When Gambling Takes Over

The casino is a world onto itself. There are no windows, no clock, but there are flashing lights, and the din of clacking coins and whirring slot machines. Beyond the slots, figures are mesmerized at the crap table. Interest in poker hit new heights with televised Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments. For the majority of gamblers, this is excitement, recreation, a fun diversion or escape from the ordinary and a chance to beat the odds. For others, an estimated three percent of the adult population, it’s an addiction, an endless roller coaster of excitement and despair.

A pervasive characteristic of addiction of any kind is that the repeated behaviors have led to a range of negative consequences. This may be putting it mildly in the case of pathological gambling, because someone in the grips of compulsive gambling usually suffers severe blows to finances and relationships before seeking help. His or her life may be in shambles.

Often the compulsive gambler’s denial leads him to believe that the next round will save the day. Of course, if the numbers come up right, the cash or credit won is then “invested” again. Gambling addiction is hardly a recent development, but the advent of electronic poker and the break-neck speed of today’s slot machines, as well as Internet gambling have actually sped up the time it takes to gamble for fun and when it slips into problematic, then compulsive behavior.

Pathological gambling, like other addictions, is both a biological and a behavioral disease. While we don’t know all the factors leading to gambling addiction, they often include social, family and psychological elements. We do know that the brain neuropathways involving the brain’s mechanisms are affected in an individual’s perception of rewarding experiences. The emotional escape that an individual finds in gambling may become entrenched.

We have seen from 15-20 percent of patients who suffer from cross-addictive disorders, such as alcoholism or drug dependency with problem gambling. Some estimates state that 35 percent of those with substance abuse or dependence also have met the diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling at some point in their lives. The SOGS (South Oaks Gambling Screen) is the accepted psychosocial diagnostic tool to identify a gambling problem and its progression.

Both substance and gambling addiction are progressive diseases, and may be characterized by inability to control impulses (to use or to gamble) denial, anxiety mood swings and depression and the need for instant gratification. Gambling, like chemical dependency, offers euphoric highs, which are inevitably followed by emotional valleys and usually remorse and shame. A major difference in gambling versus substance addiction is that the alcoholic or drug addict doesn’t believe the substance is the answer to recovery and to his problems, while the compulsive gambler believes the Big Win will be the answer to all his problems.

Gambling addictions can also result in symptoms such as blackouts and sleep disorders and hopelessness. Divorce, relationship and work problems, even arrests are some devastating consequences of compulsive gambling. A person’s general health is often neglected, including medical conditions that have been ignored. Gambling addiction is certainly a family disease, creating a dysfunctional family system that revolves around the individual’s addiction. Children may be emotionally stranded as well as physically neglected. Kids are affected long term too, with studies estimating 35 to 50 percent of children of pathological gamblers eventually experiencing gambling problems of their own.

It is important that when chemical and gambling addictions co-occur, they are treated at the same time. Like chemical dependency, gambling addiction is addressed in holistic treatment based on the Twelve Step Philosophy. Treatment is individualized and takes into account issues of gender and age.

Gambling: is it the money?

Some experts, including Dr. Henry Lesieur, St. John’s University, NY, who co-authored the SOGS screening assessment, believe it isn’t really about the money, even though money becomes a looming issue. Seeking action seems to be the major impetus for many. Being in action may be similar to the high of taking cocaine. “Chasing losses” is term use by habitual gamblers to describe attempting to recoup the gambling losses by winning. The action gambler usually likes to gamble on site, at a casino, racetrack, or other “live” venue. Often they are identified by casinos as “high rollers” and received comped rooms and meals. Others, though, don’t gamble for action so much as numb their feelings with compulsive gambling, so it becomes the ultimate, albeit temporary escape.

Age and gender as factors

A study by University of Connecticut Health Center psychiatrists published in 2002 evaluated gamblers seeking treatment and found significant differences by age and gender in pathological gamblers. Middle aged (aged 36-55) and older gamblers tended to include more women, at 45-55 percent, than younger gamblers (aged 18-35) at 23 percent. Middle aged and older women didn’t begin gambling regularly until the age of 55, while older men reported a habit of lifelong gambling. Perhaps surprisingly, the women also wagered greatest amounts in the month prior to treatment. Younger gamblers reported most problems with substance abuse, social and legal problems, while older gamblers found more employment-related problems.

There is hope for recovery

Pathological gamblers, like others who suffer from addiction can and do recover. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, can change unhealthy behaviors and thoughts, including false beliefs, rationalizations, and self-destructive feelings. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy also helps individuals to meet life on its own terms rather than escape painful emotions with compulsive addictions.

A holistic treatment program that addresses the root issues of addiction as well as any co-occurring disorders is an effective approach that treats the whole person. Continuing care may be essential, especially for impulse control, as well as ongoing participation in support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. The recovering gambler may also need professional financial advise, and family therapy can help to develop a supportive, healthy family structure for sustained recovery.

Repercussions of Gambling

Ever played poker? Roulette perhaps? Have you ever wagered money when playing? Then, in fact, you have gambled. Gambling is when you wage money for something even when you do not know what the outcome will be. However, gambling seems to be a part of quite a number of people’s lives. It has become a habit, worse, even a psychological problem.

For someone who gambles for the first time, it may not be hard to get out of it. Once you win something by doing it, you may want to try it the second time. When you get the hang of gambling, you will probably want to do it again. The next thing you know, you become unconsciously addicted to it. Even when you wish to stop, there is nothing you can do.

Ludomania is known as the impulse or itch to gamble even when you know its’ corresponding implications. This however is just a minor difficulty. Severe cases actually nod into the direction of a mental disorder. It is called pathological gambling. One is considered to be a pathological gambler if one is preoccupied with gambling all the time and that is mainly all he thinks about. He tends to imagine when he will be playing again in the future or thinks about the game he played yesterday.

When someone tries to recover from gambling problems and still resorts to gambling, then it is also considered pathological gambling. It is also when someone considers gambling as an escape from reality – a sort of a makeshift world when he can be himself at least for that moment to break away from his realities.

One of the most common symptoms is the need to gamble more. When you lose a game, thus losing money, you have the urge to get it back and start gambling again. It is a never ending difficulty to those who are hooked on gambling.

Consequently, one now has a hard time controlling his gambling habit. This loss of control will eventually lead to deceit to his family and friends.

When gambling becomes so much of a habit, one may consider doing illegal acts. The need to gamble more when you lose money could lead to stealing money to recover your losses. Sometimes, one would resort to fraud. Forgery is also common when someone uses someone else’s signature especially in writing checks for him to continue gambling.

Risking his relationship just for gambling is also a symptom. When he continues to gamble even when it compromises his time away from his wife or kids is a serious problem. This could lead to divorce. This also could involve missing work as a result of being in a game instead of at work.

Another symptom is when he relies so much on his family or friends for money. When he is losing money because of gambling, he could resort to borrowing money from his family, friends, even a financial institution that could result in bankruptcy.

Gambling will become serious if not given proper attention. When this becomes a habit, it becomes a hindrance to your relationships with others, especially with your family. When this becomes severe, you should go to counseling to counteract your gambling problems. Have someone to talk to. Your family can be of help because they are your first line of defense against gambling. But most importantly, discipline should begin with you. There is nobody who can help but you alone. Remember that too much gambling can make your life miserable, so avoid excess gambling.

Addiction – When Gambling Becomes a Problem

While most people enjoy casino gambling, sports betting, lottery and bingo playing for the fun and excitement it provides, others may experience gambling as an addictive and distractive habit. Statistics show that while 85 percent of the adult population in the US enjoys some type of gambling every year, between 2 and 3 percent of will develop a gambling problem and 1 percent of them are diagnosed as pathological gamblers.

Where can you draw the line between harmless gambling to problem gambling? How can you tell if you or your friend are compulsive gamblers? Here you can find answers to these questions and other questions regarding problem gambling and gambling addiction.

What is the Meaning of Problem Gambling?

Problem gambling or compulsive gambling is defined as an uncontrollable urge to gamble despite the destructive effect of gambling on the gamblers life and despite feelings of guilt and remorse. Problem gambling tends to have a negative effect on the gamblers financial state, relationships and daily life. Severe cases of problem gambling can be defined as pathological gambling.

Am I a Compulsive Gambler?

1) Do you gamble until your last penny runs out?

2) Do you gamble to win back your former losses or debts?

3) Did you ever had to borrow money to continue gamble?

4) Did your gambling habit ever made you lie to your friends or family?

5) Did you ever skip work or other obligation to gamble?

6) Do you tend to gamble to forget about your personal problems or to celebrate happy occasions?

7) Does gambling have a negative affect on your daily life or relationships?

If you have answered yes on at least one of the questions listed above, then you have a problem.

Can Anyone Become a Compulsive Gambler?

Theoretically, yes. Any gambler can develop gambling problem regardless to the type of gambling he is occupied with, the amount of money and time he is spending on gambling. Researches show that slot machines that can be found in bars and convenient stores are the most addictive type of gambling activity, while lottery draws and bingo games are located on the other end of the scale. Gambling addiction is an emotional problem; its symptoms, causes and treatments are similar to any other form of addiction.

How Can I treat Gambling Addiction?

1) Group Therapy:

Gamblers Anonymous offers a 12 step self help program similar to the one offered to alcohol addicts in Alcoholics Anonymous. Group therapy also offers gambling addicts advice and support from professional counselors and other gambling addicts in different phases of their recovery process. Gambler Anonymous centers are available in more than 1,200 locations statewide.

2) Individual Therapy:

Cognitive or behavior therapy can help gambling addicts to identify their unaware thinking and acting patterns, which led them to gamble compulsively, and to replace them with controllable and healthier ways of thinking.

3) Psychiatric Medication:

It has recently been proven that antidepressant medications from the family of SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can be affective in treatment of gambling addicts.