Problem gambling

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Gambling addiction treatment

Pathological gambling (also known as “problem gambling” or “compulsive gambling”) is recognised by the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems as a pattern of repeated, irrational gambling behaviour that is harmful to the person in question as well as their family or social circle. Characterised by strong compulsion, problem gambling shares many similarities with substance addictions.

According to various studies, the incidence rate of compulsive gambling oscillates between 1-2% in the general population. An increase in occurrences among younger people and even adolescents has also been observed lately.

The most damaging aspect of pathological gambling is the fact that its consequences are felt not only by the addict themselves, but also by their family environment, relatives and friends.

The following checklist has been prepared by the Fellowship of Gamblers Anonymous (GA) and it serves to self-diagnose a potential gambling problem.

Gamblers Anonymous 20 Questions

  1. Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?
  2. Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?
  3. Did gambling affect your reputation?
  4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
  5. Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?
  6. Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?
  7. After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?
  8. After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?
  9. Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?
  10. Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
  11. Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?
  12. Were you reluctant to use “gambling money” for normal expenditures?
  13. Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?
  14. Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?
  15. Have you ever gambled to escape worry or trouble?
  16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?
  17. Did gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
  18. Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?
  19. Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?
  20. Have you ever considered self-destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?

Most compulsive gamblers will answer yes to at least seven of these questions.

If you still doubt that there might be a problem, please find below the compulsive gambling criteria according to the American Psychiatric Association.

The American Psychiatric Association DSM-5 Gambling Disorder diagnostic criteria:

  1. Need to gamble with increasing amount of money to achieve the desired excitement
  2. Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling
  3. Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on or stop gambling
  4. Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, thinking of ways to get money to gamble)
  5. Often gambling when feeling distressed
  6. After losing money gambling, often returning to get even (referred to as “chasing” one’s losses)
  7. Lying to conceal gambling activity
  8. Jeopardising or losing a significant relationship, job or educational/career opportunity because of gambling
  9. Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling

If the above two checklists make you think that there is a problem, we are here to help.
Do not hesitate to reach out now.

Four Phases of Gambling

  1. The Winning Phase – A gambling addiction often begins with the experience of a “big win,” which results in more frequent gambling and increased wagers. With an enhanced self-image and unreasonable optimism, the gambler begins to fantasise about winning. Note: Some gamblers never experience this phase and skip to the following stages of progression.
  2. The Losing Phase – During this period, the imagined “big wins” don’t materialise. Meanwhile, thoughts of gambling absorb the compulsive gambler’s mind, and personality changes begin to develop. Borrowing money, lying, and covering up his/her actions are common. The gambler can no longer control the gambling as relationships with family, friends, and employers deteriorate.
  3. The Desperation Phase – The gambler can no longer pay debts and looks for bailouts by any means possible. During this time, the gambler clings to the belief that a winning streak is right around the corner, solving all their problems. There are increasing signs of depression, irritability and suicidal thoughts.
  4. The Hopeless Phase – At this point, serious consequences begin to occur, which may seem irreversible, such as arrests, divorce, alcohol or other substance abuse problems, emotional breakdowns and serious withdrawal symptoms. The gambler realises that getting even or catching up is not possible, but no longer cares. Approximately 20 percent of individuals in this phase attempt suicide.

When you should start to worry…

There are several additional warning signs of gambling addiction:

  • the unwillingness to spend money on anything else than gambling,
  • increasing telephone bills (when playing text-based or on-line games),
  • maxing out your credit cards,
  • taking on more credit and debt,
  • selling your family goods at pawn-shops.

If you have observed any of the above symptoms in yourself or others, it is time to act.

The help is here.

Compulsive gambling can be treated with:

  • individual or group psychotherapy,
  • the regular attendance of Gamblers Anonymous (GA) meetings.

The treatment focuses primarily on allowing the compulsive gambler to understand the negative consequences of their addiction and teaching them new, constructive behavioural patterns.

The long-term goal of gambling addiction treatment is to free the gambler from their compulsive behaviour and help them build a new, meaningful life.