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Gambling Addiction

Gambling Addiction

This section includes Overview, Three phases of gambling addiction, Warning signs and symptom, Self-Tester, Help & Treatment, Information for family and friends, Useful Links.

Compulsive gambling or pathological gambling is an incapability to stop gambling. People who suffer from compulsive gambling always cause serious financial, family, work, or other problems.

Addicted gamblers have what has been described as a “hidden” disease. Gambling resources are rather limited because many people do not perceive gambling as an addictive disorder. Actually compulsive gambling parallels alcohol and drug addiction in many ways. Compulsive gamblers lose control over their behaviour and commonly lie and cheat in order to continue their gambling. They frequently try, unsuccessfully, to cut down or quit.

More than 80 percent of adults gamble at least once a year and, for most, it is a harmless form of entertainment. For 1 percent of the population, though, gambling isn’t an enjoyment. It’s a serious problem.

Many problem gamblers begin gambling during their youth, 16 and 17 year olds are similar to those for adults, but gambling addictions, like drug and alcohol addictions, affect people from every race, economic background and sex, although all the gambling places are restricted to age under 18 or 21 and even forbidden in some countries.

Three phases of gambling addiction
Becoming a problematic gambler could reflect as three phrases identified by Robert L. Custer, M.D:

The Winning Phase: The experience of a big win, becoming optimism that his or her winning will continue. This leads to increased excitement and increased amounts of the bets.

The Losing Phase: The second stage of gambling is when reality hits and you begin losing your bets and you want to chase the loss back. This is where you will feel the ‘high’ of gambling less and less, until you rarely experience it at all. Typically, you will start to gamble alone, and may begin hiding your gambling habits from friends and family. As you lose more and more money, you may begin borrowing or stealing money to pay for your habit.

The Desperation Phase: there is a marked increase in the time spent gambling. You will start to experience serious debt problems. You may lose your job and find yourself in a dangerous cycle without much hope to escape. They may experience hopelessness, suicidal thoughts and attempts, arrests, divorce, alcohol and/or other drug abuse, or an emotional breakdown.

Warning signs and symptom
How to identify that you might addict to gambling? There are seven main warning signs that a person may have a gambling disorder but an accurate diagnosis can only be made by a trained professional.

1 - Preoccupation
Preoccupied with gambling (e.g., preoccupied with reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money to gamble).

2 - Tolerance
Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.

3 - Trying to Stop
A problem gambler may, unsuccessfully, try to control or stop their gambling. Multiple unsuccessful attempts to stop are a warning sign of a disorder.
Gambling addicts, similar to narcotic addicts, will become restless, irritable and angry during the periods when they try to control or stop their gambling habits.

4 - Escape
Gambles as a way of escaping from problems or relieving dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression)

5 - Chasing
After losing money gambling, often returns another day in order to get even or we call that chasing one's losses. Chasing is a classical behaviour pattern characterising pathological gambling.

6 - Lying
Lying to friends and family about the amount of time and money spent gambling is a definite warning sign of a gambling disorder.

7 - Alienation
When gambling begins to alienate a person’s friends, family or career, this is clear sign that someone is in trouble. Problem gamblers continue to gamble despite risking or losing significant relationships or aspects, like school or career, of their lives.


A self-evaluation quiz provided by the National Council on Problem Gambling, just answer “yes” or “no” to the following 10 questions.

1. You have often gambled longer than you had planned.

2. You have often gambled until your last penny was gone.

3. Thoughts of gambling have caused you to lose sleep.

4. You have used your income or savings to gamble while lettig bills go unpaid.

5. You have made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling.

6. You have broken the law or considered breaking the law to finance your gambling.

7. You have borrowed money to finance your gambling.

8. You have felt depressed or suicidal because of your gambling losses.

9. You have been remorseful after gambling.
10. You have gambled to get money to meet your financial obligations.

If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, you may be a compulsive online gambler. You must go and see your doctor or a counsellor.

Help & Treatment

Like any addiction, problem gambling can be stopped. Treatment for compulsive gambling is similar to therapies for other forms of addiction. However, the first step and the most difficult step is to make the gambler acknowledging the problem and seeking professional help.

Three or more treatments are often used for gambling addiction:

Psychotherapy - A form of psychotherapy called cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) may be especially beneficial for compulsive gambling. CBT focuses on identifying unhealthy, irrational and negative beliefs and replacing them with healthy, positive ones. Group therapy also may be helpful. In group therapy, you're able to tap into the advice, feedback and support from other people facing similar issues.

Medications - Several types of medications may help mood and emotional issues that often go along with compulsive gambling. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers are two types of medications often prescribed to help treat compulsive gambling. In addition, medications called narcotic antagonists, which have been found useful in treating substance abuse, may help treat compulsive gambling.

Self-help groups - Some people find self-help groups such as Gamblers Anonymous a helpful part of treatment. Its recovery program is based on the acceptance of certain spiritual values, but it's not a religious organization.

Information for Family & Friends

Why people gamble?

If you find your family or friends may have gambling problems, first of all you need to know why they gamble. People gamble for many different reasons. These can include: entertainment, the thrill of winning, the excitement of risk-taking, as a way of switching off worries, as a quick fix for financial problems, to combat boredom and/or loneliness, to relax and for the enjoyment of a comfortable, safe and friendly environment such as a club or casino.

Not everyone who gambles encounters gambling problems. However, family and friends are often the first to get concerned about the negative consequences and to see the warning signs that gambling habits may be becoming problematic.

People do not become overnight problem gamblers. It happens over time. So pay attention to your loved ones and see if they have any unusual behaviour as mentioned above.

How can I stop him/her gambling?

Remember you are not the only family facing this problem!

- You may be able to help by talking the problem through, but it is probably better if you involve a skilled person outside the family.

- Keep in mind that it is a serious matter and gamblers cannot ‘just give up’.

- Take a firm stand. Whilst it might feel easier to give in to demands and to believe everything he or she says, this only allows them to avoid facing the problem.

- Leave the responsibility for the gambling and its consequences with them. Help them admit to it and to work at overcoming the dependency.

- Do not condemn them, as this is unhelpful and may drive them back to gambling. However, setting firm and fair boundaries to their behaviour is constructive.

- Do not trust them with money until the dependency is broken. If they agree, it is helpful to manage their money for a short period.

Useful External Links - Official website for problem gambler with facts and statistics - A 12-step program that assists people with gambling disorders An institute that addresses the study, prevention and treatment of gambling addictions - a personal website of a real life story and tell you how to quit gambling - you can download gambler self-help leaflet and helpers leaflet