Gambling addictions are believed to be rising due to the increasing opportunities to gamble and the glamorizing of games such as poker and roulette on television. There are more casinos, sports betting and slot machines than ever before. There is also telephone betting and more gambling on the internet. However, gambling can become a serious problem and often leads to financial and relationship ruin. In some cases, attempted suicide is not unheard of.
Pathological gambling is more common among men, some ethnic groups and people in the lower socioeconomic groups. Gambling addicts are also more likely to smoke cigarettes and abuse alcohol compared to non-problem gamblers, which compounds the problem. Gambling addiction is officially defined by recognized groups as ‘a loss of control over gambling’ and a driving need for the “rush” gambling provides. Compulsive gambling is truly an addiction which is characterized by an endless need to gamble more often, to bet more and more money and the inability to stop just to avoid feeling unhappy. This can exhibit itself in any behavior which ruins your life either physically, mentally, emotionally or financially. New studies have shown rates of suicide attempts among pathological gamblers have jumped drastically from 17 to 24 percent.
There is much denial over gambling addiction and most gamblers often refuse to seek professional help. Doctors are now encouraged to ask about gambling behaviors in their patients who they think are at risk. The most common signs of a gambling addiction are: always thinking about and preparing for gambling sessions, trying to keep playing higher stakes just to “win back” lost money, gambling during work hours and avoiding home, using gambling to escape from stress, getting into a large amount of debt and then lying to borrow money even to the extend of using illegal means to finance their habit. They often neglect their family and other responsibilities and favor betting over investing quality time in their relationships.
Gamblers are generally classified into two groups: action gamblers and escape gamblers.
Action gamblers are usually males who started the habit in their teen years. These men are usually very intelligent and have high IQ’s. Their usual outlets are betting games that requiring skill and cunning like black jack, poker, sports betting and even stock trading. To them, gambling gives a sense of euphoria like a drug induced high. Generally, action gamblers are very ego driven and controlling. They are also quite narcissistic and almost always in need of some sort of approval and confirmation, like winning a big pot of money.
Three-fourths of escape gamblers are usually women. The gambling addiction usually starts when they reach 30 or older. They are usually codependent and they choose games requiring little or no skill like slots, bingo, or the lottery. These women gamblers usually appear numb or in a trance when engaged in gambling. They feel free of emotional and physical pain when gambling because they are conflict avoiders and often have suffered verbal and physical abuse.
There is hope, however. Gambling addictions can be broken and for many, the most successful treatment programmes involve both individual professional counseling and group therapy. It involves educating the gambler and their family, intensive individual therapy, group therapy, thorough relapse prevention and practical budget planning. For women, complete abstinence and a strong intervention usually delivers a high success rate of breaking the addiction.