Compulsive gambling is a serious condition that can destroy lives. It is a progressive addiction characterized by increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, "chasing" losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences.
Whether you bet on sports, scratch cards, roulette, poker, slots, the stock market—in a casino or online—problem gambling can strain relationships, interfere with work, and lead to financial catastrophe. You may even do things you never thought you would, consistently violatien your own value system, e.g., stealing money to gamble or pay your debts, selling prized possesions to acquire more cash, etc. You may think you can’t stop but, with the right help, you can overcome a gambling problem or addiction and regain control of your life. The first step is recognizing and acknowledging the problem.
Problem gambling includes all gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits.
The essential features are:
- Increasing preoccupation with gambling
- A need to bet more money more frequently
- Restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop
- "Chasing" losses
- Loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences
- In extreme cases, problem gambling can result in financial ruin, legal problems, loss of career and family, or even suicide
Can children or teenagers develop gambling problems?
A number of states allow children under 18 to gamble, and youth also participate in illegal forms of gambling, such as gambling on the Internet or betting on sports. Therefore, it is not surprising that research shows that a vast majority of kids have gambled before their 18th birthday, and that children may be more likely to develop problems related to gambling than adults. While debate continues on this issue, there appears to be a number of factors influencing this finding. Parental attitudes and behavior play a role. Age of exposure plays a part, in that adults who seek treatment for problem gambling report having started gambling at an early age. A number of adolescents reported a preoccupation with everything related to gambling prior to developing problems.
Have family members, friends or co-workers expressed concern about your gambling? If so, listen to their worries. Because denial is almost always a characteristic of compulsive or addictive behavior, it may be difficult for you to recognize that you have a problem and seek treatment.
10 Questions About Gambling Behavior
1. You have often gambled longer than you had planned.
2. You have often gambled until your last dollar was gone.
3. Thoughts of gambling have caused you to lose sleep.
4. You have used your income or savings to gamble while letting 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 or someone you know answers “Yes” to any of these questions, consider seeking assistance from a professional. Although treating compulsive gambling can be challenging, many compulsive gamblers have found help through professional treatment.
Often time family members and loved ones are the last to know about a spouse's, child's, or other loved one's serious gambling problem. There is help for you even if the problem gambler in your life is unwilling to acknowledge the problem or get help. The following are some of the questions that may help you identify the problem. (From Gam-anon International Services, Inc.)
Are you living with a Compulsive Gambler?
2. Does this person immediately return to gambing to try to recover losses, or to win more?
3. Do you attempt to anticipate this person's moods, or try to control his or her life?
4. Has the gambling ever brought you to the point of threatening to break up the family unit?
5. Does this person ever gamble to get money to solve financial difficulties or have unrealistic expectations that gambling will bring the family material comfort and wealth?