Gambling addiction is the most common form of behavioral addiction. Also, it is the only one listed within the DSM-IV (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Only a recent addition in the DSM-IV, gambling addiction has been a societal problem for many decades.
- Betting on the outcome of horse races and other sports
- Casino gaming like poker, craps, roulette, and slot machines
- Lottery and scratch tickets
- Internet gambling
Someone addicted to gambling does not usually become an addict his or her first time to engage in gaming. Like all addictions, even for compulsive gamblers, gambling addiction is a progressive disorder. It starts with the recreational activity and progresses to pathological (or problem) gambling. Of course, engaging in this behavior repeatedly can quickly become a compulsive behavior or addiction.
Pathological Gambling and Problem Gambling
Pathological gambling behavior is dangerous and essentially the equivalent of gambling addiction. It is classified as an impulse control disorder. In fact, there are ten defining criteria for identification of a pathological gambler.
These criteria include:
- Preoccupation with gambling, which includes reliving past gambling experiences and planning the next gambling venture. The gambler is always preoccupied with thinking of ways to get financing for more gaming.
- Increased tolerance, which leads to increased financial risk to achieve more excitement from gambling.
- Symptoms of restlessness or irritability during attempts to decrease or stop gambling.
- Returning to gambling to recoup losses during a previous venture.
- Lying to friends, family members, therapists, and others to hide the extent and severity of the compulsive gambling.
- Gambling to escape unwanted feelings like depression, helplessness, guilt, and anxiety.
- Several unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop gambling.
- Commission of illegal acts to obtain financing for more gambling. For example, some unlawful acts are fraud, embezzlement, and forgery.
- Significant loss or endangerment of relationships, jobs, and scholastic achievement.
- Reliance on others for money to continue gambling, despite serious financial issues resulting from gambling.
Typically, an affirmative response to 5 or more of the above criteria indicates a pathological gambler, 3-5 indicate a problem gambler, and 1-2 definite answers suggest an “at-risk” player. Those who are considered to be compulsive or pathological gamblers are no longer in control of their gambling and should find help immediately.
How Does One Become a Pathological or Problem Gambler?
There is no definitive data to single out one or a group of causes for gambling addiction. However, there are specific common factors that have been consistent among those who have been treated for gambling addiction.
According to the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences, there are some research-based conclusions regarding how an individual may become a pathological gambler.
One such conclusion is a connection to other behavioral problems like substance abuse, mood disorders, and personality disorders. Similar to drug and alcohol addiction, there is often a co-occurring disorder or problem present which exacerbates the dependence.
You Can Get Help for Gambling Addiction
As with any other addiction, there are often underlying issues that either cause or exacerbate the addictive behaviors. At A Forever Recovery, we work with each client to get to the root of what creates the patterns of destructive behavior. With an open-ended program, we ensure that each graduate of our rehabilitation program has defined and accomplished the goals required to sustain recovery from gambling addiction. Some of these goals through cognitive behavioral therapy involve awareness of troubled people and situations, self-esteem, empowerment, and other skills necessary to solve problems and avoid emotional states that can trigger a relapse.
Gambling is one of many addictions that have devastating effects on the lives of addicts and their loved ones. The criteria for identifying a pathological gambler is very similar to that of a drug addict or alcoholic. As a result of its nature, the signs of addiction to anything can be applied to each of the criteria for pathological gambling.
- psychguides.com – Compulsive Gambling Symptoms, Causes, and Effects