An addiction to gambling can be as destructive as any other compulsive behavior to the sufferer and their family and friends. In fact, many of the symptoms and signs of problem gamblers are the same as those exhibited by people addicted to drugs and alcohol.
Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder that leads to extreme gambling whether the sufferer is up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. People with a gambling addiction can't “stay away from the bet” and problematic gambling affects anywhere from two to four percent of the population.
While many people engage in social gambling where the losses are predetermined and reasonable, problem gambling occurs when the person can no longer control how long they gamble for or how much money they risk. Persistent and recurring maladaptive gambling behaviour is indicated by five or more of the following symptoms:
Preoccupation – the person is preoccupied with gambling and has frequent thoughts about money, planning the next venture or thinking of ways to get cash with which to gamble.
Tolerance – similar to drug tolerance, a gambling addict needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement or rush of winning.
Loss of Control – the gambler has made repeated and unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back or stop gambling.
Withdrawal – the person is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop their gambling.
Escape – a compulsive gambler uses their addiction as a way of escaping from problems or to relieve feelings of hopelessness, guilt, anxiety and depression.
Chasing – after losing money to gambling, the person often returns the next day to get even or chase their losses.
Lying – the gambler lies to family members, friends and therapists to conceal the extent of their involvement with gambling troubles.
Illegal Activity – the person may commit illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft or embezzlement to finance their gambling.
Risked Relationships – the gambler jeopardises or loses significant relationships, jobs or educational opportunities because of their addiction.
Bailout – the gambler relies on others such as friends and family to provide money in order to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by their gambling.
If you think your gambling is getting out of control, you may wish to consider counselling. Gambling addiction treatments are available and have been proven to be effective at tackling the symptoms that contribute to problem gambling. While gambling, like any addiction, cannot be remedied overnight, with expert help it can be controlled and eventually overcome altogether.