Warning Signs of Gambling Addiction

gamblerThere are many stories of devastating financial, emotional, and mental effects that can result from a gambling addiction. The effects may not just be upon the gambler but may also begin to affect the lives of family members and loved ones.

In order to know how such an addiction can be treated, it needs to be understood. Gambling addiction is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a “disorder of impulse control”. A gambling addiction is known to occur in three phases:

The Winning Phase

The gambler experiences the pure exhilaration and thrill of landing the jackpot or getting the pot money on a bet. The experience of getting a big win leaves a gambler with an overwhelming sense of optimism that his winning ways and good luck will continue. This will usually lead to increased excitement and with the bet amounts getting bigger to capture the thrill even more.

The Losing Phase

This phase is often characterized by the gambler beginning to brag about imagined and false winnings. And as they continue to lose, such gamblers would prefer gambling alone. It is usually during this phase that gamblers try to isolate themselves from their loved ones.

As they think about gambling more often and as their resources are exhausted, gamblers begin to think of borrowing money (legally or otherwise) in order to continue with their gambling activities. At this phase, the gambler becomes more irritable, restless, and withdrawn. At this point, gamblers begin to increasingly feel that they must return to the game as soon as possible in order to win back their losses.

The Desperation Phase

In this final and mostly debilitating phase, there is a great increase in the amount of time that a person spends on gambling. The gambler addict begins to spend most of his day gambling. The gambler has the greater need to recover all his losses and he still believes that this can be done only through continuous gambling. But what he experiences are just more and more losses piling up.

As a result he begins to experience some kind of remorse. He then begins to put the blame on others. This will then lead to the alienation of friends and family. By putting himself in isolation, it won’t be surprising that a feeling of hopelessness may suddenly overcome the gambler. This will be manifested in turn by suicidal thoughts, divorce, substance abuse, or a possible emotional breakdown.

Treatment for the compulsive gambler begins with the recognition of the problem. Such an addiction can often be associated with denial that can make a person believe that there is no need for any treatment. Preventing the urge to develop gambling as an addictive behavior is the best recourse but can be very challenging indeed and may not always be possible.

Counsellings can be used as part of the treatment and may best benefit those who are prone to compulsive gambling or other addictive behavior. Treatment options for compulsive gamblers also include individual and group psychotherapy and self-help support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. Just recently, some medications such as antidepressants have been used in combination with psychotherapy as an effective treatment for gambling addictions.