What is problem gambling?
Problem gambling refers to any gambling that goes beyond "normal" bounds of
gambling for fun, recreation, or entertainment. Pathological gambling is the
inability, over an extended period of time, to resist impulses to gamble. It
is often characterized by increasing preoccupation with gambling and a
general loss of control. Pathological gamblers often "chase" their losses,
feel a need to bet more frequently and in larger amounts, and continue to
gamble in spite of the serious negative consequences of their behavior.
Are pathological gambling
and compulsive gambling the same thing?
Yes. Most scientists and mental health professionals prefer the term
"pathological gambling" as the condition is not believed to be related to
"compulsions" like excessive hand-washing. The term "disordered gambling"
has often been used to describe this condition.
Is someone who gambles a lot
a pathological gambler?
Not necessarily. Many people who gamble frequently are simply people who
enjoy gambling as entertainment. Generally these people set aside a
predetermined amount of money for gambling, gamble for fun rather than for
the "certainty" of winning, recognize that they are likely to lose, and
don't bet more than they can afford to lose.
Can you have a gambling
problem without being a pathological gambler?
Much as it's possible to abuse alcohol without being an alcoholic, it's also
possible to have gambling problems without being a pathological gambler --
someone can go out and lose a lot of money at a casino after being denied a
promotion, for example. Often this sort of problem resolves itself without
professional intervention. Pathology is determined by both severity and
frequency of the problem.
Are there phases to
THE WINNING PHASE (Action Phase)
gambling wins enhance self-image and ego. Losses are rationalized as
bad luck. A gambler may daydream about gambling to escape reality
and think that gambling is his or her most exciting activity. Many
hours are often spent involved in gambling activities.
LOSING PHASE (Chase Phase)
•As losses increase and self-esteem is jeopardized, the
gambler will borrow money to get even and continue to bet. Lies to
family, spouses or friends escalate. Selling of prized possessions
or even mortgaging their free and clear property may occur to cover
•Other common danger signals include a withdrawal from
family, friends or other social events due to gambling activities.
THE DESPERATION PHASE (Rock Bottom)
•Desperation occurs as the gambler becomes obsessed with
getting even to cover money lost through gambling.
•The gambler can experience severe mood swings, agitation
for no apparent reason, and commit crimes such as shoplifting,
stealing from spouses or other family members to gamble.
•Panic sets in at the thought that the gambling action will
cease and at this point, nothing or no one comes before a bet.
Suicidal thoughts are considered as a way out.
These phases do not represent
an inevitable progression. Most people experiencing a big win do not become
pathological gamblers, and some who begin to chase their losses stop before
reaching the desperation phase. However, most of those seeking treatment
have passed through the adventurous and losing phases and have reached
How can I tell if someone is
a problem gambler?
Some warning signs of a gambling problem might include:
• Looking for the "high" that comes from gambling
• Increasing isolation from family and friends
• Declining work performance
• Neglecting basic needs like money for food and rent
• Pressuring others for money as financial problems crop up
• Lying about how money is spent
• Escaping to other excesses (alcohol, drugs, sleep)
• Denying there is a problem