Below is a short introduction to ‘gambling addiction’ or, compulsive gambling. While gambling is meant to be an enjoyable experience, it is possible to develop an unhealthy pattern of behavior with very serious and very negative consequences. Needless to say, this eliminates any of the ‘enjoyment’ associated with gambling. It is estimated that incidences of problem gambling are at 2-3% in the US, while pathological gambling is around 1%. Statistics vary for different groups and different countries, but nonetheless, gambling addiction is a very serious problem and it’s worth educating yourself about it BEFORE you begin visiting casinos online or elsewhere.
Compulsive gambling is an urge or addiction to gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. People with a gambling ‘problem’ may not experience compulsions to gamble – in a clinical sense – but nevertheless, their behavior can harm themselves and people around them. Pathological gamblers, on the other hand, suffer from a recognized disorder (described in the DSM-IV) and should seek professional help.
Here are several of the signs to look out for when determining if you or someone else is developing a problem:
- Increasing the frequency and the amount of money gambled
- Spending an excessive amount of time gambling at the expense of job or family time
- Being preoccupied with gambling or with obtaining money with which to gamble
- Gambling creates a special and intense pleasure, an aroused sense of being “in action”
- Continuing to gamble despite negative consequences such as large losses, or work or family problems caused by gambling
- Borrowing money to gamble, taking out secret loans, or maximizing credit card
- Bragging about wins but not talking about losses
- Frequent mood swings, higher when winning, lower when losing
- Gambling for longer periods of time or more money than originally planned
- Secretive behavior such as hiding betting slips or receipts; having mail, bills, etc., sent to work, a P.O. box or other address
Gambling is a common behavior that is not considered a disorder until the symptoms listed above are displayed. Similarities between Pathological Gambling and the development of substance dependence are noticeable. Initially, many gamblers report feeling “high’ and success leads to increased gambling which in turn might result in an overly large amount that exceeds the gambler’s resources. Naturally, this then leads as well to overconfidence and risk-taking behavior that otherwise wouldn’t occur normally.
Early detection is fundamental. If the problem is allowed to continue, personal relationships may ultimately begin to suffer and financial and legal difficulties may begin to emerge.
The behavior usually develops from occasional gambling to habitual gambling and then, the urge to gamble becomes so great that the tension can only be relieved by more gambling. Hence, a pattern of addiction emerges. Players begin to player higher stakes and take larger risks. They may begin to ignore friends and family and neglect other responsibilities. The ‘exact’ cause is actually unknown and it’s not certain if some people are more predisposed to the behavior than others. In any case, it’s important to recognize the problem as early as possible to be in a better position to correct it before more serious consequences occur.
Treatment and sources for Help
Fortunately, there are ways to treat the problem and organizations exist which are designed to inform and help anyone suffering from gambling addiction. Gambler’s Anonymous is probably the most recognizable organization dealing with problem and is a good place to start. Online casinos as well (at least, the reputable ones) usually include links on their sites to other sources of information on problem gambling and support policies and initiatives designed to combat it. Visit our ‘gambling organizations’ category on the left for a short list of other organizations that may offer more information. Also, you may want to check out some of the books we have listed on our site which deal with ‘gambling addiction’ and ways to fight it.