions in gambling in pathological gamblers?". Addiction102 (8): 1280–1291. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2007.01907.x. PMID17624978.
Rossol, J. (2001). "The medicalization of deviance as an interactive achievement: The construction of compulsive gambling". Symbolic Interaction24 (3): 315–341. doi:10.1525/si.2001.24.3.315.